*********************************"I have heard every argument under the sun by ex-cult members not to turn away from this evil, and to in fact continue to try and reach them since God himself doesn't reject them (they believe). They use Jesus' words in Matthew 5:44, to pray for, love and do good to your enemy, and sometimes I myself wonder how to reconcile this verse and the Timothy verses in this situation.
Surely the malignant narcissist is our enemy, yet Paul tells us to turn away from them. Of Whom then was Jesus talking about in Matthew?"
************************************Paul, in the Timothy letter (2 Tim. 3:1-5), carefully exposes the behaviors of wicked persons as important context before the instruction is given to walk away from them. Yes, the wicked man is an enemy. On the other hand, not all enemies are wicked men! Christ and Paul were not talking about the same people or persons. Let me elaborate.
There is a certain level of chutzpah required to make the assumption that "all people who oppose me are my enemy and are therefore evil". This is the baseline assumption of the narcissists. Disagree with them and you are targeted for destruction. You are their enemy and you are evil.
Early in Christ's "Sermon on the Mount", which begins in Matt. 5, He set the theme for the instruction to follow:
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven." Emphasis mine. Matt. 5:17-20
The rest of the chapter Christ repeats the theme, "You have heard that it was said..." followed by His teaching. From whom did people hear the "it was said" that Christ was countering or expanding on? The religious leaders. Those Pharisees and teachers of the law whose level of righteousness was exposed by Christ as being inadequate for entering the "kingdom of heaven".
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' " Matt. 5:43 That was the "sage" teaching of the Pharisees and lawyers. Christ sets that teaching on its head. This teaching was based on Levitical law but had been perverted by the religious leaders' interpretations. It was the perversion Christ was setting about to correct.
Let's consider who Christ was talking about when He refers to "your enemy". He was talking about those whom the religious leaders commonly categorized as such. During all of Christ's earthly ministry He worked to overcome the extreme national pride and the religious bigotry of a people who felt assured of their superiority in God's eyes. They were a people who considered others to be enemies simply because they were in a different class of society or of a different nationality. The Jews, most especially the religious leaders, were very resistant to the Roman rule they were under in Christ's (and Paul's) day. Israel was one of the most difficult nations for the Romans to manage. It was not uncommon for a Roman soldier to commandeer a passerby to carry something for them for a distance down the road (it was Roman law that they could do this). The Jews would often resist the order of the Roman soldier. The Jews chafed under this type of thing because it was a reminder that they were a conquered people. This was a reality they liked to deny to themselves as evidenced by the Pharisees preposterous response to Christ when they stated that they had never been slaves to any man. (John 8:33) So, Christ, in teaching the people how to behave like God's children instructed them to cheerfully walk that mile with the Roman and volunteer to walk another with them. The Roman was most definitely an enemy to the Jewish mind, but was he evil? No. There would be no evidence of that in a short encounter, so the assumption must be that he isn't. The kind of wickedness defined by Paul is not going to be perceived by a short encounter. The exposure of truly evil people can only occur over time and with multiple encounters under varied circumstances.
Christ defined how we should think and behave toward those who may oppose us; those whom we may be inclined to think of as our enemy, but who are just average people. They may have prejudice against us for whatever their reasons. If we are consistently kind and helpful it is likely they will dump their prejudices at some point. We, as Christians, should not do anything to further provoke someone who may dislike us. Our attitude is to be benevolent and will be demonstrated by our doing our best to seek their good.
Christ consistently worked to expand the minds of the people to look past class and nationality--to look at someone in need as their neighbor. The story of the good Samaritan was to illustrate "who is my neighbor?" To the Jews a neighbor was of their same level in society in addition to being a fellow Jew. A "neighbor" was their peer. Period. The Samaritan's definition was the godly one; the person you are in a position to both see their need and to help is your neighbor. The fellow Jews who walked by the beaten Jew on the road were able to justify leaving him bleeding and barely conscious because he was not one of them by their very narrow partisan definitions.
Obviously, just because someone doesn't like us we are not free, as Christians, to reciprocate with hate and bad behaviors. The religious leaders of Christ's day did believe they were free to hate their perceived enemies, and to treat those perceived enemies badly or with indifference. Christ was countering this kind of thinking in Matt. 5:44. Someone may consider us their enemy, but that doesn't mean we are free to treat them like they are our enemy. On the other hand, when someone is clearly dedicated to being evil, insofar as we are able...we should walk away from them. There are plenty of other Biblical instructions to not associate with those who are evil. Christ was not negating the Scriptures. He was dealing with a different kind of enemy. Not all our enemies are evil...in fact, few are.
Also, keep in mind that sometimes a person isn't able to walk away. In those instances, the Christian is instructed to submit without rancor or retaliation. When you have the power to choose to leave an abusive situation and or the presence of a wicked person, then there is NO Biblical basis for staying in the abuse. If a person was a slave in Christ's day there was no option to the slave to walk away, hence Paul's instruction to be obedient to their masters as if they were serving Christ Himself (Eph. 6:5-8). The Jews were a slave nation to Rome. Therefore, Christ's instruction to them was to not resist Roman rule, but to comply cheerfully as long as they were not having to violate one of God's laws. "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." Matt. 22:21 (The gigantic law structure of the religious leaders were often out of sync with God's laws. Christ was stripping away the man-made structures that had obscured the real requirements of God's laws (Mark 7:7). This is why He was accused as being "against the law" by the religious leaders...so was Paul. Both were against man's law usurping God's law. Example: "Corban" was a man-made law that could be used to override the 5th commandment of honoring one's parents. See Mark 7.) Prisoners are another example of a situation where a person is not able to walk away from evil doers. Paul was often a prisoner...his example is one of submission and Christ-like behavior toward his captors. The context of a certain Biblical instruction has to be considered when applying its teaching to the life. Is it addressing someone who can't walk away? If yes, then the instruction is quite different than for someone who is able to choose their own course. For example, Matt. 10:14.
Even when we have proof that someone is clearly dedicated to being evil and have walked away from them doesn't mean we are now free to treat them badly. We can still follow the spirit of Christ's instruction in Matt. 5:44. You can still pray for and have genuine concern for (love) someone you've had to walk away from. That being said, going no contact from wicked people is not counter to Christ's spirit. So many people think that "no contact" is a retaliatory measure. They pretend it is an "attack". This is ridiculous on its face. Going "no contact" is a benevolent act. It is an acceptance of someone else's decision and acceptance of reality. It is a refusal to use force or manipulation to try to get someone to change. It is a recognition that evil is spiritually contagious and to remain in contact with someone who embraces evil greatly increases the likelihood that you will "learn his ways" (Prov. 22:25). You are making a choice based entirely on the evil person's choice to remain what they are. It is the only moral choice left when one is up against recalcitrant evil.
Your ex-cult members who believe they are morally obligated to remain in contact with exposed and unrepentant evil are spiritually naive. They wrest the Scriptures to their own destruction. (2Pet2:16) If they must judge you as being bitter in order to justify their view, then so be it. You know your heart much better than they. There are too many other Scriptures which command us in no uncertain terms to cut off from unrepentant evil to allow one verse to negate the force of their instruction. One verse can never be rightly used to negate other verses which seem to say something different. The responsible Bible student looks for the harmony. Christ's stated in Matt. 5:17-18 that He taught nothing in opposition to the Scriptures. Paul, who wrote under the inspiration of Christ's Spirit, would not give instruction that contradicted Christ's teaching during His earthly ministry. Is. 28:10 gives the principle of comparing Scripture with Scripture to learn truth.
I hope I have adequately illustrated the harmony between Christ's instruction and Paul's. Their teachings are not in opposition; they are talking about different people. Prejudice, bad will, misunderstandings can all create a perceived enemy, but these kinds of enemies are not likely to be evil people. People who are not dedicated to a wicked course can potentially be won to Christ...but not if we treat them like they are our enemy just because they've declared us to be theirs. The gentle spirit of Christ is to be the mark of His followers. Sometimes that gentle spirit is required to give strong rebuke to evil doers and/or walk away. When Christ cleared the temple twice of the con men otherwise known as the "money changers", He was a terror to evil doers...but the average person was attracted to Him because of His scary rebuke of the con men. They recognized that Christ was being merciful and kind to them because it was the average person who was being used by the con men. After both incidences, the people gathered in great numbers around Christ in the temple to hear Him teach. There was no fear for them. They recognized Him to be a Deliverer. Sometimes we have to take a stand. Yes, that will make us a terror to evil doers, but the victims of the evil doers will recognize us to be standing with them. Taking a stand against evil doesn't make us "bitter". It means we are principled. We recognize there is no harmony between the philosophy of evil and the principles of God's kingdom. You can't stand on both sides when right and wrong are the issue. You can't harmonize evil with good.
"A double minded man is unstable in all his ways." James 1:8