The Value of an Adversary

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“Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver you to the judge, and the judge deliver you to the officer, and you be cast into prison.”  Matthew 5:25

“Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are in the way with him…”  “Agree with my adversary?!  Really?  Are You crazy, Jesus?  Agree with my adversary, and do it quickly while I’m still close to him on my journey?  What are You asking of me?”  How could I have read this time and time again and not think, “Lord, this is really hard.  Lord, this is not normal.  Lord, how do I do this?  Lord, what do You mean?”

This is not easy stuff here.  My adversary is like an opponent in a lawsuit.  He’s either got actual evidence against me, or like Jesus’s adversaries, he’s got drummed up evidence against me.  Satan himself is called our adversary.  He’s our arch enemy.  And You say agree with my adversary quickly.  So am I always supposed to say, “Yes, You are totally right about me.”?

Maybe I have to really think about these original Greek words.  The word translated as agree is isthi.  It’s an imperitive, that’s a command.  It can mean agree and it also means to give yourself wholly to.  But our translation of agree is made up of two Greek words.  It’s isthi eunoeo.  Eunoeo is the part about reconciling and being well minded of.  So what are You really asking me, or commanding me, really to do?

You’re telling me how to be a different kind of light in the world.  You’re commanding me to act like You.  You’re telling me to uphold all of Your commands, all of Your character just like You.  You’re telling me that You have called me to a higher standard than that of even the Pharisees.  You are telling me to live for Your righteousness and not my own.  You’re telling me to live for others and not myself.  I think You are telling me to give myself wholly to the reconciliation of my fellow man with me and with You.

There are times when I have wronged someone else.  There are times when I wrong someone else without even knowing it.   Would I cast of my pride and go to them because I care for our relationship to be mended?  Would I wait for them to come to me while the root of hurt continues to build?  Before I know it, we can’t even walk in the same way again.  Then how much harder will it be to mend things?

But here’s the thing.  Sometimes someone has been wronged by me and they choose not to be reconciled though I try.  Have I failed?  Paul tells us in Romans 12:18, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”  Have I done my part?  I can’t control my “adversary’s” part but I am responsible for my own part in offering reconciliation.

So I’m supposed to give myself wholly to my adversary in order to bring reconciliation?  What does that look like?  I don’t avenge myself.    I leave righting things to Your hand,  God.  Instead, I offer myself in an attempt to reconcile a relationship.  Isn’t that what You did, Lord?  It didn’t matter what people’s response to You was, You offered Yourself wholly anyway.  You didn’t just offer Your life for those who loved You, You offered it for those who hated You just as wholly.  And that’s what I’m called to.  I’m also called to feed my enemy if he is hungry, and to give him drink if he’s thirsty.  I’m called to not be overcome with evil, but to overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:20-21)

Just as the Father sent You into the world, so You are sending me.  I am called to only be overcome by You, God.  I wasn’t called to submit my thinking and actions and emotions to worthless causes that defeat Your purpose.  I’ll wind up being the one defeated, not You.  I was called to surrender to You and You alone.  I’m called to allow You to conquer my anger and change it into love.  I’m called to surrender to You to conquer my self-serving desires and learn to give myself wholly like Christ for the benefit of others.

It’s still not easy.  Sometimes, I just don’t know how to do it.  I don’t know what to say.  I don’t know how to act.  Sometimes, I’m just not so sure that I have truly given myself wholly.  And sometimes I’m just not sure if they just don’t know how to reconcile.  But I won’t give up.  And I won’t be overcome except to be overcome by You.

You tell me that when someone slaps my cheek my response should be to turn the other to receive a slap also.  Why?  Imagine having a heart that is wholly devoted to the welfare of my adversary and rather than inflicting pain back on him, I would rather receive it myself.  And then someone sues me and takes my coat, so what is my response?  “Here, Sir, if you need that so badly, I want you to have my cloak also.”  And then someone like a Roman soldier forces me to walk a mile with him and carry his stuff, and instead of hating every minute of it and thinking evil of him, I treat him like a friend and walk an unexpected mile more with him.  I  would give and not expect it to be returned.  I would loan even if it never came back.  My character would start to resemble Yours, Jesus.

See, the goal isn’t for me to become a better me.  The goal is that I become (because You cause me to be) a child of my Father in heaven.  And since my Father in heaven blesses the “evil” and the “good” with his rain and his sun, well then, I ought to also.  Once, before I surrendered to You, I wasn’t good and I wasn’t just by Your standards.  So I was one of those “evil” ones that You still blessed with Your sun and Your rain.  But You kept on loving on me and showing Yourself to me.  And You shone Your Son on me and I accepted Your reign.

So now, I can love others who don’t love me because You did that for me, Lord.  I can embrace in love people who don’t agree with me and people who are different from me, because You did.  See, they aren’t really my adversary.  They’re just brothers and sisters, other people, like me.  What I ought to worry about is treating You like my adversary.  I ought to be totally concerned with being in the way with You, Lord.  Because there’s actually only one ultimate Judge.  And You are telling me that if I’m going to take Your place as judge, I’m going to be held accountable in every last aspect that I judge others inadequate.  I’ll be held to task for those things myself, cast into prison, and not come out until I’ve paid the uttermost farthing for it.  Is that the judgment I want to pass and is that the judgment I want passed on me?

“Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”  But here’s the thing, the Ultimate Judge also by nature of who He is, has the authority to give life instead.  “For as the Father has life in Himself; so has He given to the Son to have life in Himself; and He has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man.”  (John 5:26-27)   Now, here’s the rest of His secret.  “I can do nothing on My own.  As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of Him who sent me.”  Which brings me back to Your words, Lord, “As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.”

What if I did less on my own?  What if I thought less on my own and acted less on my own and started listening to You and actually hearing You?  What if I started hearing Your judgment instead of my own?  And what if I sought Your will and not my own?  Lord, that’s what I want.  And it’s hard because it’s not the way the world around me thinks.  So my prayer is that, despite the world around me, You would change my thinking and focus it on You and Your will.  Though I live in the center of the world, may my life and thoughts be centered in You.  Make me to wholly give myself as You gave Yourself to me, even before I was “good.”  And cause me to always remember that any present goodness in me is only there because You give it to me.

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