Love Your Enemies: Two Dangers

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Love your enemies.

The Lord has commanded us to love our enemies. Seems like we face at least two dangers when it comes to obeying this command. [Spanish]

1. What if I’m such a coward that I don’t have any enemies? How can I do good to those who hate me, if nobody hates me, because I don’t stand for anything?

When our Lord Jesus walked the earth, many people loved Him. And many people hated Him. He had friends. And He had enemies. How did the Christ of God make His enemies?

Remember when He drove the money-changers from the Temple? It made His disciples think of a verse from Psalm 69. Zeal for your house will consume me.

The zeal of Jesus Christ. He made bitter enemies because: Zeal for true religion consumed Him. He would stop at nothing to keep open the path of humble and honest communion with God. He showed untiring patience and tender gentleness. But He also showed fiery contempt for anyone who would block the path of true religion.

He loves every soul. But the honesty and humility that a soul needs, in order to live in friendship with God—that kind of honesty and humility does not come naturally to us sinners. We are much more inclined to proud hypocrisy. Christ made enemies precisely by denouncing that proud hypocrisy.

The_Head_of_Christ_by_Warner_Sallman_1941So “love your enemies” means: make some enemies. If I don’t have any courage or any zeal for God, I will inevitably wind up a party to something corrupt. I will just “get along” to the point where I lose myself. I will become a crippled nothing, languishing in the half-realization that I have betrayed my conscience. For short-term peace. So many times that I hardly know how to examine my conscience anymore.

The Lord said: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth… I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” Following Christ’s path of principled consistency divides us from others. We can’t make friends with sin or with any kind of spiritual mediocrity.

Ok. But there’s another danger, when it comes to Jesus’ command that we love our enemies. Mistaking friend–or even potential friend–for enemy. In other words, “love your enemies” also means: Whatever you do, do not define yourself by what you hate.

Yes, hopefully we hate sin. Hopefully we hate ignorance and malice. But our hatred of evil doesn’t make us who we are. Our love for God, and for His people, makes us who we are. And that requires that I constantly grow as a person, allowing God to expand my soul.

By sending His Son to live among us, and die at our hands, and conquer death for us, God has extended His loving hand to every human being. He wills to save sinners, not condemn them. God wills only goodness and life for His creatures.

When we follow the path that Christ followed, the path of universal love—even loving our enemies—then we grow. We expand ourselves. And, by God’s grace, sometimes we turn enemies into friends.

So while we must hate sin and evil, none of us grow by hating. We grow by loving holiness and knowledge, loving the beautiful goodness of God, and loving my neighbor for God’s sake.

This, of course, requires enormous humility. And careful prudence. Let me listen carefully to what everyone says, waiting till last to speak myself. Let me try to find a way to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

And let me remember always that I am certainly every bit as obstinate and difficult as the person who annoys me the most. Let me be patient with everyone, as I hope everyone will be patient with me. Which means being patient with myself, too, of course.

Love your enemies. I think we imagine this is enormously difficult. But it’s actually considerably harder than that.

I must have the courage to reject any compromise that betrays God’s love, otherwise I won’t have the right enemies in the first place. But I must also have the humility to acknowledge: I have an awful lot to learn about God’s love.

No way we pull this off, both zeal and humility. At the same time. Unless we receive heavenly aid.

But that’s why we frequent the church. That’s why we go to confession and to Mass.

Help us, Lord, to make the right enemies. Then give us the humility to love them enough to turn them into Your friends.

3 thoughts on “Love Your Enemies: Two Dangers

  1. A wonderful introduction and instruction for living on this new day. thank you Fr. Mark.
    Judy R.

  2. A second thought: I re-read this, as I always do, and wrote down this part: “Our love for God, and for His people, makes us who we are. And that requires that I constantly grow as a person, allowing God to expand my soul.”
    This growth can be hard, even painful, but a blessing is there, waiting, when one looks back and understands.
    Judy R.

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