On Loving Enemies

I don’t believe in every word that the Bible has to say, but here are some pertinent (and very often-referenced) ones:

“But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Matt 5:39-44 (NIV).

The number of times I have heard or read these words is far less than the number of times I have witnessed them being acted out.I believe this is for many reasons, including that a) the message can be misinterpreted as taking a passive stance toward violence; b) there are other, less compassionate things in the Bible (like Hell) which are much easier to focus on (i.e., through condemning people); and c) it is dismissed as a perfection out of reach of the average human, or even of all humans.

I don’t believe the section takes a passive stance – love is not a passive action, and to combat oppression with love is anything but passive. Love for oneself allows for self-defense, and love for enemies prevents self-defense from turning into a return of one hurt for another. I acknowledge that the message here is difficult, but I think that’s only because, by and large, we haven’t taken the time to cultivate loving as a habit. This point also addresses why I don’t believe this kind of love is impossible for everyday people (and really, what other type of person is there?).

I admit that our culture makes it difficult to love as a habit, and even frowns sometimes on those who return violence with compassion. This is why we need a new culture, one that affirms the worth of every living thing, “evil” or otherwise, and doesn’t seek to perpetuate the cycle of destruction.

The only way to create this culture is to live it.

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This entry was posted in civilization, Compassion, Love, Religion, Violence. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to On Loving Enemies

  1. Vastvoyager says:

    Take the example of Mohandas Gandhi. Certainly this man lived the biblical words you mention. He was anything but passive. You should read his biography. Good luck with your blog!

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