Proverbs 16:7 When a man's ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.There are several things to note about this verse. Most important is that it is a proverb, not a law. This is wisdom that is wise when it is applied correctly in the right situations, but it is not a law that governs all situations regardless of context. Scripture is the best commentary on itself, and we know this proverb doesn't teach that any time your enemy is against you that you are clearly not pleasing the Lord. Cain and Abel are the first example. Abel's sacrifice clearly was pleasing to the Lord, yet Cain killed him. Jesus and Paul teach us of the reality of persecution as well. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for My Name's sake,” Jesus says.
Nevertheless, this is a wise proverb. And I've felt the Spirit pressing me into the truth of this proverb and moving me to wrestle with Him on how to apply it in ways that are actually wise.
First, this is about pleasing the Lord. These are our actions and responses that He finds pleasing, acceptable, or delightful. And what does He find pleasing, acceptable, and delightful? Those things that reflect Him. It's our first and most important task – bearing His image in His creation. I'm reminded of God's words of David whom He called a man after God's own heart. Something about how David thought reflected how God thought. “Let the words of my mouth and meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight ….” A great verse on which to meditate is Romans 12:1-2. There, it's not conformity to the world but transformity which results in discernment in terms of the will of God – those things He finds good, acceptable, and perfect.
12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.It's interesting to have this wisdom in Proverbs that links such transformation that leads us to pursue God's loves and desires with a surprising peace with even our enemies. I've run with a lot of different denominations and independent churches of various backgrounds. I don't remember a time growing up in any of these churches when their teaching linked obedience to God with peace with our enemies.
Yet that is the wisdom from Proverbs. He makes EVEN his enemies at peace with him. The word even indicates that he has expansive peaceful relationship. It's not just his enemies, but this peace in relationships extends from those closest to him out. It's shalom—that amazing, sometimes nebulous state that dominates instructions in Scripture. It's the ultimate manifestation of human flourishing. Peace.
I think whether we realize it individually or not, our denomination or independent church's view of the end times affects how we respond in days of persecution. I used to hang with the independent baptists who held a fairly strict Jenkins/LaHaye view of how the end times would play out. Now I hang with the presbyterians who lean toward viewing most of Matthew 24 as fulfilled during the brutal fall of Jerusalem when the temple was destroyed. For a thorough exploration of Scripture on this topic, I enjoyed The Last Days According to Jesus by R. C. Sproul. He surveys the issues well though he doesn't draw many conclusions.
All that to say, Proverbs 16:7 gives us valuable wisdom that isn't to be thrown out even if you believe that we are now in the last days heading down a road of increasing persecution until Christians are marginalized in the corner trying to beat off persecutors. If you tend more to believe that His kingdom has come and is coming more and more, that He ushered in something at His death and resurrection that is transforming the whole of the world, it's probably easier to envision how Proverbs 16:7's wisdom applies today.
Proverbs 16:7 gives us wisdom that guards us against the Us v. Them mentality that has characterized mankind since Cain v. Abel. Despite repeated instructions by Jesus and Paul on a correct view of, love for, and response to our perceived enemies, Christians still to this day default back into an Us v. Them mentality every time a major issue comes up. I can't control the mass tendencies of those who call themselves Christians, but I can, as the Holy Spirit applies Scripture to myself, make a difference in my own response. Christ Himself is the great example of what it looks like to please the Lord. If you struggle today envisioning this for yourself, the Gospels are always a good place to start. When I ask myself what is pleasing to God in this moment, always, the first rule that comes to mind is LOVING GOD with all my heart and LOVING MY NEIGHBOR as myself. If you, like me, then wonder next, “Well, what does loving my neighbor look like in this context,” I'll leave you with Paul's clear definition of this love from I Corinthians 13, which for me usually removes any doubt whatsoever of what I need to do next.
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends.