All of us have our own enemies. Probably, there are two kinds of people who do not have enemies. Those who do not do or say anything belong to the first kind. They just mind their own business and sink into the background. They are called wimps. The second kind are those who really do have enemies, but they just do not recognize or realize it. For when they see those people, their hearts are not filled with hatred for them. But that is only because their hearts are full of something else. I call them blimps.
An enemy may be that person we hate or anybody who hates us. He or she may have abused us physically, emotionally, or spiritually. That person could be somebody we know or perhaps somebody we just heard about. Your ex-spouse maybe, or for some unfortunately, their present spouse. An enemy could be anyone whom you feel is taking advantage of you: your friend, your teacher, your supervisor, your employee. Perhaps he or she was that person who stole your childhood through abuse or neglect.
Of all the things Jesus commanded, loving our enemies is perhaps the most difficult. But he knows in his infinite wisdom that love is the only way to peace. We will never attain peace if we fight hatred with hatred, violence with violence, evil with evil, for then we double it. It is love that breaks the chain of evil and hatred. Without forgiveness, without forgetting, without reconciliation, without loving, our world will never be able to see an end to the animosity and enmity that exists among us.
It is natural for us to seek justice for any injustice, compensation for any harm, litigation for any abuse. It is human for us to return insult with insult. There was this story about the wife of John Jacob Astor who once said to Winston Churchill, "Winston, if you were my husband I should flavor your coffee with poison." Churchill replied, "Madam, if I were your husband, I will drink it." Or this interaction with a politician congratulating another politician on a book he had recently written. He says, "I enjoyed your book. Who wrote it for you?" The author answered, "Well, I did and who read it for you?"
We know a lot of people who are like that. Hatred for hatred. You do not like me. I do not like you, either. You talk about my family. I'll talk about your family. You pull out a knife. I'll pull out a gun. Down through the ages, we have seen it. Meeting hatred with hatred brought us segregation and war. Our newspapers and TV sets bring it day after day: Palestinians against Jews, Catholics against Protestants, Sunnis against Shiites, neighbor against neighbor.
Jesus is challenging us to have a deeper kind of love. Why do we need to love our enemies? Two simple, short reasons. First, because God loves us. And second, because God also loves them. We can never be more discriminating and finicky than God.
Loving our enemies begins once we stop looking at them the way we see them as they are. Loving our enemies starts once we look at them the way God sees them. Not everyone is easy to get along with, that is for sure. But even that person who gave us a hard time is worthwhile in the eyes of God. There is a sinner in every saint. There is a saint in every sinner.
Doing good to those who spoke unjustly against us, to those who caused us pain, to those who did evil things is not submitting to evil itself, much less surrendering to it. It is conquering and overpowering it. When we do good to those who hurt us, we refuse to participate in their sinful actions. When we are not willing to fight them, then the argument, the quarrel, the enmity, evil ends. Nobody can fight alone.
There will be no end to all those nights without sleep, to those days without peace unless we unless stop bringing up the painful past, unless we end thinking about getting even, unless we start forgiving. For how long will we be fuming over what somebody said or did to us? For how long will we spend sleepless nights replaying the wrong someone inflicted upon us? For how long will we keep on wishing evil upon that person who abused us? Forgiveness will not change our past, but it will definitely change our future.
Somebody once said that there are four rules in life. There is the Iron rule: Do unto others before they do to you. The Silver rule: Do unto others as they do unto you. The Golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do to you. And, the Titanium rule: Do unto others as Jesus has done to you.
Loving our enemies does not make us feel good or feel better. But, loving them and forgiving them can make us feel better and look better in the eyes of God.
18 February 2007