But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; (Matthew 5:44).
“Lord, this is too hard,” many of you may say when you read those verses. It seems for believers, that there are more enemies than allies in this world. We are berated with hateful comments about our beliefs. What the world accepts is moving farther and farther away from God’s teachings. We often feel that we don’t have the right to speak out without cries of bigotry or prejudice following close behind. Terrorism is on the rise and we don’t feel as safe as we used to. In our personal lives, we may deal with family members or friends who don’t treat us the way we deserve to be treated – who judge us, argue with us, and put us down on a regular basis.
How can we love, bless, do good to and pray for those who take advantage of us, speak badly of us, treat us like we are horrible people, criticize and argue with us, and even try to silence us?
I watched a movie called War Room a few months ago that stopped me in my tracks. My mind hasn’t been able to shake the messages of an old woman named Miss Clara, to a young wife and mother named Elizabeth.
Elizabeth, confiding to Miss Clara about her relationship with her husband, Tony, said, “If there’s one thing we do well, it’s fight.”
Miss Clara retorted, “No, I don’t think you do. Just because you argue a lot doesn’t mean you fight well. I bet you never feel like you’ve won.”
And why wouldn’t she ever win? Aren’t arguments something that people win or lose? Isn’t that what opposing forces do?
Miss Clara later proclaimed this, “Your husband has his own issues, but he’s not your enemy.”
Then who is the enemy?
A jolt of recognition and clarity rang through my entire body as she counseled that the Devil is the real enemy:
“He comes to steal, kill and destroy—stealing your joy, killing your faith and trying to destroy your family.”
Miss Clara also said, “Very few of us know how to fight the right way or understand who we are really fighting against.”
That is why Elizabeth could never win a fight with her husband: she was fighting the wrong way, and with the wrong person.
There is no question in my mind that we are fighting in a war daily. We think we are in a war with the people around us who argue with us, who put us down, who talk about us behind our backs, who persecute us, or who cause us to yell or cry out in frustration.
Yes, there is a fight to win, but we must always remember our real opponent, and figure out the right way to beat him. As James E. Faust clarified, “Satan is our greatest enemy and works night and day to destroy us. But we need not become paralyzed with fear of Satan’s power. He can have no power over us unless we permit it. He is really a coward, and if we stand firm he will retreat” (“Be Not Afraid,” Ensign, Oct. 2002, 4).
I never really thought about the fact that Satan has power over us only if we allow it, but it makes so much sense. We are not Satan’s; we are God’s, and if we use His help, we can defeat Satan.
Miss Clara said to Elizabeth: “If you want victory, you’re going to have to first surrender.”
That would normally seem like a paradox, but not when we surrender to the one who knows what is best for us, who loves and knows us completely, and who wants nothing more than to bless us and free us from our enemy, Satan.
When we surrender to God, we seek Him, submit to His will, and promise to follow where He leads us, rather than where our natural and human weaknesses would take us. Miss Clara said, “It’s not my job to do the heavy lifting. No, that is something only He can do.”
I thought about why that is, and I believe it is because we can’t make anybody change. We can’t make people treat us right or see our worth. Only God can soften hearts and enlighten minds. Fighting with others will never accomplish this, because contention is of the Devil, not God.
For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another (3 Nephi 11:29).
Is there a way we can fight without contention and without anger? Miss Clara thinks so. She shows and teaches Elizabeth about her favorite room in her house, her War Room, where she does her spiritual fighting. She studies her scriptures, prays with real intent, expresses her gratitude, confesses her own faults, and pleads to God for forgiveness, understanding, and enlightenment not only for herself, but for the ones causing her pain.
We know who the enemy is, and we know we must fight him, but it is hard to remember this if we don’t know what we are fighting for.
Too often we fight for the sake of winning, being right, proving someone else wrong, shaming someone, or forcing a change.
Are those the causes we should be fighting for? Captain Moroni in the Book of Mormon was the captain of the Nephite Army. He once tore his coat and wrote on it his cause for fighting. He fastened the fabric on a pole, raised it for all to see, and called it the Title of Liberty. These are the words he wrote:
In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children (Alma 46:12).
Moroni wasn’t fighting to satisfy pride, or to perpetrate the harshness he felt others deserved. No, he fought for what really mattered – family, freedom to worship God, and for peace.
When we fight, are we doing it for the right reasons, and is our method going to work? Have you noticed that Satan always attacks the family to fulfill his purposes? How much time do we spend attacking those we love most? Do we realize that is his influence in our lives? I know that I do not want to fight my family or friends, so I need to turn my attention to fighting the cause of the contention: Satan himself.
But to fight Satan, it isn’t a physical battle. It is a spiritual one. Remember, if we stand firm and tall, and unwavering, he will retreat. Satan may have the power to bruise our heels, but God gave Adam and Eve, and their offspring (us), the power to bruise his head (Genesis 3:15). How can we bruise his head? How can we make him crawl away from us in fear?
God has given us the way.
Dallin H. Oaks wisely said, “The blessings of the gospel are universal, and so is the formula for peace: keep the commandments of God. War and conflict are the result of wickedness; peace is the product of righteousness.”
Satan is the cause of war – inner war, social war, and physical wars. By fighting Satan, we can stop the wars and bring peace.
We do this by keeping God’s commandments, for as we do, He will bless us with the ability to do what we could never do alone. He gives us power through the Spirit to withstand Satan’s temptations as we pray sincerely, study our scriptures, attend church, serve our fellow man, forgive those who have trespassed against us, fast, express our gratitude to Him in all things, listen to the words of His prophets, repent of our sins, always strive to be better than we are now, and most importantly, keep our faith strong in the Lord, Jesus Christ.
Perhaps the Apostle Paul explained it best:
Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; (Ephesians 6:11-18).
Captain Moroni, the leader who flew the Title of Liberty, was a man who not only donned real armour in battle, but chose to wear his spiritual armour daily as well. He was always grateful, worked hard, served others, defended righteous causes, and was firm in the faith.
Speaking of Moroni, the prophet Mormon declared:
Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men (Alma 48:17).
Yes, these are the attributes we must have to vanquish the Devil’s power over us.
But what about the Devil’s power over others? We want our loved ones to have joy in their lives, and to make right choices. Shouldn’t we fight the Devil out of them too? We try, don’t we? But it doesn’t help, does it, because they must make that choice on their own.
Miss Clara explained to Elizabeth, “It’s your job to love him, to respect him, to pray for the man, [not to fix him].”
It may be excruciatingly difficult to do these things for those who hurt us, but Miss Clara taught Elizabeth that even in “light of all [their] wrongs…God still [loves them.]” And thus should we.
It doesn’t matter what we think they deserve – love, forgiveness, second chances – we should do our best to give it. Miss Clara preached, “Do you deserve grace? None of us deserve grace…He gives us grace, and He helps us give it to others even when they don’t deserve it.”
Through much prayer, scripture study, and reflection, Elizabeth finally realizes that she is not her husband’s judge – God is. She stops trying to change him and fight him. Instead, she promises to fight for him, and for their marriage.
One of the most poignant points in the movie is when Elizabeth, alone in her home, declares, “I don’t know where you are, devil. You have played with my man. … No more. You are done. Jesus is the Lord of this house, and that means there’s no place for you here anymore. So take your lies … your accusations and get out in Jesus’ name. … My joy is found in Jesus, and just in case you forgot, He has already defeated you, so go back to hell where you belong and leave my family alone!”
It was impossible not to feel the power of God as she made that shift to fighting Satan instead of her husband, and realizing where her true joy and peace comes from – Jesus Christ.
Satan does a lot to destroy lives, and sometimes he targets our confidence, feelings of self-worth, and divine nature. That is why we must recognize that our joy comes first and foremost from our Savior, not from any outside influences.
In the movie, Elizabeth and her husband are able to work through everything. Because of her love and support, he recognizes where he has gone wrong, and works to repent and be a better husband and father. Theirs is a happy ending, or at least, a fresh start. But, sometimes even if we fight the right way, and do everything we should, our relationships do not improve. What then?
Then, when you are vulnerable, Satan finds an opening to hurt your soul, bring you down, and make you forget God’s love for you. This has happened to me in my life. But, as I chose to consistently put on the whole armour of God, I was able to endure and move onward and upward. I learned that we can’t control how others fight the fight, but we can control how we do it.
Fighting those that hurt us will not make our circumstances better. Grudges, bitterness and withholding forgiveness will not bring us peace. They will not bring us closer to Christ. Sometimes we must move away from people, but not without first forgiving.
As He suffered a cruel and heartless death on the cross, Christ pleaded, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).” If He willingly forgave those who persecuted Him, betrayed Him, whipped Him, and killed Him, then there is no other option for us but to also forgive.
If we prayed for others every time we noticed a flaw, felt the need to gossip, or were about to scream angrily at them, we would win each and every battle with Satan because love would overcome hate.
Fight on your knees, not with your words, behaviors, or fists. Be a warrior of God, and peace will come to your soul.