Matthew 5:43-48 (The Message)
Jesus said, “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best – the sun to warm and the rain to nourish – to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
I find it difficult to conceive of a more concrete way to love than by praying for one’s enemies. It makes you conscious of the hard fact that, in God’s eyes, you’re no more and no less worthy of being loved than any other person, and it creates an awareness of profound solidarity with all other human beings…. And you’ll be delighted to discover that you can no longer remain angry with people for whom you’ve really and truly prayed. –Henri Nouwen
We cannot love our enemies until we see those twin truths:
God loves me. God loves them. – Mary DeMuth
The Kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared? – Martin Luther
Our Lord Jesus Christ has shown us the ultimate example of love for one’s enemies, both in general and in particular. The Lord forgave those who committed the most evil deed in the world – who crucified Him to the cross, and in such forgiveness the Lord revealed the greatest love. But on a larger scale the Lord also revealed the greatest love for us, sinners, by taking upon Himself the sins of the whole world, and that means our sins, too. Sins are God’s enemies, because they go against the goodness and perfection of God’s creation, and thus the Lord showed love for His enemies, i.e. our sins, by erasing them through His sacrifice on the cross. – Father Rostislav Sheniloff, On Loving One’s Enemies
Luke 6:27-29, 31, 32, 35, 36 (NRSV)
Jesus said, “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also … Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them… But love your enemies… Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
It’s hard to love someone really,
especially the annoying, the arrogant, the cruel—
because I want to be separate from them.
I don’t want to be one with them,
soiled by their sin, associated with their dirt.
I want to push their boat off in a good direction
but not be in their boat.
But to love someone
is to cease judging their cruel as more cruel than I.
– Steve Garnaas-Holmes, excerpt from Why It’s Hard to Love
Let your religion be this,
to tend to the unloved,
to heal the world with kindness
as you have been given unearned kindness,
to be present to the grace
that flows in and around you.
And those who are against you—
tend to them, for they are unloved,
heal them with kindness they can’t expect,
be present to the grace hidden even in them;
or you have already abandoned your faith.
– Steve Garnaas Holmes, excerpt from A Thousand Ways
You can’t know everyone’s struggle, but you can honor it. You can’t see everyone’s pain but you can be gentle. You can think highly of everyone even if they’ve learned to make how they live look easy. You can be forgiving; you can be encouraging and not judging; you can give people room to fail and improve; you can free people from your own expectations and projections. You can be so loving, in fact, that though it’s apparently hard for others for you it’s just normal. It won’t be easy, but with discipline you can do it. Be so loving that you make it look easy. – Steve Garnaas-Holmes, They Make it Look Easy
Click the links for other reflections on loving our enemies by Steve Garnaas-Holmes
A Different World and The Other Cheek
Anyway by Kent Keith*
People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and true enemies.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Be good anyway.
Honesty and frankness will make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
People need help but will attack you if you help them.
Help them anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.
*Kent Keith wrote this poem in 1968. Mother Teresa made it well known by placing it on the wall of her children’s home in Calcutta in a slightly different version. As a result, many have attributed it to her.
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