Are We Really Supposed to Love our Enemies?

As Jesus continues his Sermon on the Plain, today’s gospel begins, “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

Are we really supposed to love our enemies? That might seem impossible. After all, if we love them, are they still our enemies? It might seem ridiculous to do good to those who hate us. We might think that we shouldn’t have to be nice to them until they start being nice to us.

Is it impossible to love our enemies, to do good to them? No. First, remember that nothing is impossible for God. Secondly, look at our first reading. Saul has become jealous of David. Saul is searching for David with “three thousand picked men.” Saul has made an enemy of David.

With Saul attempting to get rid of David, others would not have faulted David if he killed Saul. They would have seen it as self-defense. In paragraph 2263 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read, “The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. “The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one’s own life; and the killing of the aggressor…. the one is intended, the other is not” (my emphasis). We may defend ourselves but only when necessary.

David finds himself with the opportunity to kill Saul when he finds them all asleep “because the LORD had put them into a deep slumber.” Abishai even offers to kill Saul with his spear for David.

How does David respond to Abishai’s offer? He “said to Abishai, “Do not harm him.“” Why? Saul is God’s anointed.

Whether they know it or not, everyone is a child of God. Thus we are called to love our enemies, do good to others, and pray for them.”

When Saul awakens, he learns that David has spared his life. In verse 25 (not part of today’s reading), Saul “said to David: “Blessed are you, my son David!” David’s sparing of Saul’s changes Saul’s attitude for the moment.

Do you have enemies? Do you have people who hate you? Are there people who have hurt you? You may not want to love them or do good to them. It might even seem hard to pray for them. We think if they started it, they should have to be the one to make the first step towards reconciliation.

This might seem logical. “Even sinners love those who love them.” Even sinners do good to those who first do good to them.

Do you think the world is doing okay or does it need to change? If we do realize that it needs to change, it would be easy to put that effort on people we think have done wrong. Anyone, including ourselves, who has done wrong should be willing to make the first step towards change, but let’s face it. They don’t.

If we want the world to change, we need to be willing to make the first step. We shouldn’t hold anything back in doing good. Jesus held nothing back in giving his life for us on the Cross.

So, we pray God’s help that we be like him, “slow to anger and abounding in kindness.

Jesus offers the Golden Rule, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.

We need to stop judging others. We need to stop condemning others. We need to forgive others. We should do this not simply so that we won’t be judged or so that we will be forgiving. We need to do them because it is the loving thing to do.

It is our hope that when we love our enemies, when we do good to them, that it will change them. Saul’s heart changed for the moment. We pray for all to change their hearts to God’s loving way. However, if they do not change, we must still go on loving them, doing good for them, and praying for them.

It’s what Jesus did for us. God did not wait for us to stop sinning before sending Jesus. “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).


Fr. Jeff

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