What do you see in the face of your enemy? An object of revenge or justified wrath? Or, an object of love and altruistic prayer?
Jesus said, “You have heard that it has been said, ‘Love your neighbor, and hate your enemy (Matthew 5:42).’” Although the saying “hate your enemies” occurs nowhere explicitly in the Old Testament, it could have been construed from several Old Testament passages by the religious teachers of Jesus’ day. Regardless of the sayings origin, the sentiment is inherent in the human condition. Sigmund Freud exemplified this condition by quoting another author, who said, “My wishes are: a cottage with a thatched roof, but a good bed, good food, the freshest milk and butter, flowers before my window, and a few fine trees before my door; and if God wants to make my happiness complete, he will grant me the joy of seeing some six or seven of my enemies hanging from those trees. Before their death, I shall in my heart, forgive them all the wrong they did me their lifetime. One must, it is true, forgive one’s enemies – but not before they have been hanged.”
This human condition is why Jesus’ words that follow seem preposterous: “But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, that you may become children of your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:44-45).” As counter intuitive as loving one’s enemies may seem, such action and attitude of heart reflects the grace of our benevolent Creator, who “makes his sun rise on the evil and good and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous.” Make no doubt about it; we were enemies of God. We disregarded his good instructions. We chose our own selfish desires over his good intentions. He came to us with love in his heart; we turned in the opposite direction. More profoundly, when he created us with free-will, he knew we would rebel. Yet, he created us nevertheless. God knows what it means to love one’s enemies, for no one has shown more animosity toward another than we have toward God. Yet, his love remained!
Take a moment to close your eyes. Who are your enemies? A childhood bully? A neglectful or actively abusive parent? A son or daughter who has written you out of their life? A terrorist, like Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? People of a certain ethnicity? Of a certain political persuasion? Will you become children of your Father in Heaven, who loved you, his enemy? What do you see in the face of your enemy?