Loving One’s Enemies

By  Engr. Carlos V. Cornejo

Is our Lord Jesus asking us too much when He tells us to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us?  How can you possibly love someone whom you know is unlovable?  It’s the reason why Christ made a lengthy statement about this topic because it goes against our human nature, to love those who wish us harm.  And since it goes against our human nature made weak by original sin, then loving one’s enemies can only be achieved with the aid of God’s grace much like the practice of the virtue of chastity, a virtue that can be exercised for some length of time but can’t be sustained without God’s help.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48)

The “love” our Lord Jesus Christ meant here, is not of course, warm feelings of personal affection but the genuine will to the true good of our enemies.  Enemies would mean anyone that intends harm on us whether physical or spiritual.  There are enemies that can’t be loved at all, such as the devils (who have no chance of conversion) and sins or violations of God’s commandments in themselves.  In other words, we are not to love evil in itself.

Christ did not just preach this but lived it.  Jesus loved Judas (who committed the greatest crime in history by facilitating the death of God), even in the very act of committing the crime: as Judas was handing over Christ for execution in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus called him “friend”. (Matthew 26:50) Christ likewise asked His Father to forgive His executioners for they “know not what they are doing.”  (Luke 23:34)

Loving one’s enemies is aligned to another famous Christian saying, “Hate the sin, but not the sinner.” If a person has no chance of changing his or her ways then, there is no point of loving that person.  That’s why we can’t also love and pray for souls who are in Hell because there’s no chance of them turning back.  But since all persons here on earth, as long as they are alive, have a chance of mending their ways and go back to God, no matter how many or how grave their sins are, then, we can wish for their spiritual good.   Sometimes this willing for their true good might include wishing the sinner or our enemies to suffer some pain, not out of vengeance but for instruction or repentance, hoping that they might see their evildoings and repent.  That’s the reason why we put people in prison.

Loving one’s enemies is not an act of justice but an act of love which goes beyond justice.  To love is not to give that person what he or she deserves, but give far more than what the person deserves because that’s also what God does to us and we all have to be like God.  “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)