When people speak of love they are usually referring to romantic love, but romantic love is a poor guide to the vast universe of love, and a distorted lens through which to understand love. So, let’s start at the beginning.
What is love? To love is to will the good of the other. To love is to desire what is good for the person you are directing your love toward. This has nothing to do with feelings or romance.
Today’s difficult teaching is…
“Love your enemies.” It is from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 5, verse 44.
There are two reasons we struggle with this teaching that I would like to discuss briefly. The first is the obvious, we cannot imagine ourselves loving our enemies. But that’s because we are confused about what love is and isn’t. The second is blinding reality that if we are called to love our enemies, we are called to love everyone.
Does God really want us to love everyone? Yes. How is that possible? Well, it certainly isn’t possible if we carry our distorted romanticized ideas of love into the quest to live out the difficult teachings of Jesus.
Love is not the same as like. Love is a Divine summons and like is a personal preference. You can love someone without liking them. You can love someone and detest the things they do, radically disagree with their opinions, and find their approach to life completely repellant.
Us human beings are experts at creating exceptions to the rule and just as good at making excuses. Many of Jesus’ teachings illuminate our excuses and neutralize our exceptions. This teaching may be at the top of that list.
Jesus knows that if you can love your enemies, you can love everyone. If your enemy sits within Jesus’ definition of neighbor, who isn’t your neighbor?
Here we see the genius of the Gospel on full display again. Learning to love your enemy is life-shifting, because the realization that you can love your enemy puts your relationship with people who frustrate you, annoy you, and inconvenience you in a whole new perspective.
Love your enemies. Desire good things for the people who frustrate you, annoy you, inconvenience you, gossip about you, try to harm you, and indeed hate everything about you and all you represent. What does that look like in practical terms? When someone upsets you by cutting in front of you on the road or by taking a parking place you are about to pull into, desire patience for them, desire peace and serenity for them.
There is one last point that is worth pondering here. Jesus assumes you will have enemies. He expects you will have enemies. This means, that if we don’t have enemies, we are probably doing something wrong. We might have lost our salt and our light.
Of course, it would be easy to go and amass a whole bunch of enemies for all the wrong reasons. It may seem ironic, but it’s important to have the right enemies for the right reasons.
Here are some questions to consider: Do people despise you for your holiness or your wayward humanity? Are the people against you men and women of great character and virtue? Are you hated because of the best of your humanity or the worst of your humanity?
“Love your enemies.” Another beautiful but difficult teaching. Desire good for others. The more you desire good for other people, the more those good things will come into focus in your own life.
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