Human instincts tell us that when we get our opportunity to take our enemies down, we would be foolish not to take it. This is clearly seen in acts of war, in business dealings, on the sports field, etc. However, the Lord teaches us the very opposite principle from His own life experience, which is seen in such a clear way at Calvary.
We tend to dramatize characters in our mind based on the stories we know so well. The truth of our Lord's crucifixion is that the two 'thieves' that hung with Him were not good people. Rome was unjust in allowing the death of Christ, but that is not necessarily accurate of the other two. By the words of the thief that repented, he knew they were getting what they deserved. This wasn't a simple act, like 'stealing from mom's cookie jar', but rather a terrible crime, or set of crimes, that brought pain, suffering, and loss to innocent people. Not only were these men enemies of Rome and Israel, but as sinners, they were enemies of the Law of God and yet, one of the great miracles of Calvary is that the Lord saves at least one of these two men during the hopeless act of death, by crucifixion. In this act, we see God making an enemy His friend, and through this man's testimony, many have come to Christ through the amazing account of his conversion.
Imagine living in a homeland that did not have the power to govern itself. Many nations through history like Scotland, Iraq, Macedonia, and Israel have been in this terrible situation. During the times of Christ, the Jews saw any Roman as a terrible reminder that they were being oppressed. The Roman centurion, though respected by Rome, was hated in the territories that had been conquered. This would have been true of the centurion in charge of the execution. In fact, the brutal treatment of Christ by the Roman soldiers when they hit him and mocked him, is really a sign of the built up frustration that these men had for the Jews. In their way, they were unleashing on one that claimed to be the king of these unruly people and yet, God saves this man, and very likely a number of the soldiers under his command that day. We don't know exactly how the Lord used these men in future service, but they definitely played a key role in offering up worship and praise upon our Lord's death, not as enemies, but as friends. By their own words, we see that the Father revealed the great truth that, "Truly this man was the Son of God."
Very few are fond of politicians, especially those that are corrupt and power hungry. That description was true of the Jewish ruling class of that day, known as the Sanhedrin, and by the Lord's teaching, they had Him out as 'Public Enemy Number One'. Yet, there were two from the 71 member council, (that is less than 3% of the vote), that the Lord saved for a great purpose. Others may have been saved afterwards but in viewing Calvary, we see two brought to the forefront. The one was Nicodemus, who first came to see Him at night, and the second was Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man and well respected by Israel and Rome. By their lifelong study of the Law of God, the Lord uses these men, who were numbered among His enemies, to accurately carry out the critical task of preparing His body for resurrection as His secret friends.
The Lord teaches us that our enemies of the gospel can, with His help, become our friends forever. May the Lord help us to see this potential in others, even when our human instincts are to close the chapter on these enemies of Christ.