AN OUTRAGIOUS CALL
The call to love is always seductive. Surely, many graciously welcomed Jesus’ call to love God and love our neighbor. This was the best synthesis of the Law. But what they couldn’t imagine is that one day he would speak to them about loving their enemies.
However Jesus did just that. Without any backing from the biblical tradition, distancing himself from the vengeance psalms that fed the people’s prayer, confronting the general climate of hate that breathed all around him, Jesus proclaimed his call with absolute clarity: «But I say this to you: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute you».
His language is outrageous and surprising, but completely coherent with his experience of God. The Father isn’t violent: God loves even enemies, doesn’t seek anyone’s destruction. God’s greatness doesn’t consist in vengeance but in unconditionally loving everyone. Whoever would feel themselves child of that God will bring into the world neither hate nor anyone’s destruction.
Love of enemy isn’t a secondary teaching for Jesus, directed to people who are called to a heroic perfection. His call wants to introduce into history a new attitude in the face of the enemy because he wants to eliminate hate and destructive violence from the world. Whoever is like God will not nourish hate against anyone, will seek the good of all, including their enemies.
When Jesus speaks of love of enemy, he isn’t asking us to nourish feeling of affection or sympathy or tenderness toward the one who does evil to us. The enemy continues being someone from whom we can expect harm, and it’s difficult for us to be able to change the feelings of our heart.
To love our enemy means above all to not do him evil, to not seek or desire to do him evil. We don’t need to get upset if we don’t feel any love at all toward him. It’s natural that we feel ourselves wounded or humiliated. But we do need to worry when we keep feeding hate and the thirst for vengeance.
But this isn’t just about not doing him evil. We can take more steps forward and actually be willing to do him good if we find him in need. We need to remember that we are more human when we forgive than when we take vengeance. We can even return good for evil.
Sincere forgiveness of enemy isn’t easy. In some circumstances we could find it practically impossible to free ourselves from rejecting him, from hating or thirsting for vengeance. No one needs to judge anyone from the outside. Only God understands us and forgives unconditionally, even when we aren’t capable of forgiving.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf