"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father 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. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect." (Matthew5:43-48; New King James Bible Version (NKJV)."
"If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written "'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' " says the Lord. Therefore If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head." (Romans 12:18-20, NKJV).
Despite all the battlefields that seem to fill our world these days, we don't necessarily avoid them by trying to keep ourselves safe and sound in our own homes. We each have personal battles to fight, sometimes with family members, sometimes with individual neighbors, often with co-workers, and other times with government agencies. Each individual's daily life often includes personal, face to face conflicts and angry differences of opinion.
If these personal conflicts go on for several months, or even years, we tend to identify each adversary as an 'enemy'. We often draw our mental lines in the sand, standing upon our own principles as if they are holy oracles which 'must be obeyed' by all. So, it is easy to see how wars grow out of such attitudes, as groups of individuals gather together to fight for their mutual causes.
Into this human drama, which has played out for thousands of years, the human race seems to be unable to solve the problem of convincing everyone else that we are each Right, and those who see things differently are each Wrong. Self-righteousness is a universal trait around the world, even though it rarely wins anyone over. Even when the world seems to be free of conflict (for a brief moment in time) we can always depend upon the contrary fact that new disagreements are brewing somewhere around the globe, ready to spring into action.
Yet, over two thousand years ago in Earth's history, a man emerged in the warring turbulence of the Middle East, where Rome was conquering every civilization around it. This man, called Jesus the Christ, tried to teach a divine Principle that has been mentally dismissed by almost all humanity, even to this day. This Principle had (and still has) the power to end all the personal and collective feuds that lead to great wars. His astonishing words were that we should LOVE, instead of fight, all those whom we have identified as our enemies, and all those who have declared themselves to be our enemies.
History shows, however, that although Jesus of Nazareth has been followed by multitudes from his time to the present, the large part of those still following him today are still ignoring this all-important principle that he has tried to establish for planet Earth. At first glance, this Principle of loving those who hate us, and try to harm us, seems to be an ignorant principle. It seems as if it would then leave the world in the bloody hands of whoever could do the most harm, to the most people, at one time. Thus it is that many good people of reason dismiss this all-important Principle as unrealistic. Humanity still doesn't perceive the larger picture.
So, just what actually was (and still is) the divine Principle behind loving our many-seeming enemies? Having searched a lot of biblical history, as well as even some psychological theories, I have found that one person, a woman named, Mary Baker Eddy (who was the founder of the Christian Science movement in America and around the world) told what I think is the secret of the spiritually, mental power behind the teachings of Christ Jesus to 'love your enemies'. She said, "Love your enemies or you will not lose them." (See Mary Baker Eddy; Miscellaneous Writings, p. 210).
This simple statement explains the greater reason for loving the unlovable: It points out the effect that genuine, spiritual love has upon those engaging in destructive behavior. Genuine love and care for the destructive ones begins, at once, to attack the reason behind their animosity. It disarms, on a deeper consciousness level, the emotional turmoil of hatred and anger, much more than revenge could ever accomplish. Hatred always precedes destructive action. Love soothes it, in spite of what has gone before. More precisely, love is an invisible, healing balm that may not seem effective at first; but it sinks into the hearts and minds of people, changing these attitudes and minds, and the destructive acts of those who believed they had an enemy to fight.
Now, I'm not being naďve. For a long time, I didn't really accept the notion that loving someone who was bent on someone else's destruction was effective in any way. How could loving someone make that person stop hating us? Wouldn't it, instead, have the tendency to allow that individual to beat upon us, even more? But, some years back, I decided to test it out on a situation I was encountering in my personal life. This is what happened:
There was an individual who became quite angry with me. What was worse, I had no idea why he was angry, even though I tried to find out. This went on for quite a while. Then it got worse: he began telling untrue stories about me to anyone who would listen. Tired of this kind of treatment, my first impulse was to fight back, try to defend myself against the lies and make him pay for publically attacking me. Yet, it came to my thought to test out Jesus' words to "…love your enemies, do good to them that hate you and despitefully use you and persecute you," (See full quote at top of article.)
So, instead of trying to defend myself, I took a deep breath and decided to try what still seemed to me a weaker way of handling the situation. But, in looking back, I remember that this whole, long situation was beginning to feel like a spiritual test for me. So, I put my own reactive anger away and, instead, decided to 'love' him in the way Jesus meant…by blessing him, rather than hurting him back in any way.
I then isolated myself in a quiet place at home and prayed to know that, as a child of God, he was really good inside, no matter how he was behaving. I also prayed to know that God was loving and blessing him in whatever way he needed. I mentally 'saw' him and identified him as a son of God, rather than a son of man (I mentally threw out his fleshly identity, and replaced it with his spiritual identity—his Christly identity). As God's own image and likeness, he was divinely good, even if he didn't know it. I held to these thoughts for several days, and when I next met him, I treated him with friendliness.
About a week later, several things in his life changed for the good, all at once: A bitter conflict in his life turned around in his favor, his business picked up, and he was freed from a law suit against him. With these changes, his whole demeanor toward me changed. He became friendlier, and all the antagonistic behavior stopped. He worked at being a friend again. I knew he wanted to make it up to me for his actions against me, even though we never spoke of it. What astonished me, however, was how fast these changes for good had all happened at once, right after I had prayed for his well-being.
So, I really lost him as an enemy, back then, right after I decided to try exactly what Jesus said to do. I loved my enemy and 'blessed' him (prayed for him to receive his own good from God). When I did that, something clicked in the spiritual sense of myself, and I felt a peace I can't describe. I wasn't even angry at him any longer. Also, the wrongful stories against me never bore fruit. He didn't really apologize to me; but for several years after, he was so nice to me, even though he never knew how I had prayed for him to receive his own good, and whatever he needed, from God. That was many years ago, and we are still friends today.
We often decide that love is weaker than revenge and fear; thus, we are humanly trained to be combatants, or warriors. Revenge, especially, always claims to be a power; but it isn't as powerful as God's love. One of the first things I learned from my experience was just the opposite: love is definitely more powerful than either fear or revenge. It staves away strife and misery from the future.
When we are wronged (whether slightly or drastically) our first impulse is to 'get even.' But any thinking person has seen what the principle of revenge has done, throughout the centuries, in places like the war-torn, Middle East. These somewhat ancient cultures cling to revenge; they often live by the rule, 'make your enemies fear you'. But, here in the western world, we are not much better; we still embrace all the traces of vengefulness in many personal ways. This same principle of discord creeps even into our politics. So revenge exists around the globe. It's just a matter of degree.
Now, while it may appear to work in the short run, vengeance feeds upon itself. For every vengeful event, the other side has to come up with an equally vengeful counter attack. There can never be an end to the revenge cycle of life. Ultimately, vengeance leads to more and more death. And no matter what one's religion is, endless destruction is not the road to God's eternal harmony (heaven). Eternal Life means no death anywhere, at any time. Eternal Life means ONLY Life…a Life not threatened by even one, individual soul upon another. Thus, revenge cannot exist in the spiritual kingdom of God, Spirit, where we all exist, even now, even though we don't perceive its presence in the finite, material sense of things. If we don't make Love the Principle of our life experiences here, in this temporary, material realm of thought, we are not yet consciously ready to exist in God's eternal, harmonious home.
So, what was the importance of this article? It is to show that the divine, Principle of Love is the most important thing we individuals can do for our souls' journey home. Learn to love universally. Learn to love in the way that seeks no revenge, or harm, anywhere, to anyone, no matter what human hatred has done to us here, in this temporary, illusive dream of life in matter. We are spiritual beings, longing to go home. But home isn't something to find elsewhere…it is something to which we must simply awaken.
Sometimes, when we feel so oppressed by people and circumstances, we feel that we just don't have it in us to be forgiving or kind to those who hate us, or especially those who have been destructive to us. But, the Law of the universe is still universal love. It is what we are here to learn. I'm positive of that; for our ability to love universally is the only thing that makes us capable of existing in the heavenly harmony of God's true, spiritual creation, that lies invisibly present and still awaiting us. And as an old song says, "It's just a prayer away."