In Exodus 23:4-5, Moses tells the people,
“If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to return it. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help them with it.”
These surprising words were counter-cultural in Palestine at the time of the exodus of the Israelites. Not just avoiding evil behavior but doing good to an enemy is the core of this command.
This law impacts 3 participants- the nation, the enemy and the individual who was wronged. Each has implications for dealing with enemies among God’s people today.
In Exodus, God gives his people, Israel, laws designed to protect them and create a strong, unified nation from a group of ex- slaves. God planned the formation and maintenance of Israel to preserve his written Word and bring our Savior into the world. It was important to regulate the behavior of individuals for the good of the nation. Over 600 laws, in addition to the Ten Commandments, showed the ways of mercy and justice for the success of Israel. God understood that the strength of a nation depended on how individuals handle enemies within the camp. What can we learn about how to treat those who oppose us in the church today? For the strength of God’s people, the church, you must overlook offenses. Anyone you view as an enemy you must help at any opportunity. Don’t let your heart be hardened by seeing one in need and refusing to help. Unity in the church depends on it.
The enemy who has a need requires help for his full functioning as a productive member of his family and community. Anyone who can help should, including an enemy. The kindness to an enemy defined in the law extended to his animals. Why? Domesticated animals were very important to the livelihoods of the people. A lost or incapacitated animal could destroy a man and his family. Even an enemy should be concerned. What should you remember about this today? Each individual matters to God because he or she is created in the image of God, even the one you view as an enemy. God cares for your enemy and you should too, enough to help when needed.
God, the Creator of mankind, knows the hearts of people. God wants what works best for an abundant life. God desires the avoidance of destruction and bitterness that come from revenge, hatred and hurtful behavior towards enemies. God wants what is best for individuals as well as nations. For healing of the wronged, God realizes that nothing works better than helping the enemy in his time of need, repaying good for evil. Within the church today, peace with an enemy is found by helping him. If your enemy needs help, help him and in doing so help yourself.
Helping enemies is one of many revolutionary ideas found in the Bible. The lesson is still important today. Ask God to show you how you can help an enemy.