Jesus’ command to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” may be one of the best-known and least-followed teachings out of all the Gospels. Personally, the most frequent way in which I fail to follow this seminal teaching comes from my poor understanding of who my enemies are.
Most of the time, it is easy for me to think I have no enemies in my life and nobody persecuting me, and in some ways this is true; there is no Hatfield family down the stream with whom my McCoys and I live in intractable conflict; there is no Nero in power to threaten to take my life because I am a Christian.
I do not have capital-E Enemies in my life, but I usually do have that co-worker whose inconsideration leads to an increase in my own workload, a family member whose particular tone of voice too easily sets me off, or that friend with whom I have never quite shaken the grudge from a past hurt. And I have never in my life found myself to be without such people who, for reasons bad or good, just or unjust, seem to challenge my willingness and ability to love.
What Jesus tells his followers, in contrast to the wisdom of the world, is that our willingness and ability to love do not depend on the circumstances or people around us. We who were created by Love Himself and who have love as our end can live by love rather than envy, pettiness or hate.
I can love my co-worker, family member and friend — and even a more worthy or evil enemy — by giving myself to Christ and allowing Him to love His people through me. This perfection of love, revealed in its fullness on the cross, is available to those of us who not only know, but follow the Crucified One, and allow his boundless love to be proclaimed in our lives.
Mary Ann Doughton Wilson
M.Div. Candidate, ND ’13
Originally published by pray.nd.edu on June 19, 2012.at