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Loving Enemies While Defeating Them Part II: What Does It Mean To "Defeat"?

Updated: Jun 27, 2022

In the last post I began to break down a great question: how can we love our enemies *while* working to defeat them? I began with some basic definitions of terms. In this post--part II--I want to continue defining basic terms and parameters. Click below for the other parts in the series:

Part III Part IV Part V Part VI What does it mean to "defeat" our enemies?

Daws’ definition is a good starting point--”making sure their agenda fails.”

Should we do this? Absolutely. Beating a dead horse here--why should we have to argue this? Seems pretty straightforward to me if you look at the Bible and think about it.

Just what do you think the “strongholds and pretensions” are that Paul admonishes us to “demolish” in 2 Corinthians 4? Answer: ideas. Counter ideologies that enemies advance. Policies that harm real people. The agenda of enemies, in other words. It absolutely is more than that, but it is not less. What does “demolish” mean, exactly? Let me just cut to the chase: whatever it does mean, at the very least it includes “defeat.”

Paul tells Titus that a church elder should seek to “refute” those who oppose “sound doctrine.” Later on he tells Titus to act in such a way such that those who oppose him are “ashamed.”

Going back to Jesus’s life, there are quite a few passages in the gospels where we see Jesus adroitly working to “defeat” His enemies. Matthew 22 mentioned above, where the Sadducees ask Him a question about marriage in order to discredit Him, is a great example. That confrontation results in a clear, decisive, very public L for those opposing Him.

A thorough breakdown of how He does that is outside the scope of this blog. Suffice it to say, that is a confrontation with His enemies where He works to make sure their agenda fails, ie, defeat them.

Some might point to passages like Matthew 10:16-42, where Jesus instructs us to “not be afraid of them” as a counter point, but passages like that are no such thing. “Don’t be afraid of them” doesn’t mean “don’t take them seriously” nor does it mean “don’t work to oppose and defeat their agenda.” “Do not fear” means just that--do not fear.

An examination of the faithful in history will reveal a plethora of examples of men and women who worked diligently to defeat the agenda of their enemies: William Wilberforce, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, MLK jr, etc. We revere believers like that precisely because they worked to “defeat” the agenda of the enemy. They did not shy away from that task. In fact, I’m pretty sure critics of Daws’ question likewise honor men like Bonhoeffer for their opposition. I am here reminded of the scene in The Lord of the Rings when Theoden balks at going to war with Mordor. Theoden says “I will not risk open war and bring further death upon my people.” Aragorn retorts, “Open war is upon you, whether you risk it or not.” The point is that you can talk all you want about not being a “culture warrior,” but you don’t really have that option. You might not be interested in the culture war, but it is very interested in you (someone else said that years ago. I think it was Matthew Lee Anderson, so I can’t take credit for the phrase.). You don’t have the choice to refrain from fighting in the culture wars, because the opposition is not one to let you do that. They will simply not let you rest until you completely join their cause. They will not let you simply “love on people.” You will either fight well, or fight poorly. You don’t have the option to just not fight. So yes lets work to defeat their agenda. They will not stop until we do so. One more objection to cover: is this “us vs them” rhetoric, and isn’t that a false and unloving distinction? Answer: of course ultimately this distinction is contrived, for we are all humans, all sinners, etc etc. Ultimately all have fallen short of the glory of God and are lost apart from Christ. Ultimately we all continue in rebellion unless God moves. Ultimately we all deserve wrath but are offered grace. That’s an awfully big boat we are all, ultimately, in. But at a relative level, this distinction can be meaningful and not necessarily unloving. People actively and aggressively oppose Christ. They oppose the Truth. They oppose the good. That’s reality. It is not contrived and unloving to acknowledge that truth and to oppose the opposition. It is a relevant difference at some level. To pretend that there is absolutely no difference between those faithful to Christ and the Truth and those who oppose is just that…pretend. It confuses and obfuscates. Be real.

In the next post in this series, I will start to lay out specific principles regarding how.

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