I don’t love the word “enemies” because I think it is too easy for us to limit who we ought to try to love. I don’t disagree with it. I just see it as a spectrum and the “enemy” is the absolute most hardest person to love and then you move along that spectrum to those who are harder to love but are not necessarily your enemy nor would you consider them your enemy even though they are hard to love.
I recently started volunteering with an organization that reaches out to those living on the streets of Salt Lake City. A small group of us meets in a parking lot and fill our wagon with supplies such as food, hygiene kits, water, and clothes to hand out to those who want them. My first night out I was nervous. I didn’t know what to expect. But I wasn’t nervous for the reasons you might assume. I was nervous because it was out of my comfort zone to go up to a complete stranger and initiate a conversation. I wasn’t scared of them, I was scared because I didn’t know them. How would they react? Would they be mad? Wouldn’t they be skeptical of me and my intentions? I would not call them my enemies, not even close. But I’d be lying if it was more comfortable for me to look the other way when passing those living on the streets than to greet them.
That first day out on the streets talking with those who live there was heavy. The last people I talked to before driving home to my house to tuck my kids into their beds in their individual bedrooms was a couple pushing a stroller with their ten month old son. They were on the way to the store to buy diapers but lost their wallet along the way. I still think about that 10 month old little boy today wondering what his life will be like.
What does it mean to love? What does it look like when you love someone? What does it look like when you love you enemy?
Corrie Ten Boon’s book took unexpected turn for me when she created a place for the Nazi guards to recovery. It jolted me. Throughout her book I grew to hate them and what they did. Was it wise to do what she was doing for them? Was it just? Was it morally permissible? Does love mean turning a blind eye to evil? Does it mean minimizing wrong doing? Absolutely not! Of course it doesn’t.
I remember one time during sacrament meeting my younger sister who was just a toddler at the time, was playing with my headband and snapped it into two. I didn’t really care cause it was a headband and I’d prefer not to wear it, which is probably why I let her play with it in the first place. But after sacrament a lady came up to me and praised me for not getting mad and upset with my sister for breaking it. It felt great to receive a compliment from her even though I was confused as to why she was complementing me.
But that moment stuck with me. We praise and honor those who can just brush aside of misdoing. We praise those who are agreeable, we like to be around those who don’t get upset or mad easily. But is it possible to be too agreeable? In the face of unjust acts is it better to be the one who is able to remain calm and do nothing about it or the one who turns into the hulk and fights back?
Loving our enemy is not about doing nothing about things that need to be confronted. It’s not turning a blind eye. It’s not minimizing a wrong doing. It about loving the person, seeing them as a human being. Perhaps it’s even about wanting something more for them, a better life, improved circumstances, growth, progress.
It cannot be stressed too much: love of enemies has, for our time, become the litmus test of authentic Christian faith. Commitment to justice, liberation, or the overthrow of oppression is not enough…Love of enemies is the recognition that they enemy, too, is a child of GodWalter Wink, Jesus and Nonviolence p. 59
August 24, 2019
Time on this article: 30 minutes
Total time writing on this blog: 10 hours