“Love your enemies”. This is the most challenging and controversial edict ever given by a spiritual teacher. For most of humanity, it is a mountain too high and too daunting to even attempt an ascent.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons and daughters of your father who is in heaven. Who makes the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. For if you only love those who love you, what reward do you have?”
How provocative. How unreasonable. How insane! Love your enemies? How are you supposed to love people who hate you? I can feel the anger rising in hearts around the world at the mere thought of it.
But even if you do not believe in God, there is something in these words that calls to the best in the human spirit. You intuitively want to rise to its challenge but feel incapable.
What does it exactly mean? Well, it certainly doesn’t mean pretending your enemies are your friends! There will always be people who oppose you, even if you rise to a greater love. It does not mean, to have warm fuzzy feelings for vile, hateful, mean spirited, and evil people. Whew! Glad to cross that one off the list. You see we humans tend to approach love as an emotion, but we are speaking here of a power that transcends the tap dance of emotion on the human heart. It doesn’t mean that you fail to stand up for your ideals with courage and conviction. It doesn’t mean you are afraid to enter the arena and fight the good fight. And it certainly doesn’t mean you roll out a welcome mat to those who manipulate, use, and abuse you! It is all these false notions that give love a bad name.
What does it mean then? Here are three tips (hacks lol!) that have helped me in my quest to leap over the high bar of loving my enemies.
DO NOT LET THOSE WHO HATE STOP YOU FROM LOVING
Our hearts and our minds are sacred instruments. Will you run the current of love or hate through them? Hate will end up occupying the space that love would have occupied,, if you made a better choice. Which one do you want to make a home for? You have a choice. If you hate those who hate you, they will have won you over to their side. Remember Darth Vader? “Give in to your anger Luke!” And that was his son! The hate with which you hate others will corrode YOUR heart and mind, not theirs. Why would you destroy yourself to the benefit of your enemy? Are they worth it? They have made their choice. What is yours? Love or hate? I choose to love even in a world with so much hate. It is not so much that I love haters as I refuse to let them stop me from loving at a high level.
BE COMPASSIONATE TOWARDS THER SUFFERING
Let’s face it, there is a part of you that takes delight in the suffering of your enemies. This is understandable but it is not good. Wanting justice is different than wanting revenge. The one you want to suffer is already suffering the caustic effects of their own ignorance and hatred. They have built their own prison and are trapped by their allegiance to divisiveness and negativity. A greater love is capable of compassion for the suffering of those who hate, without feeling the need to rescue them from the consequences of their choice. They are destroying themselves, that is justice. A greater love wishes they could be free and restored by love. If this happens your enemy will crossover and become a friend. I’ve seen it happen! Unearned compassion and love contains within it the possibility of redemption. Are you generous enough to lend compassion where it is most needed?
BE THANKFUL TO YOUR ENEMIES
Occasionally you will win a brother or sister to the cause of love. But this is not something you can count on, demand, control. It is the mystery of Grace. So, face the fact that you will have enemies and be thankful for them. It is that which opposes us that makes us stronger. Gravity tries to pull you down, but when you resist it you become stronger. If you don’t believe me, get off the couch and try it! It works every time. Lol! Love is strengthened when opposed by hate. Truth when opposed by lies. Faith when opposed by doubt. And the list goes on. So, step into the arena and get ready to fight the good fight. Rise up in the power of love and never give up, no matter how many times you fail. I have good insider information that love never fails. Yes, it’s true. Against the backdrop of eternity love always wins!
The one who can love their enemies has risen to a perfect love. Like the sun you simply shine. Yes, clouds will come and go. Remember that shadows are but a temporary phenomenon. The power of love is supreme. The one who spoke these bold and audacious words was surrounded by his enemies, the ones who were putting him to death, and he declared “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”. He loved his enemies and prayed for those who persecuted him. What’s your choice? Are you willing to be one more in the name of love?