But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. Matthew 5:44–45
How far would you go in keeping these words of Jesus? ‘Love your enemies?’. Can Jesus be serious? Doesn’t He know how evil some people are? How can I, how can anyone, love those who seek to do us harm?
I have pondered this part of the Sermon on the Mount ever since the first time I heard them. Then I read those words, several times, and I still cannot wrap my mind around what they are asking of me. Jesus' words are plain enough, love those who are your enemies and pray for those who would harm you. It runs counter to every instinct of self-preservation that is within me. Jesus is asking us to go to a depth of love and charity that is truly a foreign land to us.
I begin to discover how to explore that foreign land when I first read St. Paul's words in Romans: For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. Romans 5:10 Jesus gives Himself for us, who by our rebellion have become God's enemies, to the point of His death on the cross. It is the mercy of the Father through His Son that transforms those who are His enemies into His dear children. It is that kind of love that has transformed the world.
Jesus calls us to love as we have been loved, even to the point of surrendering our lives in that love so that even our enemies might be transformed. It is not an easy path for there is a cross in it, a cross upon which self-love dies and the new self-arises. It is who we are in Christ, called to love even those who are our enemies.