The Benefits of Enemies


Enemies do not fear to tell us what we need to hear

By Don Ruhl

Why does God allow enemies to torment us? He could remove them. In the end, He will do it anyway. If God does not remove our enemies now, but allows them to criticize, persecute, and seek to destroy us, He must have a purpose for them in our lives.

Remember the man who cursed David (2Sa 16.5–14). David believed the Lord sent the man. David also believed that the Lord would repay Shimei for his sin. Shimei did curse David for his own bloodthirsty ways (v. 8), because David had Uriah killed and God told David that he would have enemies because of it. Therefore, he knew that Shimei persecuted David for his own sin. However, Shimei also sinned in what he did and the Lord would take care of him later.

What purpose or purposes could enemies ever serve us? I want to show you the importance of having enemies by showing you the benefits of enemies.

Lifelong enemies are, I think, as hard to make and as important to one’s well-being as lifelong friends (Jessica Mitford, English author, journalist and political campaigner).

I call to the world to distrust the accounts of my friends, but listen to my enemies, as I myself do (Walt Whitman).

I do not mean that having enemies is pleasant, but they can be easier to endure and we can keep from becoming bitter, if we understand their place in our lives. If enemies do not repent, they will pay a heavy price in eternity for what they do to us, but we can use them to our advantage, which God wants us to do. He wants us to learn from our life experiences, even the unpleasant ones.

The Book of Judges shows God allowing Israel’s enemies to oppress them because they had become unfaithful to him. The oppression from enemies turned Israel back to God, and that was a good thing.

Enemies Show Our Approval Before God 

Jesus said we are blessed when persecuted for righteousness’ sake, because we have a great reward in heaven, and we are in good company, because all the prophets had persecutors (Matt 5.10–12).

Knowing the blessedness of persecution, when the Jewish Council persecuted James and John, they rejoiced, “that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5.41).

Therefore, “If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1Pe 4.14a).

Enemies Sharpen Our Skills 

When I struggled with severe critics back in the 1980s, a woman in the congregation where I worked, gave me a quotation that has forever reminded me of the value of tough times and tough people, “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”

Scripture shows that this is true, because persecution produces perseverance, which produces character and that produces hope (Rom 5.3–5).

That is why the Bible says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials [often brought on by our enemies, D. R.], knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (Jam 1.2–4).

Would we learn perseverance, character, hope, and patience without enemies? I have had trials in my life that did not come from enemies, but the ones from enemies made me think, hence made me grow.

Enemies Tell Us What We Need to Hear 

Wise men of the world recognize this truth,

Pay attention to your enemies, for they are the first to discover your mistakes (Antisthenes, Greek philosopher and pupil of Socrates).

He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves, and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper (Edmund Burke).

Everyone needs a warm personal enemy or two to keep him free from rust in the movable parts of his mind (Gene Fowler).

Friends do not like to point out our mistakes. Whereas an enemy delights to show them to us. However, we do not like to listen to our enemies. We want to listen to our friends, but they often lack the boldness to confront us. If they do get the gumption to correct us, we consider them our enemies.

Galatians 4 shows Paul dealt with that problem when he had to correct the Galatians. He knew they might not like what they would hear, “Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?” (Gal 4.16).

If a friend corrects us or opposes us has he become an enemy? Not necessarily, though that does happen. Proverbs 27 shows that what friends do to us they do for our good, whereas enemies seek to destroy us, even when they act friendly,

Open rebuke is better
Than love carefully concealed.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.
(Pro 27.5, 6)

Enemies do not care if they offend us. Enemies do not fear losing our friendship. Friends fear both things. Therefore, friends might hold back the constructive criticisms we need.

Enemies criticize, though they intended it to be destructive. Yet, if we are wise we will consider what they say, and use it constructively,

Rebuke is more effective for a wise man
Than a hundred blows on a fool.
(Pro 17.10)

That rebuke might come from an enemy. Therefore, enemies make us think.

Our enemy is by tradition our savior, in preventing us from superficiality (Joyce Carol Oates).

Atheists make me think harder on why I believe in God. Evolutionists challenge me to consider my arguments in support of creation. Without someone opposing us, we take our ease.

Enemies Reveal Our Loyalties 

Jesus warned, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6.26). Therefore, we are known by both our friends and our enemies.

Enemies Keep Us Balanced 

When we think we have achieved greatness, enemies humble us. We need building up, but we also need humility. Enemies grant that service to us.

Enemies keep us from getting comfortable with ourselves, and with our work.

Second Corinthians 12 shows how God kept Paul in balance. God gave Paul visions of heaven that could have made him think he was greater than he was, “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2Co 12.7–10).

Does This Justify a Critical Spirit? 

Someone might think this allows him to have a critical spirit. Consider what the word of God says about being an enemy.

You shall reap as you sow. Matthew 7 shows that principle applies in how we treat people, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (Matt 7.1, 2).

A few words later in Matthew 7, Jesus delivered The Golden Rule, “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matt 7.12).

Do you not want others to treat you well? The answer is to treat them well. If someone needs correction, do not do it as an enemy would, but as a loving friend would. Do you want to destroy a person or to save him?


Wishing for a perfect life is a futile wish. If you do most anything, you will gain an enemy. If you engage in good works, trying to improve things, your enemies will intensify. Do not curse them, but see why God allowed that person in your life.

What can you gain from the situation? Has an enemy brought you down? Seek the prayers and counsel of your brethren that we might lift you up. Best of all, lose your enemies by making them your friends.

2 thoughts on “The Benefits of Enemies

  1. 2 years ago I met a guy an unsaved guy who asked me out. Of course I said no but I agreed for us to be friends. We chatted for some months and he was very firm on his stance that he didn’t want to be just my friend and I firmly said no. Though we never dated or went beyond platonic I fell hard and it ended with a bitter humiliating rejection from him, he tossed in some hurtful words which I have only now learned to forgive. I grieved a lot over it, he was the closest thing in my 25 years I ever had to a boyfriend.

    My Question –
    I am learning to forgive and move past it but I am tentative. I see him sometimes and to bury the hatchet I greet him and swallow my anger. However I realized he is still has manipulative tactics. Asking me for favors where I work and for help with other stuff. You see nearing the end of our friendship he would try to ask for money, for gifts like jewelry or gadgets all the while being really unkind and insulting.
    I wanna be forgiving and all but I don’t wanna get conned and exploited. Is it okay to forgive from afar and hold off on talking to him when i see him?

    Sidenote: What I loved about this post is that it helped me see how even something hurtful was a positive. I learned so much about myself and the disappointment and hurt drew me into an even closer relationship with Christ.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Dear Islandlady,

      First, you said in your opening paragraph that you had forgiven him, but the truth is, he has evidently abused that forgiveness, and Jesus said, “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17.3). It sounds to me like your former boyfriend is abusing your forgiveness.

      Second, Solomon advised,

      “My son, fear the Lord and the king;
      Do not associate with those given to change;
      For their calamity will rise suddenly,
      And who knows the ruin those two can bring?”
      (Pro 24.21–22)

      Your former boyfriend is manipulative, being kind when he thinks it will get something from you, but unkind when he gets it. He is given to change, therefore, as Solomon said, you need to stay away from him. He will not change, at least not at the present. He will hurt you over and over again. He is walking disoderly, and so you should not have anything to do with him. You can forgive him in your heart, but that does not mean you can have association with him, because he has not truly changed.

      I am glad that my article helped you. Thanks for writing.


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