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Strengthen What Remains, part 4: Love Your Enemies

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.—Matthew 5:44

There is nothing in the life of Christ which says one cannot have opponents and even persecutors, but one cannot really have enemies, people whose lives and welfare have a negative value for you—Kenneth Boulding

“Love your enemies.” This teaching is very easy to understand, not so easy to practice consistently. I sometimes try to avoid holding myself accountable to it by claiming that I don’t have any enemies, so of course I don’t have to love them.

In fact, I know that there are people whom I resent, people whom I disparage, people whose ideas are abhorrent to me. I am sometimes uncomfortably aware of this in my day-to-day life, when I feel slighted by someone else, or when I see someone else mistreating another neighbor. This bitterly contested election has brought a great deal of partisan enmity to light, in me and my neighbors.

Sometimes this enmity starts with concern for neighbors and for the natural world.  I personally fear that Gov. Romney’s policies will exacerbate war, pollution, and oppression of the poor. Some people whom I love and respect fear that President Obama’s policies will diminish freedom, godliness and self-reliance. Some of their fears and mine may be well-founded. We all need to look as clearly as possible at the facts and the values involved, and seek the difficult balance between having the courage of our convictions and remaining humbly open to truths that we may have missed.

Enmity makes it impossible to strike this balance. I know I am succumbing to enmity when I make or applaud remarks that denigrate the people whose policies I oppose, remarks that assume that those people are vicious or stupid. This assumption stops me from looking carefully at their positions and perhaps learning from them. This assumption also makes it nearly impossible for me to pray for them—not asking God to impose my will on them, but asking that God’s will be done for and through them and me.

Let us pray for our opponents. Let us remember that they also are living souls caught daily in the struggle between integrity and deceit, love and greed. Let us try to help each other in this struggle rather than fighting against each other. If we can do this, we can grow in love and faithfulness under any government in this world.

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