Loving enemies?

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)


I’m trying to imagine what Jesus would say to the Christians fleeing their homes in Iraq just now. As I wade through article after article flooding social media I hear many voices and much pain…what keeps coming back to me are these words: ‘what would it look like to love your enemy in Iraq…in Gaza…just now’?

I’d like to think that those weren’t just meaningless words but that they carried real, effective guidance and power for change…I’d like to think that Christians all round the world were putting them into practice by the power of the Spirit every day…but I can’t quite imagine what it would look like just now in Iraq…in Gaza…and that’s partly due to the fact I’m not hearing any stories coming out of the atrocious, hateful mess which are describing what I’m looking for…

I wonder if there are any?

4 thoughts on “Loving enemies?”

  1. My hunch is that these situations of extreme enemy brutality are exactly the places from which examples of enemy-love will spontaneously arise, like the famous miracle on the river Kwai. We pray, lobby, give, work at a new politics at the deep structural level and stand in the gap with integrity as far as we can. I hope to post on this more extensively on my blog later this week.

    1. …Look forward to reading your blog Roger! Yes…stories like miracle on the river Kwai take time to emerge as press coverage in Hell tends to focus on Hell’s own success stories!! I love this quote in reference to the miracle on the River Kwai account: “The new spirit continued to spread through the camp. Death was still with us – no doubt about that. But we were slowly being freed from its destructive grip. We were seeing for ourselves the sharp contrast between the forces that made for life and those that made for death. Selfishness, hatred, envy, jealousy, greed, self-indulgence, laziness and pride were all anti-life. Love, heroism, self-sacrifice, sympathy, mercy, integrity and creative faith, on the other hand, were the essence of life, turning mere existence into living in its truest sense. These were the gifts of God to men … True, there was hatred. But there was also love. There was death. But there was also life. God had not left us. He was with us.”

  2. My first question is: what exactly do we mean by ‘loving our enemies’? Supposing my enemy (I am thinking of the Iraq situation here – the person who has driven me from my home, perhaps killed members of my family, threatened me with rape torture and death) was suddenly found to be weak and powerless, indeed at my mercy rather than I at his, would it be enough simply to forgo revenge: to treat him as I would like to be treated myself? Would that be enough?

    My second question is: do we not see something like this when people learn to settle down and live together even though they may have multiple reasons to remember past hurts. If, of course, they are simply waiting for an opportunity to take revenge, when they are the stronger party, then clearly there is no possibility of loving the enemy. If on the other hand they are determined to break the cycle of violence, then a beginning has been made. I can think of examples of this – Coventry, Northern Ireland etc.

    How do we apply this to the present situation? We cannot expect Iraqi Christians to exhibit some sort of supernatural ability to embrace their enemies in the midst of the present carnage. But we can pray that one day, when the tables are turned, as they surely will be, then they can learn to forgive and forget.

    1. Yes…there is the immediate and the longer term…there needs to be stories of emergence from ‘death cycles’ coming from both I think…I think the stories need to include us ‘onlookers’…our own reactions/biases/responses show a lot about how we think and feel about ‘loving justice’ in the context of hatred like this…about whether we are really bellow-pumpers for the flames or water carriers for the thirsty…in terms of the longer term processes…yes…forgiveness..rebuilding without revenge…but also building loving sustainable patterns of community…I liked a recent post on Sojourners on this aspect…http://sojo.net/blogs/2014/08/13/there-nonviolent-response-isis.

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