Loving Your Enemies

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun to rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:43-45).

Your enemy always carries the dark side of your own self, the things you don’t like about yourself. You will never face your own dark side until you embrace those who threaten you (as Francis embraced the leper in his own conversion experience). The people who turn you off usually do so because they carry your own faults in a different form.

Jesus goes on to say, “If you love those who love you, what’s so great about that?” (Matthew 5:46). It’s simply magnified self-love. Love the stranger at the gate, the one outside of your comfort zone. Until you can enter into love with the not-me and the non-self, Jesus is saying, you really have not loved at all.

And what’s Jesus’ motivation for doing this? Some translations say, it’s to “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). A more useful and accurate understanding of the word translated as “perfect” is “whole.” Jesus and Francis met a God who is One, who is whole, who is all-inclusive. Be all-inclusive as your heavenly Father is all-inclusive and all merciful. This is the heart of the Gospel. Jesus’ and Francis’ goal was imitation of a loving, forgiving God.

Think of one of your enemies, someone for whom you feel anger, resentment, or hurt. What about this person most offends or disturbs you? Is it possible this same characteristic is in you, perhaps hidden and unrecognized? When you are able to recognize your own darkness, bring it into God’s loving presence through prayer. As the sense of God’s compassion and acceptance for you grows in your heart and body, extend that warmth to your enemy, embracing them with the same grace you are receiving.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Sermon on the Mount

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Often when we pray “deliver us from evil” during the Lord’s Prayer, we are thinking of the evil “out there” in the world when, in reality, we should also be considering the evil inclinations that come from within us (Mark 7:21).

-from Tweet Inspiration

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