“Love your enemies” (Luke 6:27)
We live by very prudent wisdom:
Destroy your enemy.
Dismiss your enemy.
Ignore your enemy.
Tolerate your enemy.
Understand your enemy.
…in order to defeat your enemy.
These strategies make sense for our survival.
They make sense to protect the things we value and the people to whom we belong.
They make sense to ensure our success in a world of competition and limits.
We believe that enemies are obstacles to overcome.
We hold enemies responsible for interfering with our goals. To succeed we need to move beyond them; whether it be by removal, decimation, work-arounds, forgetting they are there, acknowledging their presence or learning from them. Enemies must be defeated, or we will lose.
We believe enemies are our opposite.
We consider ourselves to be relatively good people with good intentions. Enemies prevent and curb our ‘goodness‘ by their implicit ‘badness.’ In a culture that craves redemptive violence, our counter-strike against our enemies gives our lives value and defines us by what we are not. Defeating enemies may require us to stoop to their level or to compromise our values and ethics – but we believe the ends justify the means. Enemies are enemies after-all, not real people or anyone of value. Enemies are not ‘us’ but ‘them.’ Enemies are the ‘bad guys.’ Enemies are ‘evil.’
We believe that we need the threat of enemies.
Threats provide motivation, purpose and meaning. Threats bring innovation and creativity. Threats help us rise to the occasion with courage. We can achieve our greatest accomplishments by overcoming opposition. Complacency is the greatest threat of all. If we defeat one enemy, we inevitably will seek another.
Jesus says, ‘love your enemy.’
‘Do good to those who hate you.’
‘Bless those who curse you.’
‘Pray for those who abuse you.’
‘If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also.’
‘Give to everyone who begs from you.’
‘Do to others as you would have them do to you.’ (Luke 6:27-31)
This is as radical a teaching to us as it would have been to Jesus’ first listeners.
It is a different paradigm for our world:
where the highest value is mercy (Luke 6:36); not winning;
where our common humanity is more important that our differences or division;
where the needs of ‘others’ are as important or perhaps even more important than ourselves;
where fear and hostility take a backseat to forgiveness and collaboration;
where those who hurt us and humiliate are worth redeeming;
where the greatest threat to our humanity us is ourselves;
where enemies are loved;
just as Jesus loves us.
It sounds impossible, improbable and impractical. It makes no logical or emotional sense.
Yet loving our enemies is Christ’s vision for our humanity.
So what might “loving our enemies” mean?
Loving enemies does not mean negating justice, overlooking violence, submitting to abuse, not following through on the consequences of people’s actions (including our own) or forgoing the responsibility of keeping one another safe.
- It means working toward restorative justice, peacemaking and non-violence.
- It means continually dismantling systems of hate, discrimination and exploitation.
- It means not demonizing people (especially when we think they deserve it).
- It means creating systems that support mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health and well-being.
- It means working to protect and listen to survivors of abuse, violence and other crime, following-through and taking responsibility for the consequences of actions (and inaction) while valuing the humanity of everyone involved.
- It means striving for reconciliation over retaliation.
- It means putting others before ourselves.
- It means self-sacrificial Christ-like love; not because it is easy but because it is difficult (if not impossible).
- It means striving for God’s kingdom and righteousness as we learn, grow into and become the blessing Christ calls us to be.
- It means not relying upon ourselves but on the mercy and grace of a loving God.
Jesus pushes us to see that we have no enemies; there are just other people God also loves.
Who would you say are your enemies?
How could we love, what we have been taught too often to hate?
Where does this seem impossible?
“Nothing is impossible for God” (Luke 1:37)