Love of Enemies
I’ve wrestled with this text for far too long. Jesus’ call feels so extraordinarily demanding. How am I to love those who have hurt me? Those who hurt me? Those who attempt to police and legislate into nothingness, my very existence. How? And towards what end?
As I dove into this difficult text, a text that has far too often been used to justify being silent in the face of abuse or toxicity, I tried to discover the hope and beauty behind Jesus’ words.
It all started to make sense to me when a friend asked me, “what if we’re our own enemy, and the commandment is asking us to love ourselves?”
This struck me with a deep resonance. The commandment to love others, including those that would fall into this “enemies” category, still stands. However, the process to loving others begins with a commitment to a deep love for self. It means no longer looking into the mirror with disdain and spite for our bodies and our beings. It means no longer using self-deprecation as a primary mode of self-talk. It means choosing to love every inch and ounce of ourselves, naming the ways that we have been taught to hate ourselves, and writing a new narrative: a narrative of beauty and love and grace. Love requires naming the shame we carry in our bodies, so that we might gain power over the shame and be ultimately freed from it.
Love also requires that would name the shame of the enemy that is other to us. To bring attention to the ways that a person or an institution (like the Church, or Christian Colleges and Universities) inflicts harm against us or our loved ones or our communities. Naming the shame and the trauma that caused folks to fall into this enemy category allows us to be honest with ourselves about the realities we are facing and choosing a new way. And I’m not talking about call outs for the sake of call outs. I’m talking about an honest, deep, and medicinal speaking of truth, after which we can make a decision: to either remain committed to the rehabilitation of our enemy, or to walk away entirely – knowing that either option displays an equivalent degree of courage and devotion to love.
Love demands action, and it begets freedom. Love of enemy is a measure of healing that will bring rest to our soul, and freedom, we pray, to those who hurt us.