How to Love Your Enemies.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.” (Luke 6:32-33)
What makes a Christian different from any other human being on earth? Jesus Christ answers this question in today’s Gospel passage and His answer is simple: LOVE FOR ENEMIES. You are not better than any sinner if you only love those who love you. Your Christian identity demands a higher attitude; that you love your haters as well.
Naturally, life on earth is a survival of the fittest, a game of give-and-take. We give so that we can receive and when the other party stops giving, we stop giving. Atheists, Buddhists, Muslims, Traditional worshippers, Jews, name it all practice this unwritten law. The great revolution of Jesus to humanity is the philosophy of “LOVE YOUR ENEMIES.”
Now the question is: “How can I love someone who has really hurt me so bad and caused me so much pain?”
Firstly, try to see something good in the person. Deliberately lookout for the good sides of that person, try to recall the good things he or she did for you in the past. (Humans are naturally ungrateful, we find it easier to remember the bad things someone did to us than the good things we enjoyed from them). Following this line of thought, try to see the person as someone created in the image and likeness of the same God that you serve. In other words, see the person as a brother/sister in whom God dwells in.
Secondly, take the position of Jesus on the Cross of Calvary who begged God to forgive his killers because they did not know what they were doing. That is to say, try to make an excuse for your offenders. Tell yourself that they didn’t realize what they were doing and that they didn’t offend you deliberately. Also remind yourself of the fact that there are many persons you have offended unintentionally, some of whom you are not even aware of.
Very often, what makes an offence hurt us deeply is that we tend to think of ourselves as perfect. We tell ourselves “If I was the one, I wouldn’t do this to anybody” but this is a lie. The fact that we are yet to let go of the pain shows we are capable of doing worse to others. No one is above mistakes, I make mistakes daily so why am I finding it hard to just accept that my offender(s) made a mistake, that they didn’t know what they were doing?
Thirdly, some spiritual writers have spoken of the need to offer or sacrifice our pains to God in exchange for God’s blessings and favours. This is a very simple practice to do and it really helps to bring calmness of spirit. It is saying to God: “I give you this pain, I give you this hurt, I join it to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary, take it and bless me because of this.” Note that once you say this prayer, you are no longer permitted to feel angry or bitter towards your offender just as you cannot drop money in the offertory bag and still go back to collect it. The pain is no longer yours.
We shall now pick some points from our first reading today wherein we hear St. Paul say: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and … forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:12-13).
Fourthly, note that St. Paul calls us HOLY people (not that we are sinless but that we are set-apart, different, special because we are Christ-ians). St. Paul says we should put on COMPASSION meaning, we should “suffer-with” our enemies, don’t assume they are better off than you. No, they are also suffering from guilt which they might not express to you having offended you badly. This is why they find it difficult to ask favours from you when they need help. Too often they give you a distance our of fear.
Fifthly, St. Paul mentions, KINDNESS which means going out of our way to do something good for the very persons who have hurt us. This works like magic. By showing them kindness, we prove that we are greater than them, that we are not equal, that we are higher creatures. The book of Proverbs corroborates this fact when it says: “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the LORD will reward you.” (Proverbs 25:21-22). Kindness to our enemies breaks down their defences, it makes them see us in a different light, no longer as enemies but as friends.
Sixthly, St. Paul mentions attitudes we must reach out for such as LOWLINESS which is the ability to listen to others and see things from their own point of view (not assuming we are better than them). This is closely followed by MEEKNESS (being gentle) and PATIENCE, refusing to write-off a person; hoping that he/she can change for good. The opposite of patience is passing judgment, and Jesus in today’s Gospel says: “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37).
Seventhly, Be THANKFUL. Thank God for everything! Gratitude changes our perspective of life, it helps us focus on the good things rather than the bad, it brings joy to our spirit regardless of whatever may have happened to us. St. Paul says “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts… And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15). An ungrateful heart is always judgmental, angry, keeps record of evils, never forgives, expects the worst of people, seeks revenge and is never at peace. In truth, when you are not at peace, you think your problems are a result of the wrongs done to you whereas some have suffered worse things and are doing greatly in life because they chose to move on. Be grateful. You have been hurt but there is at least one good thing that has come from your experience.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, give me the grace to forgive others just as you forgive my sins. Help me to let go of my pain and acquire a higher attitude to love those that do not love me. Amen
Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Thursday of the 23rd Week in Ordinary Time. Bible Study: Colossians 3:12-17, Psalm 150 Luke 6:27-38).