Let us examine the work of the flesh which Paul called “enmities” in Galatians 5:19-20:
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, parties…
The word translated “enmities” in our Bibles is from the Greek echthra, defined by Thayer’s as “enmity, a cause of enmity.”
This same word is used to describe the relationship between Pontius Pilate and Herod before the crucifixion of Christ in Luke 23:12:
And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day: for before they were at enmity between themselves.
This word is also used to describe the relationship between the flesh, or the world, and God, in Romans 8:6-7 and James 4:4, and the relationship between the Gentiles and the Law of Moses in Ephesians 2:13-16:
For the mind of the flesh is death; but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace: because the mind of the flesh is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be.
Ye adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore would be a friend of the world maketh himself an enemy of God.
But now in Christ Jesus ye that once were far off are made nigh in the blood of Christ. For He is our peace, who made both one, and brake down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in the flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that He might create in himself of the two one new man, so making peace; and might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.
From these verses, then, we may conclude that “enmity” as used in the Bible refers to a relationship that is characterized by negative, often hateful, feelings. Webster defines the word in English even more strongly:
The quality of being an enemy; the opposite of friendship; ill will; hatred; unfriendly dispositions; malevolence. It expresses more than aversion and less than malice, and differs from displeasure in denoting a fixed or rooted hatred, whereas displeasure is more transient.
Why, then, is the Christian supposed to avoid enmity?
There is some enmity that we should not avoid, notably, the enmity that ought to exist between us and sin, as explained by John in 1 John 2:15-17:
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the vain glory of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
What kind of enmity, then, is Paul talking about in Galatians 5:20? Paul urges us to avoid enmity that might exist between us and our brethren and the people that exist in the world. Paul speaks somewhat concerning this in Romans 12:17-18:
Render to no man evil for evil. Take thought for things honorable in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as in you lieth, be at peace with all men.
We are to live peaceably with all men without compromising the truth of God’s Word. The Hebrew author further admonishes us in Hebrews 13:2:
Forget not to show love unto strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
All of these verses point to the great truth revealed by Jesus in Matthew 22:35-40:
And one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, trying him: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” And He said unto him, “‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.’ This is the great and first commandment. And a second like unto it is this, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ On these two commandments the whole law hangeth, and the prophets.
Therefore, we see that the Christian is to not only fully love God but to also love his neighbor as himself. The Christian who loves each and every person will never have feelings of enmity toward any one.
We live in a time and age often characterized by pettiness and nastiness. Many lament the loss of friendship and hospitality between individuals, and we hear often of enmities existing between people we know. A more tragic fact is that even within the Lord’s Body many Christians regard other Christians as enemies and they bear ill-will; this is the definition of enmities. The Christian, if he is going to avoid the works of the flesh, will have to find a way to live peaceably with all men, especially with those within the faith. Let us give heed to the words of the Apostle John and remember to love one another, and in doing so avoid the condemnation for having enmities, as he tells us in 1 John 4:7-11, 20-21:
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is begotten of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. Herein was the love of God manifested in us, that God hath sent his only begotten Son into the world that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another… If a man say, “I love God,” and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, cannot love God whom he hath not seen. And this commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God love his brother also.