Love Your Enemy

love-your-enemiesYou have heard people say, “Love your neighbors and hate your enemies.” But I tell you to love your enemies and pray for anyone who mistreats you. Then you will be acting like your Father in heaven. – Matthew 5:43-45

I recently heard a news report about comments made by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Following a state visit to China, Duterte said that he was severing ties with the United States and creating a greater alliance with China. He told business leaders in Beijing, “America has lost now. I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow. And maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world: China, Philippines and Russia. It’s the only way.” [1]

My immediate reaction was one of anger. The rejection somehow felt personal. Just days before I had heard that powerful monsoons with torrential rains and damaging winds had wreaked havoc in the Philippines.  I thought to myself, “I’ll bet Duterte will come to the U.S. for financial assistance and disaster relief. Well, we shouldn’t give it to him. Let him beg from China and Russia if they’re such good friends.”

And then I remembered that Nancy and I have been sponsoring a child named Simon in the Philippines for several years. What if his home was destroyed? What if he’d lost family and friends? What if he’s in desperate need of food or medical attention? Suddenly the crisis had a name and face. Suddenly my anger turned to concern, and then to compassion. Funny how that works.

How quick we are to be offended and to wish ill upon our perceived enemies. Love is far from our natural response toward those who wound us. But what if we embraced the reality that we all bear the image of God and are enlivened by the same Spirit? What if we are connected to one another in ways we can barely fathom so that there is no real “us” and “them” but only a collective “we”? What if Jesus’ command to love our enemy isn’t just a moral imperative but a survival strategy because hating our enemy only drives us further from God, one another and even ourselves?

Enmity is an epidemic in this world. Loving our enemy will require more than a change of heart. It will require a change in the way that we see, a realization that the illusion of “otherness” is just that – an illusion.

Want to respond to the devastation in the Philippines? Click here for more information.

Jeff Marian serves as lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN

[1] Duterte later clarified that he is not severing diplomatic ties with the US but creating a separation of foreign policy.

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