Living Wisely with and Praying for Those Who Identify Themselves as Enemies

Weekend Musings

Christians are called to love and pray for our enemies and even those who persecute us (Matthew 5:4; Luke 6:35; Romans 12:14). But we are also warned throughout Scriptures like the one quoted below, to not emulate or follow their example. Christians have not always been faithful to “the love and pray for” part of our call or the “don’t be like them” part of our discipleship. But we can draw a line in the sand and start today. The following is from Kairos Journal.

EnemiesKnow Your Enemy

29 When the LORD your God cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, 30 take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?— that I also may do the same.’ 31 You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods.

Deuteronomy 12:29-31 (ESV)

During the North African campaign in World War II, British General Bernard Montgomery kept above his bed a photograph of his archrival, German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel.1 Montgomery knew his foe was formidable, and so he determined to remind himself of that fact every time he lay down. Indeed, “Know your enemy” is a basic military dictum, applicable to spiritual warfare as well as secular armed conflict.

When Moses gave the speeches recorded in Deuteronomy, the people of Israel were preparing to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land. Moses’ chief aim was once again to lift up the law of God. In so doing, he underscored the contrast between divine standards and those of the Canaanites they were dispossessing, and he warned his people not to embrace those nations’ practices and religions. To the modern ear, Moses’ speeches were remarkable for their frank assessment of Canaanite religion. This pagan faith was violent and evil, even calling upon its adherents to burn their sons and daughters in sacrifice to their gods. Thus they were abominations before God, and Moses was not shy about saying so.

While Moses clearly valued good “intelligence” concerning their foes, he insisted that not all study of the enemy was good. When inquiry for the purposes of defense gave way to study with an eye toward integration, then the alarm had to sound. Education for discernment is one thing; flirtatious study is quite another (v. 30).

Enemies, Love themUnfortunately, much of the contemporary Western Church has lost track of this vital distinction. Its treatment of Islam is a case in point. Despite this religion’s warlike scripture (the Qur’an and Hadith), a history of conquest, and acts of terrorism and oppression at every turn today, many persist in calling Islam “a great religion” and “a religion of peace.” Thus disarmed by ignorance, amiability, and the counsel of multiculturalists, Christians are even surrendering European neighborhoods to sharia law and practicing self-censorship lest they offend Muslims in their midst. At the same time, some Christian leaders are mining the Islamic tradition for wisdom, holding joint religious exercises with Muslims, and suggesting that Sunnis, Shi‘ites, and Sufis are simply fellow travelers on the road to God.

This is the sort of vulnerability and accommodation that Moses feared. Of course, Christians today are not called to seize a promised land, putting all to the sword to establish a theocracy where paganism now reigns. Theirs is a spiritual battle, wherein they advance the gospel by persuasive witness and careful instruction. But the principle of knowing the enemy’s ideology without being seduced by its claims still stands. And whether the rival perspective is Islamic, post-modern, New Age, or materialistic, the pastor should insure that his people receive a rigorous, unvarnished, and, yes, unsympathetic briefing on thought systems arraying themselves against God and His Word. Thus they stand responsibly with Moses on the brink of great conflict to come.


1. “Pilgrimage to Mareth,” Time, February 1, 1943,,9171,790745-1,00.html (accessed December 29, 2006.

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