David knew a lot about having enemies. He fought in many battles and secured many victories. But the enemies that he faced the most throughout life were his enemies only because of their own ill will. Saul’s disobedience and jealousy led him to attempt to hunt down and attempt to kill David. And when David’s son, Absalom, led a coup de tat against him, so that David barely escaped with his life, David still mourned and wept upon hearing of his death. In fact, the enemy who is distant and faceless does not take anywhere close to the emotional toll on us that a friend or family member who turns against us will do. It is even difficult to come to our own defense sometimes when the attacker was once someone whom we trusted. And yet deep within we desire God’s help and protection, while hoping that our own deliverance will not carry too high a cost for those who would make themselves our enemies. The whole of Psalm 35 carries this sentiment well—a cry for help when under attack coupled with a hint of confusion and dismay that the relationship has come to this. We should side firmly with righteousness regardless, but this begins by making sure that any enemies we have are wrongfully so and that any who would hate us would do so without a righteous reason for doing so (Psa. 35:19).
As someone who grew up being the new kid in town almost every other year, I came to experience the phenomenon of seemingly being hated without a cause if only in a superficial childlike way. You may never understand why some people hate you and want to destroy you or your work. It often will make no sense at all. In some cases, such as Saul’s, jealousy enters the picture. People may see things in your life that they wish they had but do not know how to obtain themselves. For Christians, our lives should shine forth the blessings of God in a noticeable way so that people can see good things in our lives that they would want. Unfortunately, worldly people can respond in worldly ways. And that sometimes means they look at you as an enemy. Sadder yet, sometimes this can even happen in the church. Some Christians are so weak spiritually that they feel threatened by the success or abilities of others and believe it necessary to try to destroy others’ reputation in order to save their own. Their competitiveness overwhelms any spirituality to their own detriment (Phil. 1:15-18).
While under attack in any situation such as this, it might be easy to be drawn into the fray. But instead of this, we should handle it with faith in God, defending ourselves when necessary while avoiding the temptation to destroy others in the process. We should pray for the defeat of those acting unrighteously in their ungodliness, but we should also pray for their spiritual well being that events might turn them to godliness. You may find someone at school or at work or even in the church who seems to treat you like an enemy. Do your best to still treat them as someone in need. You will hurt inside when attacked. This is undeniable. But growing to love even your enemies—enemies wrongfully or not—is part of following Christ (Matt. 5:44).