Jesus said: “Love Your Enemies”…
Fulfill your responsibility before attempting radicality
The most difficult and the radical commandment of Jesus is the one to love your enemies. The versions in the gospel of Mathew and Luke are quite similar.
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you (Luke 6:27–28)
One interpretation can be based on the understanding of Greek word agape which is translated as love in English. It is not love in the level of feelings (or romantic love), but points to a certain set of actions towards the other, that are explicated by the three verbs in the same passage, doing good, blessing, and praying. Having that feeling of warmth and tenderness may not be easy with enemies, but many (not just saints, many ordinary ones too) have shown through their actions that agapic love is possible.
A beautiful illustration of this commandment is Jesus’ act of forgiveness from the cross towards the people who persecuted him. Stephen repeats the same in the early church (Acts of the Apostles).
Two passages from the gospel of Luke can help us to understand the commandment a little better;
- Samaritans and Jews were considered enemies. In the parable of the good samaritan, the samaritan acts as a neighbor to the injured jew. Here the enemy becomes a neighbor, by helping him in that vulnerable situation.
- Tax collectors were like enemies for the Jewish people. In the incident of Zaccheus, he makes a reparation to the group of the people. It was an attempt to remedy the systemic injustice which benefited him. Enmity gives way to reconciliation.
One point that should be noted here is that the good Samaritan and the rescued Jew were not personal enemies. Zaccheus may not have any personal enmity with Jews too. Who is my enemy? The response should not be limited to the question of personal enmity; people become enemy because of my status, group, or privileges.
Based on our discussion, we can come across two models of loving the neighbor,
- Model for the powerless — Jesus, Stephen, Gandhi, King were powerless in their respective situations, but they made a choice to forgive and love their powerful enemies (not their actions in any form)
- Model for the powerful — Samaritan is powerful in the first scene, thanks to his health. Zaccheus is powerful in the second, thanks to his money. And interestingly, the powerful one does a lovely act towards his enemy (the weak one), which is an act of love and reconciliation. Yes, the powerful one takes the step, which is a step towards justice.
The first model is radical. The second model speaks of my responsibility.
You shouldn’t envy the first model without practicing the second.
Fulfill your responsibility before attempting radicality…