I can hear, in my imagination, someone praying in the morning: “Thank you God for this beautiful new day. I entrust it, and all my activities, to you. Clear my way by destroying my enemies who want to set traps on my path…” If this is not just my imagination, but indeed your prayer, well, perhaps it’s high time you revised your way of praying. Here Jesus is asking just the contrary: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” Is Jesus being realistic here? What does he mean by “Love your enemies”?
1 Samuel 26: 2, 7–9, 12–13, 22–23
Psalm 103: 1–4, 8, 10, 12–13
1 Corinthians 15: 45–49
Luke 6 27–38
I will not destroy him
In the first reading we see David in the position of power before his enemy Saul, as Abishai says: “God has given your enemy into your hand today; now therefore let me pin him to the ground with one stroke of the spear….” I find the response of David to be quite revolutionary: “Do not destroy him…” He chooses to spare the life of his enemy. Such response, we can be sure, is founded on the way David looks at Saul; he sees in him more than just an enemy. And for that, he won’t destroy him. This is not just something to marvel at, but a challenge too.
When I’m face to face with that person I consider as my enemy, do I still keep the freedom of seeing in him more than the soured relationship that exists between us? Of course, David sees an anointed person in Saul. But that’s not the only way to look at persons. Firstly, it may help perhaps, to recognise in every person the dignity of a human being, independently of what they may have done. We can bring that home by citing examples probably closer to us.
We can think of persons who have shared life together as couple, for example. How sad when it happens that they can’t continue living together, for one reason or another; even worse when they forget the intimacy they shared for years and resort to stripping each other naked by words or actions that are uncharitable. In fact, they destroy the person who may be the father or the mother to their children. Isn’t that destroying an “anointed” one? It’s a natural drive within us to want to destroy whatever we perceive as enemy. Quietly, David shows us that there’s another way of behaving even when our relationships may not be friendly.
But which enemy to love?
Talking about enemies, you perhaps scratch your head, trying to see if you have enemies at all. Well, put them into the bag of your enemies all those persons you dislike and those who annoy you, in short, all those persons with whom the relationship does work well between you. And what does it mean loving them?
It’s about being “merciful, just as your Father is merciful” But how merciful? Mathew, unlike Luke, illustrates how perfect God is: “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Mt 5:45). He does good to all and has no intention to make anyone suffer because of what they have done. God does not treat us according to our merit, but out of his mercy and compassion. That’s why the psalm invites us to give him thanks and never forget his blessings. Which blessings?
“He…forgives all your guilt,
heals every one of your ills,
…redeems your life from the grave,
[and]…crowns you with love and compassion.
[He is] slow to anger and rich in mercy.
He does not treat us according to our sins
nor repays us according to our faults.”
Then, love is a decision to do good
Like David, God chooses not to destroy us. Similarly, loving our enemies is not about having good feelings about them, that would be impossible. What Jesus asks us is to do good even to those who are not in our good books. It’s acting against the urge to hit back and destroy whatever we consider as enemy.
Being Christian, we can deduce, at least according to this Sunday’s readings, is breaking the cycle of violence that makes us return a punch with a punch. It’s witnessing the Kingdom of God through words and actions in the manner that drowns violence and revenge with good. But that should begin with changing the way we look at others. Indeed, becoming a Christian is putting oneself at Jesus’ school and learn to act differently.
And so, I can ask for one grace
That I may be able to see in every person a beloved child of God, regardless of what they have done or how I feel about them. Like David, give me not to destroy anyone; before you, every person is anointed.
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