Friday, February 21, 2014

A shocking call

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
February 23, 2014

Matthew 5:38-48

The call to love is always seductive. Surely many gratefully welcomed Jesus' call to love God and neighbor. It was the best synthesis of the Law. But what they could not imagine is that one day he would talk to them about loving enemies.

However Jesus did. Without any support from biblical tradition, distancing himself from the psalms of revenge that nourished the prayers of his people, confronting the general climate of hate around him, he proclaimed his call with absolute clarity: "But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you."

His words are shocking and surprising but totally consistent with his experience of God. The Father isn't violent. He even loves His enemies, He doesn't seek anyone's destruction. His greatness isn't in taking revenge but in loving everyone unconditionally. Whoever is a child of that God will not introduce hatred or the destruction of anyone into the world.

Love of enemies is not a secondary teaching of Jesus addressed to people called to heroic perfection. His call is to introduce into history a new attitude towards the enemy because he wants to eliminate hatred and destructive violence from the world. Anyone who is like God will not nourish hatred against anybody. They will seek the welfare of all, even their enemies.

When Jesus speaks of love of enemy, he isn't asking us to nourish in ourselves feelings of affection, sympathy, or fondness towards those who do us harm. The enemy goes on being someone from whom we can expect harm, and it's hard to change the feelings in our heart.

Loving one's enemy means, first of all, not doing wrong to him, not seeking or wanting to do harm to him. We are not to be surprised if we don't feel any love towards him. It's natural for us to feel wounded and humiliated. We are to worry when we go on nourishing hate and the thirst for revenge.

But it's not just about not doing him evil. We can take more steps towards even being ready to do him good if we find him in need. We must not forget that we are more human when we forgive than when we take revenge, rejoicing in his misfortune.

Sincerely forgiving enemies isn't easy. In some circumstances, it can almost be impossible at that moment for the person to free themselves from rejection, hatred, or the thirst for vengeance. We are not to judge anyone from outside. Only God understands us and forgives unconditionally, even when we are not able to forgive.

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