Love Your Enemies?

There are enemies.... and then there are enemies.

The Scripture

Mark 3:20,21; 31-35
interpreted by Deborah

The next day a crowd gathered again, and Jesus was kept so busy that he didn’t even have time to eat.

When Jesus’ family heard what was going on, they came to bring him home, because people were saying, “He’s gone crazy.”

When his mother and his brothers and sisters got there they stood outside and called for him.

Word of their arrival passed through the crowd to Jesus, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are here.” “Your family is outside and wants to see you.”

“That can’t be.” he said. Looking at those who were gathered around him, Jesus said, “My family is right here! Those who do God’s will are my family.”

Photo of a flower

Reflection by Deborah Beach Giordano
June 29, 2015

Anger

angry mamma bearI am angry.

It began when my husband and my son were hurt by people they trusted. The injuries may have been “only” hurt feelings — and they both profess to be “over it,” but they were deeply wounded by those to whom they have been nothing but kind and thoughtful; people they should have been able to rely on.

The other day, instead of speaking out, and in in order to “keep peace,” I shared space with the nasty individuals, spoke to them politely, and refrained from telling them how hurtful and hateful they have been. And it made me terrifically angry.

But not at them.

I am angry with myself.

I should have called them out; I should have challenged their behavior; I should have confronted them with just how hurtful their words and actions were. Instead, I kept silent.

I am angry with myself for what I failed to do — and because of what I have done. My silence was the same sort of hypocrisy as they themselves engaged in: pretending to be one way, while being very different inside. My silence was a betrayal of my faith and my God: I did not stand up for the innocent, I did not speak the truth.

I feel unclean. How could I engage in such an obscene parody of companionship? Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.

But Jesus said….

Jesus said, “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

How far is this “love” business supposed to go? And what does it mean: tolerate — or entertain socially? Is it enough to resist the impulse to harm the haters — or must we make an effort to improve their lives? Do we “bless” those who curse us by acts of personal kindness — or a quick prayer from a safe distance?

As for my personal enemies, those who have harmed and/or hated me, I may not exactly love them, but — in time — I can let go of my anger and resentment. In time I have begun to see the good that came of whatever apparent evils were done to me in the past. In time a degree of understanding and forgiveness can develop.

fish in kettleBut as far as loving my friends’ enemies …. that’s a whole different kettle of fish.

When people hurt those I care for, there is no love in me. There is anger, outrage, a deep-seated need for justice. How can it be that the wicked and conniving enjoy good health and untroubled sleep while those they prey on struggle and suffer? Why does evil succeed? Who can love the loathsome? How can You, O Merciful Lord, ask such a thing?

Evil

I used to think that those we call “wicked” were simply confused or ignorant: that evildoers were making a series of mistakes; that like blind moles they stumbled through life, and any harm that resulted was inadvertent. Over the years I have encountered people who were intelligent, aware, and absolutely intent on doing evil, hurtful, destructive things: acting with “malice aforethought,” as the phrase has it.

There are those who know darned well that they will hurt and harm others — and do it anyway. There are people who intentionally choose to do that which will hurt and harm others. Short form: there are some real stinkers out there.

Justice?

Evildoers should be called out for their behavior. Cruelty should have consequences; it should not be overlooked or ignored.

forest fire

Wickedness can spread like wildfire; each successful evil deed igniting another flame: “What shall I do next?” “What new harm can I inflict?” “What else can I get away with?” And all actions — both good and bad — spawn imitators.

Evil must be stopped whenever possible, wherever it occurs. It is the task of the faithful to speak out against injustice, to protect the innocent, to work for peace and compassion. Surely that includes defending those we love.

And yet ….

Fire Danger

Smokey Bear

It is not up to me — or anyone on earth — to judge others’ souls. I can only speak out against evils, and live in peace. Those who are destructive and hateful will not be reformed by answering wickedness. Neither, though, are we called to tolerate abuse or hate when it can be avoided. Jesus told his followers that upon encountering hostility we should “shake the dust from our feet” and go on.

That is hugely important. Don’t let wickedness contaminate you.

Hatred inflames the mind and darkens the heart — leading us to respond to evil with evil. Every deed of destruction and violence erodes our own soul while doing nothing to heal the harm that has been done. We become the very thing we hate.

Free Will and Free-Wheeling Grace

As tempting as can be to cast ourselves as heroes, it isn’t up to us to save others.

While it is essential that we speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, it is not our job to defend or rescue fully-functioning adults. Each of us has been given a life, each of us has been given free will to choose how we shall live this life. We are to listen, encourage, and support one another with love, compassion, and honesty — expressing our concerns when necessary, offering advice when asked, and having the humility to realize we don’t have all the answers.

I am blessed to have two very kind and gracious people in my life (along with many others!). My husband and son were wise enough to let hurtful acts and evil intentions fall away, leaving no tarnish on their souls and spirits. It is now up to me to let go lest I be engulfed by the flames of hatred and resentment.

joyful heartsEverywhere of late there have been signs and postings that affirm: “Love wins.” That should be our prayer and our practice. May it be so with me, and with all of us. Amen.

Jesus said, “Those who do God’s will are my family.”
    ~ Matthew 5:44-45

Virtual hugs and real-time blessings,

Deborah

Suggested Spiritual Exercise

Pray for a world filled with love and compassion.

A Hymn for All Times

Gladys Knight sings Let Peace Begin with Me