Love of enemies

Love of enemies

In our lives, we are subjected to a retaliation mentality that affects us all. From the sports arena to the criminal justice system, forgiveness or anything that amounts to it is regarded as a weakness. Nothing in the Christian life is more radical and more challenging than the mandate to love our enemies, to do good to those who mistreat us or to lend without any expectation of return. Jesus becomes our model for such unconditional love and mercy in his entire ministry, especially as when he was dying on the cross.

We find it very easy to desire retaliation against those who hurt or hate us. We find this human tendency creeping into our personal lives. We want to get even with others. If our loved ones hurt us even in some little way, we sometimes find ourselves saying to ourselves or at least thinking about getting back at them. God’s mercy challenges us to a much higher standard. And then there is that daunting implication of that part in the Lord’s Prayer when we ask God to forgive us in the same way that we forgive others. God also provides us with powerful witness of his love and mercy, showing us that it is possible to embrace the perpetrators as well as the victims of crimes. The heroic witness of forgiving by victims is an inspiration to put into practice the infinite mercy of God in own respective lives.

There is a story about a former inmate of a Nazi concentration Camp who visited a friend who shared the ordeal with him. “Have you forgiven the Nazis?”, he asked. “Yes”, his friend answered. “Well, I haven’t. I’m still consumed with hatred for them”, he retorted. “In that case”, his friend said gently, “They still have you in prison”.

In daily transactions with others, we have lots of opportunities to practice this demanding imperative. There are those unfriendly people we encounter in social places, fellow parishioners or priests who don’t respond to our cheerful greeting or those motorists who irritate us on the road.

Will it be our best self or our worst self that responds? Each human encounter becomes an opportunity to become more like Jesus who was able to say at the last moment of his life: “Father, forgive them, they do not know what they do.” Hanging on the cross in Calvary, Jesus utters a prayer of forgiveness for the very people who have brought him excruciating pain and eventual death. These loving and forgiving words capture Christ’s basic attitude in human relationships.

As we approach the Lenten season, let us ask the Lord to transform us from a community of the forgiven into a forgiving community. Our Christian life is defined as a journey in love and forgiveness. Let our mentality of love and forgiveness become a legacy to a world that is filled with hatred, revenge and indifference.