by Ramone Romero
September 12, 2012
What do we do when there seem to be hostile enemies around us? If people seem violently opposed to Christians, should those people be destroyed? A long time ago Jesus sent a messenger to a church that had been suffering persecution in the ancient city of Pergamon (modern-day Aeolis in Turkey)—
"I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to My name. You did not renounce your faith in Me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.
Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth."
THE STORY OF BALAAM
King Balak of Moab was afraid of being destroyed by his enemies, the Israelites, so he hired Balaam to put a curse on them. Balaam apparently knew the word of God and refused at first, but eventually God allowed Balaam to go. On the way, Balaam's donkey stopped and wouldn't budge because an angel stood to block Balaam, because Balaam's path was reckless in God's sight. Balaam went on and prophesied in favor of Israel instead of against Israel.
But shortly after that God judged Israel by sending a plague. It turned out that Balaam had advised King Balak to send Moabite women to seduce the Israelites, and then in turn the Israelites started worshiping Moabite gods—breaking the covenant they had made with God at Sinai, which resulted in judgment. Afterwards, God gave Israel victory over the Moabites, and Balaam was killed with them.
THE TEACHING OF BALAAM
When Jesus said that people were holding to the teaching of Balaam, it's easy for us to think that this meant being adulterous or idolatrous. But that's not the teaching of Balaam—that's the teaching of King Balak! The teaching of Balaam is what he told to Balak: "Entice the Israelites to sin so that they will be judged!"
Balaam's teaching was this: If you don't want your enemies to destroy you, but to be defeated instead, then trick or provoke them into sinning.
King Balak had been afraid of the Israelites because he saw how they destroyed the Amorites (Num.22:2-3). In fact, the original purpose of the Israelities was not to destroy the Amorites; instead they just wanted to pass through the Amorites' land. But their king refused, and with his army he marched out to fight against Israel and was defeated (Num.21:23-31). King Balak could have learned an important lesson from watching this: Talking with your enemies is better than setting out to destroy them! (Sometimes, just sometimes, maybe they actually aren't out to get you!)
Jesus was telling His people in Pergamon not to follow Balaam's advice to King Balak—not to entice their persecutors into sinning. Don't be so afraid of your enemies that you think that you have no other choice but to to destroy them. Maybe they're angry, intolerant and violent, but don't use that as an excuse to provoke them. Don't put temptation in front of them and lead them into sinning. Don't expect God to excuse you for doing that. (He didn't excuse Balaam for it!)
Maybe you know the right things and declare the right truths about God. Maybe you even prophesy. But so did Balaam. He spoke the right things about God and prophesied, but both Peter and Jude said that Balaam loved money more than he loved righteousness. Although he knew God's word and what was right, and although he could say that the Lord was his God, deeper underneath he served the idol of profit—his own interests were his true god. Both Balaam and King Balak were more concerned about their own well-being than about their neighbors and enemies.
REMEMBER THE GOSPEL!
Our enemies are not flesh and blood—not people—but spiritual principalities (Eph.6:12). Our victory is not over people but over spiritual enemies, first and foremost the enemies in our own hearts. We are not called to conquer people or cultures—that is not Christ's teaching, but the teaching of the "Nicolaitans" (the followers of "Nicolas", which means "victorious over people").
The gospel of God's grace in Jesus Christ declares that we were all God's enemies, but He loved us and sent His Son to die for our sins, so that we could be reconciled to Him. This is why Christ commanded us to love our enemies—because He loves them, too, just as much as He loves us! If we don't choose to forgive those who trespass against us, then we're not choosing His love, because He loves them, too.
Love does not keep records of wrongs or rejoice in wrongdoing. There should be no joy when an enemy sins or stumbles. "Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice, or the Lord will see and disapprove" (Prov.24:17). Christ commanded us to love, forgive, bless and pray for those who persecute us. Not to provoke them or bait them into further sin.
No matter how much 'truth' we know about God or how often He uses us to prophesy His words, if we are so self-interested that we entice our enemies into sin (so they will be destroyed), then our way is reckless, contrary and perverse in God's sight (Num.22:32).
I am impressed to write about this today because of what has happened in Egypt. Yes, many Islamists can be easily roused to anger. Yes, it's wrong. But does provoking them to anger really help them in any way? Did the alleged "Israeli-American" producer make his film for the sake of Muslims themselves? Or for the sake of rallying support against them? Why did the Christian pastor in Florida burn the Koran? Maybe someone might justify this this kind of provocation to sin as "helping them." But that is perverse way to "help" someone; it is reckless and contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the teaching of Balaam and the Nicolaitans.
I am feeling spiritual pain today... a grief I sense in the Holy Spirit:
"Many are holding to the teaching of Balaam
instead of walking in the gospel of peace
as My ministers of reconciliation!
Now wickedness has increased—
will My people stand in My agape love
or will they respond with cold love?"
Art: "Father is Just!"