This is the tough one. To love ones enemy, and to pray for those who want to persecute and harm you is perhaps the toughest part about being a Christian. Most other aspects of being Christian we clearly understand. Even if we choose not to do certain things or we give in to various selfish tendencies or vices, we usually know what the “right” way is, and how we should live. In most cases, we know what Jesus would do, even though often we choose not to do it. But to love your enemy, especially our enemies who literally try to harm us for no reason other than the fact that we have freedom, or because we are Christian, or to satisfy a sick need they have – how can we love them? This is difficult to understand. But today’s Gospel is all about this, as Jesus says:
But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.
I remember the day the towers fell in New York. I remember the day of the bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. I remember countless other terrorist attacks in countless countries, and I remember the mass shootings here in the US at various schools, movie theaters and shopping malls. We hear about the horrific things people do every day in the news, and we see on the Internet and on TV our Christian brothers and sisters, and people of other faiths and nationalities being killed by groups like ISIS and Boko Haram in ways not seen since the first millennium. And yet we are to love these people. This is a tough one.
And you can even take this closer to home and far less sinister – our boss whom we cannot stand who may treat us horribly, or the person who sells us out just to make money or get ahead in life at our expense. Or the spouse who beats us, or the parent who abuses us, or the peer who bullies us. How are we supposed to respond? We love them. We pray for them. Jesus said so.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers and sisters only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
The world is full of so many evils. But it’s also full of a lot more good. People forget that. The bad things get publicized, but for every bad thing that happens in the news, there are significantly more good things that happen. It’s just that the good news doesn’t sell. So many times these days I know people, myself included that just do not want to watch the news.
Many times we pretend that the bad things aren’t happening. But we cannot turn a blind eye to it either. We have to be aware. We have to hope. We have to pray. We have to think that the people that do the evils in this world still have an ounce of good in them somewhere, and we have to think and believe that things can always get better. We have to try. We have to love. Because if we stop trying, if we stop praying, if we stop loving, then the world wins.
If we only pray for those we like, or those who are like us, or those who only do good to us, then are we really any better? Because if we don’t pray for those who persecute us and those who treat us badly, then how can we deserve the prayers that are said for us? Because none of us are perfect. Sometimes we treat people badly too. We may not conduct the atrocities we see on TV, but we often perform atrocities that destroy our families and communities around us. And we need that love and those prayers of the people around us too.
Am I saying that we have to agree, support, and condone the evils that people do? Of course not. And Jesus was not saying that. He’s not saying we have to be best friends and that we have to hang out with everyone, even the bad. But we have to have a genuine love and concern for humanity, regardless of good or bad.
And guess what? Some people who do some not-so-good things get a lot of credit, money, and other accolades and perks in life. In a weird way that humanity does not understand, God uses even the bad things and evils in this world for good. And we have to trust in Him and his plan and his commandments. And His commandments tell us that we have to love one another as He loves us.
To love is to understand, and so when these bad things happen from other people, as tough as it is, we need to try to understand why they do what they do, and pray to God for them, for the love of humanity, and ask Him to give us the grace we need to see it His way and try to love as He would love.
It’s only through His grace that we can achieve this. Like anything else, we cannot do this on our own and we need His help to truly love those who persecute us. We need to pray to Him to not only help them, but to help us understand, to help us forgive. It’s the only way we can only begin make sense of the things that happen in this world, and its the only way where we can truly start to be like Him. It’s the only way that we can be forgiven is if we forgive those who harm us.
As I said, it’s tough one. But it’s one where we cannot afford to try, for the sake of the world, and for the sake of our own soul. We must love and we must pray for everyone – especially those who hurt us, because God so loves us. All of us. It’s not easy, but then again nothing worthwhile is.