As a young child, I can remember being taught that Jesus said to love your enemies. It seemed easier then to understand, because faith came a bit easier because you hadn’t been in the world for long and the world wasn’t much in you either. However, that did not mean that you didn’t hate the little boy or girl that made fun of you at recess. The idea of loving your neighbor seems like it would be easier at an older age, but it doesn’t come any easier now than it did during the earlier years. (Maybe it’s because the stakes seem higher if you let your guard down in the “real world.”)
I claim to be a Christian, which to me, means that I do not claim to be perfect. It means that I have shortcomings and faults just like everybody else, (e.g. my enemies) but when I make the claim that I am a Christian it is a claim that I am working on my faults and shortcomings. And through that reconstruction and remodeling of my life, I am supposed to be striving to become more Christ like. And that means, loving my enemies.
Christ had and still has endless patience and love for all of those who follow Him. He had patience with Peter’s on-again-off-again faith and discipleship. And, I think, if He’d been asked at the end of it all He would probably have proclaimed His love for all of His disciples including Judas, the very “enemy” who betrayed Him.
No one said that discipleship would be easy. Not even Jesus himself, claimed that it would be easy. He asked His disciples to be the salt of the earth in a place and time when salt was mixed with animal dung to form fuel for fires. This strange and confusing idea is not the first or last of the thought-provoking ideas and concepts that He left us. There is also the idea of the first being last and the last being first in Heaven. So why should the concept of loving your enemy enough to turn the other cheek be any easier to grasp?
It’s all so confusing. Especially since, just like the strangers we’re taught to avoid in childhood, these “bad people” are not always a bad nasty person who you don’t know. Some of our worst enemies can be our own flesh and blood, while still others are our neighbors. (Who, by the way, we’re supposed to love, too.)
The only thing that I can think of to do in the situations where I find myself “toe-to-toe” with any enemy is to figure out how to fight them. The toughest part of this is that you can not stoop to your enemy’s level.
Which brings up a question that I’ve been asking myself and God a lot lately. Where does all the hate and evil come from that causes people to become angry and violent towards people that are different than themselves? I think that some of it comes from how we fight. There’s really only one “weapon” that you can fight with and win a permanent victory with. Love.
Love enough for self and everyone else around you to try and be patient with the person attacking you. If you aren’t and return the hate or evil or anger it just helps the cancer of that hate or evil or anger to grow destroying everything around. Good and bad included. Everyone ends up losing at that point.
So, now comes the tricky part: living this idea day in, day out. I know that I don’t do it all the time, but I’m working towards it. I’m part of the school of thought that you can be part of one of two camps.
These two camps are either the problem or solution. I know that this sounds kind of harsh, and that the next quote isn’t any less harsh, but I think that they’re both thoughts worth pondering. “There is a special place in Hell for those who see evil being done and do nothing to stop it.” I know that these are harsh words, but I think that there’s a ring of truth in it.
With this still rattling around in your mind, here’s another thing to ponder along with it. Enemies are not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes they come along at a time in your life in order for you to rethink and reevaluate your values and views. Think of the straight allies we have that were once homophobic, but how that all changed when someone, with fear in their eyes, “came out” to them and changed their views forever. Or, the bigot whose hate has turned to love, because of one person’s patience with them that helped turn that hate into love.
It all goes back to love. Usually all it takes for these kinds of change is the realization that we are all the same in one area. We all seek love from someone or somewhere and also from ourselves.
No one, not myself or even Christ, proclaims this to be an easy task, but we do proclaim that it is a worthy one to be worked towards.
A member of the Presbyterian Church, Jennifer Felix wrote for Whosoever while attending the University of North Texas and planning to enter seminary.