Publication: One-to-One, Summer 2005
I believe today’s enemies are tomorrow’s harvest. I believe that based on the history of the Gospel message’s expansion, and the promises of Holy Scripture: “The earth will be filled with knowledge of the glory of God as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14).
The issue before us is, how will that happen? Obviously the Church has a ma or role to play in that process. But how can we extend the knowledge of His glory-His goodness and mercy-into what is now considered enemy territory? Will it entail a major shift in how we view the world? I believe so.
Let me first affirm that I believe that there are just wars. I am not a pacifist. You and I enjoy the privileges afforded by those who fought and died for them-and are still fighting and dying.
The main issue in a just war-or battle of any kind-is the protection of a trust such as David’s defense of his father’s sheep or his battle against Goliath. Such as a battle is fought under the aegis of civil authority (see Romans 13:1-7).
Civil government exists primarily for protection, the orderly functions of society, and the arbitration of disputes that cannot otherwise be settled. It is established by God and should be a terror to evildoers.
On a personal level, we must also fight battles to defend those under our care. Fathers defend families and mothers defend children, and so it goes. This is a natural and righteous behavior and ordained of God. We are accountable to Him for what is entrusted to us, personally and corporately. Even Jesus defended His disciples (see Matthew 12:1-8). He also defended the temple as a place of prayer (see Matthew 21:12-13). So I conclude that certain issues require defense – even the giving of life.
The lawyers asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” In response Jesus gave the parable of the Good Samaritan. A neighbor is someone in need. A good neighbor is someone who is able to cross geographical and cultural lines to give assistance to such a person.
However, I do not recall anyone asking, “Who is my enemy?” Yet Jesus does mention enemies on several occasions (see Matthew 13:25-39 and Luke 10:19). Our enemy is the one who seeks our destruction; our real, ultimate enemy is Satan (see Matthew 10:28; Luke 10:19; 2 Corinthians 10 :3-5; Ephesians 2:2) and our real war is in the spiritual realm.
The most difficult issue for me personally, and I suspect for many others, is how I deal with perceived enemies. I say “perceived” because my perception is not always correct, but it does affect my attitude. The most difficult saying of Jesus-the one I find the hardest to obey-is, “Love your enemies (see Matthew 5:44). He goes on to say, “Bless and do good to them, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.”
Our Father in heaven loves His enemies. In fact, we were once His enemies. We were, at one time, on the other side of righteousness. His love won us over.
The goodness and mercy of God have their ultimate revelation at the Cross where Jesus said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” It was God’s attitude toward us that moved us from opposition to becoming a part of His harvest in the earth. His love worked behind enemy lines. He is requiring us to learn His heart and strategy toward opponents. Divine love reached behind lines, all lines; geographical, cultural and spiritual. He forgave His enemies.
“God is requiring us to learn His heart and strategy. Those who are willing to love others beyond
geography and cultures will advance the Gospel.”
The Gospel advanced beyond Israel; it was intended for all men everywhere . To advance it required those who could love others beyond geography and culture. Israel had a problem; it loved its own and hated its enemies (see Matthew 5:43). Many Christians also have this problem and therefore cannot reach the world with the love of God.
I, too, have had this problem. I am by nature pugilistic and defensive. I did some boxing while in college, loved sports growing up, and was not afraid to battle. David had this nature as well and could not build the temple that he envisioned. He had too much blood on his hands. Solomon, on the other hand received people from many nations.
The apostle Paul had this problem also, as did Peter. It took a revelation of Jesus to change their attitudes toward others. Then they could become major forces in advancing Christ’s Kingdom.
I grew up hating Communism . Unfortunately, I hated Communists as well; they were our enemy. But some believers were able to work behind enemy lines. People like “Brother Andrew” and also my friend Goos Vedder distributed Bibles and showed the love of God to those behind enemy lines. Yesterday’s enemies became today’s harvest because of those who loved them.
The same thing could be said of China, now one of the world’s most prolific harvest fields. Years ago, people like Hudson Taylor and a host of others loved the Chinese and showed them the love of God. It took a long time, but now we see the fruit. Many were-and are still being martyred in the process. Like the Cross of Jesus, the process is expensive, but it works.
The point is, “God so loved the world,” not just believers. In order to demonstrate that we are His children, and to accomplish His will, we too must love the world-all of it . His love still works behind enemy lines.
A few years ago, two of our dear friends were beaten with the butts of axes and nearly killed for their Christian work in an Islamic nation. Their recovery was miraculous and so was their continued love for the people there. As soon as they were able, they returned to work again in the same city. Now they are seeing a harvest.
I believe that the next great harvest will be in the Islamic world. As I recall September 11th, 2001, I am challenged. I was watching TV on that dreadful morning. I saw the pictures of thousands fleeing and as terrified Americans leaped from the towers burning alive. I saw the horror, as you did. Anger and hatred welled up within me. And as I regularly go through airports, I find the anger still there.
I find in me this terrible conflict: “Hate evil and love your enemies.” Believing as I do that the Gospel will break through and cover the earth, I must find a way to get beyond enemy lines. Only His love can accomplish that. It is easy to look back and see how pagans, Communists, and others were reached by those who paid the price to love. But to look at the present and see Jesus is sometimes difficult.
For many years, we have had a great friendship with a courageous minister known as “Brother Luke.” He is from Iran and still travels there frequently for ministry. But, when we were first getting to know him, the Lord had to adjust my own perspective and the perspective of our family. Listen to what my son Jonathan says about how God changed his attitude:
When I was approximately sixteen years old, Brother Luke came to stay at our house; he had been invited to speak at our church. Mom and Dad planned to let him have my room for the duration of his stay, but there was one problem…I had a sign on my dresser mirror that said “BOMB IRAN.” So, before Brother Luke arrived, Mom had to ask me to take that sign down.
I suppose, like many Americans, I had very negative feelings toward Iran, going back to the 1979-1980 hostage situation, watching Iranians burn the U.S. flag, and so forth. Of course, I took down the sign before Brother Luke arrived, and I relocated myself to another part of the house for a few days so that he could have the room. He was able to enjoy his stay and never knew about that sign.
Having time with Brother Luke at our house during those days, and hearing him speak at church, I came to realize that there are many Christians in Iran who are suffering for their faith and for the way they were sharing it with Muslims. I saw Luke as my brother in Christ and I saw his compassion and burden to see the Gospel shared in Iran. I was even compelled to give financially toward his efforts. Needless to say, that old sign did not go back up in our house after his visit.
The apostle Paul endured much evil and persecution. He was finally beheaded. He writes in Romans 12:17, “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.” In verse 19, he says “Do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.”
Then, in verse 20, Paul says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Looking ahead in chapter 13, we see Paul continuing the discussion by admonishing us to be subject to civil government and its authority to defend righteousness.
As I reflect upon all of this, I believe some truths from the Lord become clear:
Jesus believed it necessary to change how the apostles felt toward the non-Jewish world. They did change, and affected the non-Jewish world with the love of God.
Paul is a classic example of one who was changed and became a world changer.
We are faced with several options: We can seek to escape the world around us through an escapist theology or isolation. We can draw lines and perceive every one who opposes us as enemies. We can hate them and destroy ourselves, proving that we have not the heart of the Father. Or we can follow those who knew Him and love our enemies. We can see today’s enemies as tomorrow’s harvest. These options apply not only to Islam; they apply to all kinds of people who are much closer in proximity. They apply to neighbors, the needy, to perceived opponents, and to the other guy on the same road.
The love of God is the motivation for evangelism. Perhaps we can measure our love by our ability to get behind enemy lines and do good to those who spitefully use us. Our real victory is not simply to win in battle; it is to love beyond the battle.
I confess to you that I have not always loved my enemies. But, I am convicted. I have been invited to speak to a large gathering of former Muslims who are reaching behind the lines. They have committed their very lives. I am challenged to be properly motivated as I encourage them to train others who will go beyond the lines.
I have just returned from Siberia, deep in the heart of Russia…another place where yesterday’s enemies have become today’s harvest. I need your prayers and support. Please pray with me that I can help those who go behind enemy lines and reveal the love of God. Where the gospel is concerned-there are no boundaries.
Scripture Reference: Habakkuk 2:14; Romans 13:1-7; Mathew 12:1-8; Matthew 21:12-13; Matthew 13:25-39; Luke 10:19; Matthew 10:28; Luke 10:19; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Ephesians 2:2; Matthew 5:43-44; Romans 12:17-20; 13
Charles Simpson is an internationally-known author, Bible teacher, and pastor, serving in ministry since 1955. He is also Editor-in-Chief of One-to-One Magazine and ministers extensively throughout the United States and the nations.