Keep Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Closer

Is this Biblical?

Jenny Calvert
New Creation


Photo by Nina Strehl on Unsplash

Sun Tzu, a military general, philosopher, strategist, and writer from the Eastern Zhou period of 771 to 256 BCE, is credited with saying, “Keep your friends close; keep your enemies closer.”

This phrase refers to keeping an eye on your enemies so that you will be ready for a possible attack. We know from some Old Testament battles that this strategy was used. However, when Jesus came, He taught us a new approach concerning our enemies.

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:44–45, KJV)

Although I could not find “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer” in the Bible, I suddenly had a light go off in my head. Isn’t that quote the whole good news message?

Sin skewed our perspective of God. An example is Adam and Eve. They hid from God when they sinned. Had God given them any reason to be fearful of Him? He provided all their needs and cared for them. It would be the first time that humans would be afraid of the Creator. Their shame did not change God’s view of them but changed their view of God.

We still run and hide from God because we are fearful of Him. When we get caught in our sins, we try to make excuses or pass the blame. Anything to keep an angry God appeased. Time has not changed the nature of humans.

God wanted us to see His true nature. By drawing close to us, in human form, we could see Him not as a threat but as a lover of our souls. We would finally understand that we were never enemies. The nature of sin and the consequences of sin are God’s enemies.

We think we are the enemy, but it was always Satan.

God looked for Adam and Eve after they sinned. Did an All-Knowing Father know where they were and what they had done? Yes, most certainly. Yet, He looked from a heart of love while they were already deep into sin with their silly little fig leaf skirts.

But God shows his love for us, because while we were still sinners Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, CEB)

Now look at the big picture. Sin makes us think we are an enemy of God. Job thought that, but was he? However, God’s love never changes for His children. If I can love my children when they do wrong, I know God can love us.

Through the eyes of sin, we are blind. We think, “We are surely God’s enemy, and He must hate us.” God came to fix our blindness. He drew close to us and showed us that He did not see us as enemies.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 5:13, ESV)

And there it is. We are called friends, not enemies.

What kind of love is this?

When we accept the gift of salvation, our mentality changes. Our sin debt is gone. We are forgiven and clean. Through Jesus Christ, we boldly approach the throne of God. We no longer hide in fear.

But we also have a mission.

All of these new things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and who gave us the ministry of reconciliation. In other words, God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ, by not counting people’s sins against them. He has trusted us with this message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18–19, CEB)

Now it’s our turn to give a gift back to Christ. The message of reconciliation speaks loud and clear in our actions. God’s judgment on us was His love. Our judgment on a hard-to-love person, a pesky neighbor, a person of a different political party, or an outright enemy should be love.

God could have had revenge on us, but He did not. Instead, He came close to us until we understood we were His friends.



Jenny Calvert
New Creation

Jenny is a Christian devotional writer. She writes for several magazines, books, and online venues, sharing the peace, hope, and light of Christ.