A Season of Lent: Loving Our Enemies

By understanding the things that men have loved…

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” ( Matthew 5: 43-48)

Lenten Prayer: Jesus, Prince of Peace, you have asked us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. We pray for our enemies and those who oppose us. With the help of the Holy Spirit, may all people learn to work together for that justice which brings true and lasting peace. To you be glory and honor for ever and ever. Amen. Ora Pro Nobis

Another thing that Jesus equates with divine perfection is loving one’s enemies, greeting them, doing good to them, feeding them when they are hungry, giving them something to drink when they are thirsty. He makes a curious distinction: to love an enemy is to want his highest good, treating him with the courtesy and respect we would want while not claiming him as a close associate. We don’t do as our enemy does, we act better toward him.

Because our love has a purpose and a pleading: to reconcile Him to God.  It is not to let him go on doing bad – neither to encourage it or celebrate it – but to be decent to him even though we chastise and correct him.  Our Christian ancestors understood this paradox better than we.

It has often been said of Chesterton that he was friends even with those who strongly opposed him. The term friends might more accurately be defined as friendly since he never actually sought their associations but treated them respectfully as colleagues.  In these two quotes, the mind of Chesterton is revealed in how he achieved that: by understanding what are the things that men have loved and recognizing that one’s neighbors and even family can be, as Jesus himself pointed out, often not our best chums, but actually our enemies.  To remain on peaceful terms with such people, Chesterton never compromised or even hid, out of societal politeness, his beliefs, convictions or views to do that.

“These are the things which might conceivably and truly make men forgive their enemies. We can only turn hate to love by understanding what are the things that men have loved; nor is it necessary to ask men to hate their loves in order to love one another. Just as two grocers are most likely to be reconciled when they remember for a moment that they are two fathers, so two nationals are most likely to be reconciled when they remember (if only for a moment) that they are two patriots.” – G. K. Chesterton, Illustrated London News, June 4, 1921

“The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people.” – G. K Chesterton, Illustrated London News, July 16, 1910

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