Jesus makes a powerful statement in "The Gospel of Matthew," Chapter 5:44, declaring "Love your enemies."
The sign of a true Christian is to love your enemies. If you love only those who love you, then you are no different than members of the Mafia or people who embrace a life of corruption. "What good does it do you if you love only those who love you," sayest the Lord. "Even corrupt tax collectors do that," Matthew 5:46.
True love is hard to find. According to St. John, it consists in this, "[T]hat God loved us first and sent His Son to redeem us," 1 John 4:10.
What does this mean?
Surely, it means that love has its origin in God for God is love.
He sent us his son who is love in flesh and blood to redeem us and to show us how to live.
God’s love is unconditional. He shows no partiality for, "He makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust,” Matthew 5:45.
We cannot say we love God who created everyone out of love if we hate our brother or sister whom his son died for on the cross.
If we could put this Christ-like love into practice, the world with all its sin would be redeemed.
The real test of our love for one another is how we treat those whom we don’t like; those who are opposed to us or who persecute us.
- Do you treat them impartially?
- Can you rise above feelings of resentment or anger and do the right thing in spite of having been wronged?
You don’t have to like your enemy, or approve of any wrongdoing he or she may have committed, but you do have to love your enemy. You must forgive and pray for them for they too are children of God.
Few people may know that the great Russian author Leo Tolstoy had a letter correspondence with Mohandas Gandhi. Writing to Gandhi on Sept. 7, 1910, just eight weeks before his death, Tolstoy declared, "The longer I live — especially now when I clearly feel the approach of death — the more I feel moved to express what I feel more strongly than anything else, and what in my opinion is of immense importance, namely, what we call the renunciation of all opposition by force, which really simply means the doctrine of the law of love unperverted by sophistries."
The words of both Jesus and Tolstoy had a great effect on Gandhi and served as the foundation for his philosophy of nonviolence that brought an end to the British domination of India.
As Gandhi himself said, "Whenever you are confronted with an opponent, conquer him with love."
The words would be affirmed years later by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., who wrote, "At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love" and, "Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, ‘Love your enemies.’ It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals . . . ”
Samuel Taylor Coleridge's beautiful poem, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," is a story of redemption about a sailor who returned home after a voyage around the world; a voyage that changed him profoundly, giving him a new understanding of life and of his connectedness with nature — and all of humanity. He could not keep this vision to himself. He had to share it with a distracted wedding guest for he had discovered the power of God’s unconditional love for everything and everyone.
Thus he wrote: "He prays best who loves best, all things both great and small,
for the dear Lord who created us, He created one and all."
You must try to love one another, even your enemies, because Christ died on the cross, not just for you, but also for your enemies.
That is why Jesus says, "Love your enemies."
Fr. Hugh Duffy holds a Ph.D. from the University of Hull, England. Born in Donegal, Ireland, he was ordained in 1966 in Dublin, Ireland. He is pastor emeritus of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Okeechobee, Florida, where he served for 30 years and built a new Church, debt-free, in 2013. He founded Christian Community Action (CCA) in Ireland that built housing for seniors, a sheltered workshop and bakery for people with disabilities, a community center, and an addiction treatment center. Since 2013 he has traveled across America as an Outreach Priest for Cross Catholic Outreach, Inc. Duffy’s recent book, “What is This Thing Called Faith?” is a collection of meditations with reflections for readers on the sayings of Jesus. For more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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