Loving Your Enemies–The Ultimate Challenge
“Love your enemies” is a phrase many are familiar with, Christian or not. In today’s world, this phrase is easily lumped with the phase, “I believe in being a good person”. What most of us fail to realize is that Christ has given us the ultimate challenge.
Who are our enemies? Surely many would very easily come up with a list that would include the Muslim terrorist groups such as ISIS, the murderers in the neighborhood and infamous figures such as Hitler and Lennon. These enemies, though formidable, are not the enemies most of us face on a day to day basis. What about the people we avoid or complain about in a day? The horrible boss we come home and complain about, the co-worker that does nothing but gossip and backstab and that particularly aggravating family member.
You come home from work after a particularly stressful day. You are sure your boss has it out for you because he has control issues that you have decidedly connected with his stature. Naturally, you are the victim and deserved none of this treatment. After all, you go above and beyond your duties regularly. Furthermore it is completely ok to hate him, because everyone else does anyway. Home for just five minutes, you see the most offensive lack of consideration: an empty mug of hot chocolate on the table without a coaster. You go completely ballistic, yelling at the offender, “how many times have I told you to use a coaster! There is a stack right there next to your empty mug!” The offender is none other than your sister, and you quickly realize the absurdity of your reaction and blame it on stress. We have all had “those days”. The horrible boss at work may not be an “enemy” in our understanding of the word, but The Enemy has used your own pride and spiritual weakness as a way to get to you through that individual.
Christ calls us to three things: love, bless and pray for and do good to our enemies. Perhaps the most simple of these tasks is to pray for our enemies. Pray that their find peace in their lives, pray that they may come to hear God’s whisper. Sometimes our day-to-day enemies are fighting their own battles. We may never know what those battles are, so we must always pray first.
The next task is to do good. We know that we do not have to like someone in order to be kind to them. But Christ did not say, “Be kind” he told us to “do good”. Since “God alone is good” (Lk 18:19, Mk 10:18) we must treat our enemies as the Lord treats us, full of mercy and compassion. This is why the phrase “I believe in being a good person” is far more challenging than anyone realizes.
Any time we are angered by someone, place yourself at the foot of the Cross, as the Virgin Mary or St. James. Bring the image of Christ crucified, His arms outstretched for the world, to mind. If Christ could do this for all of fallen mankind, we who threw away Paradise and have managed to pervert every good thing given to us by God, surely we can do good for our enemies who challenge us daily in far smaller ways.
Most importantly we are called to love. This love does not mean deliver a latte with a fake smile. Christ uses the word Agape when he says this. We are called to love our enemies to the point of self-sacrifice.
Love our enemies with the same kind of love we are called to love our spouse, love our enemies with the same kind of love God had for all of His children on the Cross. Can you do this? Can you sacrifice yourself for the sake of your “horrible” boss or your “aggravating” family member? If not your life, begin by sacrificing your pride. None of us are above reproach, and the task of loving our enemies with sacrificial-love begins with keeping our hearts steady and our head level when we are challenged. This might mean saying the Jesus Prayer during a meeting or after a confrontation. Slowly and surely God will help us handle these situations and see our own faults. Allowing us to love as He loves and truly become “sons of Your Father in who is Heaven”.