We have largely been duped into thinking that the cardinal characteristic which should distinguish us as Christians is “niceness”. Christ said it was our love which ought to denote the fact we are His disciples (Jn. 13:35); we have taken this love to mean a simple, placid docility. But agape love is not easy, quaint or tidy. It is hard work, and takes courage. Loving our enemies implies having enemies.
In the first two chapters of Joshua an interesting contrast is presented. After Moses’ death, God is imperative that Joshua “be strong & courageous” and Joshua, in turn, exhorts the tribes to “be strong & courageous” (Jos. 1:6, 7, 9, & 18). They face a vicious fight in front of them, and must be braced for the battles ahead. Their enemies were indeed fierce and mighty, with towering cities.
Yet, it is remarkable that when the two spies are hidden with Rahab the Harlot in Jericho, she intimates that it is the enemies of God’s people who are terrified of them and (as the KJV puts it) their “hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you” (Jos. 2:11). God’s people, when obedient to God’s commands are to be a terror to their enemies.God’s people, when obedient to God’s commands are to be a terror to their enemies.
The Church is to be militant in our advancement of the Gospel of Peace. Our sword is the Word of God, and it is unloving to not proclaim the kingship of Christ over all the nations. The mealy-mouthedness of many Christians has had the net of effect of inhibiting the Gospel’s advancement. Note how fearful many secularists are of the distinctively Christian policies which the Trump administration seems poised to enforce and advance.
However, we must bear in mind too, that God will destroy His enemies and often this means turning them into His friends. We must be known by our agape, which will truly terrify the enemies of God and His people. For many Christians, we think having enemies is a bad thing and we go about making peace treaties with our enemies primarily by conceding the truth and purity of the Word of God. It is peace through compromise, which is no peace and is no love. But in this Gospel Age, God aims to destroy His enemies by converting them through the potency of the truth of His Word. This isn’t about merely “winning arguments”; it is about Gospel-confidence and love which invariably will accomplish the very thing which God intended it to perform. As a pastor once memorably lamented, “Wherever the Apostle Paul went there were riots, wherever I go, they serve tea.”