Loving Our Enemies

Today’s Gospel from Matthew contains a command we are familiar with: Love your enemies. Jesus rejects the old teaching of “love your neighbor and hate your enemy,” in favor of an instruction to love all, in imitation of God, who “makes the sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and unjust.”

It is not an easy command to follow. But I read something this morning on the Ignatian Solidarity Network’s lenten series that helps. Writing on today’s readings, Catherine Punsalan-Manlimos encourages this:

When confronted by an enemy, stand in wonder and curiosity. What is this person trying to express in what I hear as hateful and cruel? What wounds is this person nursing that is causing so much pain that they lash out violently? It takes revolutionary love—that is, grace—to be able to take a posture of wonder and curiosity that makes possible seeing the wounds of another, a seeing that can soften hearts even towards enemies. It is revolutionary love that makes possible the desire to tend their wounds because we remember that we too are wounded. 

When I hear curiosity and wonder, I am reminded of the invitation of Ignatian spirituality to openness and receptivity to another—welcoming who they are in their complexity and brokenness. I am also reminded of the invitation to mercy, because we have been shown mercy and are called to make that mercy present in our compassion, even for our “enemies.”

What difference would it make for us to stand in a posture of curiosity and wonder when faced by an “enemy”, rather than to stand in fear, insecurity and anger? Surely the author is right that giving ourselves the space to see the wounds of another will soften our hearts, allowing the kind of “revolutionary love” Jesus calls us to.

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