Honor Your Enemy

in: Devotional, Forgiving Day-by-Day



1 Samuel 26:7-11 (NLT)

So David and Abishai went right into Saul’s camp and found him asleep, with his spear stuck in the ground beside his head. Abner and the soldiers were lying asleep around him.

“God has surely handed your enemy over to you this time!” Abishai whispered to David. “Let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of the spear; I won’t need to strike twice!”

“No!” David said. “Don’t kill him. For who can remain innocent after attacking the LORD’s anointed one? Surely the LORD will strike Saul down someday, or he will die of old age or in battle. The LORD forbid that I should kill the one he has anointed! But take his spear and that jug of water beside his head, and then let’s get out of here!”


Years before, God had chosen David to succeed Saul, Israel’s first king. Aware of his special anointing, David nevertheless continued to serve King Saul and to remain a loyal subject and son-in-law. Meanwhile, Saul—jealous, vindictive, and likely suffering from mental illness—made repeated attempts on David’s life, forcing David to flee from his wife and home to live in exile for many years.

Now David and Abishai, a commander in David’s army, come upon a sleeping Saul. What Abishai sees as a perfect opportunity to end the life of David’s enemy, David sees as an opportunity to honor God by resisting such temptation. Saul was God’s anointed king, whom God had not yet removed from power. Until he does, David says, I will trust in God’s sovereign judgment and wait for God’s timing to bring about what God has promised me.

We, too, may come upon the opportunity to bring down an enemy. We may uncover a vulnerability and the chance to hurt someone back as we have been hurt. Like Abishai, we may move in for the kill without thinking about what God wants from us.

Hating one’s enemies and desiring their ruin seems a natural human instinct. Yet David chose to honor God by honoring the life of his enemy. Let us, like David, pause before we strike and remember God’s sovereignty. It may be that God wants to use us to love and restore this person when, left to ourselves, we would only hate and destroy.


FATHER, help me to pause like David and remember that you are Lord of my life. Give me patience to wait on you and faith to trust that the future will unfold according to your desire, even when I don’t understand your plan. Overrule my instincts for revenge by filling me with your loving Spirit, so that I can value and respect even those people who do not value or respect me.


Deuteronomy 32:35; Luke 6:27-36


Why is it difficult to feel compassion for an enemy?

  • Rob December 8, 2017, 8:52 am

    I think your “ponder” question is an excellent one. I have given the question a lot of thought, and I think there is actually a brain-function (scientific) answer.

    As a fellow biology-type, I’m going to stick my neck out and risk thinking that you have no problem with an evolutionary approach to creation. So… when the human developed an ability to empathize (even a compulsion to empathize), for the purpose of general interpersonal harmony and intra-tribe cooperation, this trait without some modification was a problem for survival when it came to inter-tribal competition for resources. People (or pre-humans) whose empathy was always “on” did not battle, and probably did not survive. What had to evolve was an “empathy cut-off switch” in order to save the empathy trait itself!

    So what happens in the subconscious is a blindness, an empathy blindness, that is triggered when we feel resentment or anger. The manifestation is that we do not want to forgive, understand, empathize, and certainly not love our enemies. As usual, Jesus’ call to “love our enemies” is a call to transcend our nature. Love and forgiveness of enemies is supernatural!

    I know this response sounds mechanistic and not very spiritual, but the spirituality part is that God has created us to survive and thrive, and these mechanisms are beautiful, a functional beauty, even though they may appear to be harmful.

    Does this make sense?

    • Judith Ingram December 8, 2017, 4:17 pm

      Thanks for your comments, Rob. I can see you really have put a lot of thought into this question! Your biological approach is interesting and goes a long way toward explaining the polarization we see today in our society–political, socioeconomic, ethnic, religious–and why it is so difficult to argue away. I agree with you that Jesus calls us to transcend our natural human instinct to resent and resist “those other people” we see as enemies, and to love and forgive them with the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit.


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