The Bible says you are to love your enemies. But how do you love a hostile co-worker?
This is the person who, for whatever reason, goes beyond being merely difficult. These people engage in harmful activities that undermine your reputation or work product, and their actions are serious. How do you respond?
Jesus addresses this issue in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:38-44:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
How do you love your enemies? Do the following:
Do not engage in eye for eye retaliation.
Jesus introduces this point by saying “You have heard” before quoting the eye for eye law from Exodus 21:23-25. God originally dictated the eye for eye law to Moses on Mount Sinai as civil law for the governance of Israel.
Jesus is saying that for a Christian to use the eye for eye law today as justification for acts of retribution toward others is to misapply his Word.
God’s purpose for the eye for eye law was to limit personal retaliation for an offense by addressing the sinful practice of unlimited retaliation.
Under the eye for eye law, Exodus 21:24-25 declares that the wronged Israelite could respond with an “eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise,” but no more. The spirit of the eye for eye law was to limit conflict in ancient Israel, and never to justify increased conflict.
However, and most importantly, the eye for eye law does not apply to today’s Christian. First Peter 3:9 says, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult.” We Christians are not eye for eye people.
Do not resist like an evil person.
For example, if a co-worker is telling destructive lies about you, do not respond by telling destructive lies about him. Instead, speak truth to the lies, respond wisely and with integrity.
Your Christ-like demeanor and professional actions will speak for themselves despite the claims of an evil co-worker.
Also, the Matthew 5:38-44 passage does not say you must endure abuse from others. Both believers and unbelievers alike have the right to protect themselves. If your office enemy engages in physical assault, bullying, discrimination, sexual harassment, etc., you have recourse through your employer, as well as civil law enforcement and the legal system.
Turn the other cheek.
This means to simply choose your battles. The “cheek … tunic … mile” references are metaphors for less serious offenses that do not require you to take action. You do not have to respond to every jab from a hostile co-worker. Sometimes it will be best to let a minor offense go.
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
This is the key to what Jesus is saying in Matthew 5:38-44: Love your office enemy the same way he loves your office enemy.
Proverbs 25:21-22 declares: “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”