How to Make Your Enemies Love You

Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.
–Matthew 23:12

Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey tells the story about a time he went to an expensive restaurant in New York City. He sat down and the waiter came by, delivering rolls but no butter. Senator Bradley said, “May I please have some butter?” The waiter gave a slight nod. About five minutes later, still no butter. The waiter came back by and Senator Bradley asked him again, “May I please have some butter?” Again, the waiter nodded and disappeared somewhere. Ten minutes passed, still no butter. Finally, when the waiter came by again, Bill Bradley had had enough and said firmly, “Young man, perhaps you do not know who I am. I’m the senior senator from New Jersey. I’m a graduate of Princeton University, a Rhodes Scholar, a former player for the New York Knicks basketball team, and right now I am the senate chairman of the select committee on intelligence and the subcommittee on energy.” The waiter looked at him and replied, “Sir, perhaps you don’t know who I am. I’m the guy in charge of the butter.”

Anytime we try to pull rank on people, it usually backfires, doesn’t it? That’s why Jesus said, “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted” (Matthew 23:12).

What is humility? How does it work? And why is it so important to our relationships? Paul will answer all these questions in the passage we will look at this week. We will discover how we can live above our circumstances and experience outrageous joy despite difficult people in our lives.

The apostle Paul was writing a love letter to the Philippians in which he was telling them how to be joyful no matter what is happening around them. In chapter 1, Paul demonstrated how to deal with difficult circumstances. Paul had his share of difficult circumstances, including writing this letter from a Roman prison, facing what could have been his execution. Yet he remained joyful. He explained that the key to having joy despite difficult circumstances is purpose. We experience outrageous joy when we have a purpose bigger than ourselves. That’s what Paul did. His purpose was to glorify God, and that purpose helped him maintain his joy.

In chapter 2, Paul shifted the focus to how to handle difficult people. How do you keep difficult people from robbing you of joy? The answer is humility. Instead of using people, learn to serve people. When you serve others in humility, you will learn to live above your circumstances.

Paul was in prison when he received word that this church he founded and loved was starting to have disunity. Some of that disunity was due to doctrinal problems in the church. So Paul exhorted them to exercise humility with one another: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” (v. 3).


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “How to Make Your Enemies Love You” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2007.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.


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