“If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to return it. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help them with it.
- Exodus 23:4-5
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
- Matthew 5:43-48
“…my self-love makes me think myself nice, but thinking myself nice is not why I love myself. So loving my enemies does not apparently mean thinking them nice either. That is an enormous relief.”
- C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
“In prayer we go to our enemies, to stand at their side. We are with them, near them, for them before God. Jesus does not promise us that the enemy we love, we bless, to whom we do good, will not abuse and persecute us. They will do so. But even in doing so, they cannot harm and conquer us if we take this last step to them in intercessory prayer. Now we are taking up their neediness and poverty, their being guilty and lost, and interceding for them before God. We are doing for them in vicarious representative action what they cannot do for themselves. Every insult from our enemy will only bind us closer to God and to our enemy. Every persecution can only serve to bring the enemy closer to reconciliation with God, to make love more unconquerable.
“How does love become unconquerable? By never asking what the enemy is doing to it, and only asking what Jesus has done. Loving one’s enemies leads disciples to the way of the cross and into communion with the crucified one.”
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
The Two Scriptures are shown to illustrate what Jesus said about Himself. He did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. Loving enemies is not mentioned much in the Old Testament, but the concept is there. What many today have a problem with is that if we love someone, they are our friend, right? Jesus said nothing about taking them off our enemies list. I can love a rattlesnake that is in a glass cage, with me on the outside of the cage -where I am safe. But the rattlesnake is not my friend.
There is an odd juxtaposition of quotes used here with Lewis and Bonhoeffer. The quotes were made about the same time. Mere Christianity is the book by C. S. Lewis that was written from his radio broadcasts during World War II. The broadcasts were made to encourage the people during their time of conflict with the Germans.
At about the same time, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German, was saying some of the same idea, yet his enemy was the German government. The German government, knowing that the war was lost, took Bonhoeffer’s life, days before the concentration camp was liberated. They were the worst of enemies to the end, yet Bonhoeffer prayed for them.
When we think of these two men of the 20th Century loving their enemy, our petty squabbles with others seem minor and our National enemies seem so distant and non-distinct. Yet, they exist.
My wife had a “best friend” in our stairwell when we lived in Germany, drinking coffee every day. They swapped off looking after the children if they had errands to run. We lived on the fourth floor. The friend lived on the second floor. Yet, it was the friend from the third floor that still keeps in contact with annual letters after nearly forty years. When they got together one time, long after the return to the US, the third-floor friend spoke of how the woman on the second floor would say vicious things about my wife and especially me, when our backs were turned. She had not been a ‘friend’ at all.
Other enemies are more overt. They make no attempt to be civil. It seems that everyone in Washington, DC, hates everyone else, at least those in government. People from each party are at arms with each other and it is worse with the opposing party. No one wants to discuss and find common ground. There may be no common ground.
And all the while, the real enemy in our personal life and that of the government is manipulating each of these people. The Shadow was an old radio show. It started with these words. “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows.” Evil manipulated by Satan can use a pack of lies to convince otherwise well-meaning people to do evil things. As C. S. Lewis says, we must love them, but it doesn’t mean we have to think of them as ‘nice.’ They aren’t friends; they are still enemies. Is it up to us to determine whether these people are truly evil or just being manipulated, as Lewis says elsewhere in his writings, a benevolent robber baron out to do evil for our own good.
No, we must love our enemies and let God sort out who was ultimately doing the right thing. We must pray for them as Bonhoeffer suggests. But they may not be ‘nice.’ Keeping them at arm’s length may not be a bad idea.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.