Ted Grimsrud—September 24, 2011
If there is one passage in the entire Bible that points to both the glory and the shame of Christianity, it is this famous statement by Jesus: “I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Mt 5:44-45). Here we have a direct statement of a profound ideal, a call to break the cycle of violence that so bedevils our world. And here we have as stark a reminder as we could imagine of just how far Christianity tends to have strayed from the will of its founder.
“Love Your Enemies”: An Obvious Need in Our World
“Love your enemies,” such an obvious statement of what our world needs. We see so clearly in our present day how hatred of enemies fuels war with simply incredible costs – in the name of stamping out “terrorists” our country spends billions upon billions to pour violence upon the nation of Iraq, diverts resources in a way that made the Gulf Coast more vulnerable to devastation from recent hurricanes, alienates people throughout the world, sends hundreds upon hundreds of our soldiers to their death along with thousands upon thousands of Iraqis. This hatred fuels a spinning cycle, eye for an eye for an eye leading to more and more blindness.
Hatred of enemies fuels our nation’s prison-industrial complex, sending millions behind bars where they are all too often brutalized, infected with devastating diseases such as hepatitis, permanently disenfranchised as stakeholders in civil society (as someone said, no matter how long a convicted criminal’s official sentence might be, it is invariably a “life sentence” in terms of the impact going to prison has on one’s life). In the name of “security,” we only increase the spiral of destruction and alienation.
In many other ways as well, hatred of enemies leads to unhappiness, brokenness, pain being visited upon pain – and the cycle of creating only more hatred. So, Jesus’ words cut like a warm knife through butter. He gets to the heart of things – we need to find ways to love instead of hate. We need to find ways to forgive instead of simply punish. We need to find ways to heal when there is brokenness, not simply retaliate. Continue reading