You shall love your neighbor as yourself.Mark 12:31b
Red hearts, roses and chocolates are everywhere, so it must be February – the month of love! There’s certainly nothing wrong with celebrating romance between you and a special someone, or love among family members, or best friends who are always there for one another.
But our inner-circle folks represent only a sliver of the people Jesus calls us to love. And let’s face it: they’re the easy ones to love. Jesus calls us to a higher plane of love; to love everyone. This means not just the people about whom we are ambivalent, but our actual enemies and those who persecute us.
Such love is a tall order, especially today, when hatred and demonization is rampant. Our political, media and social cultures encourage us to demean everybody with whom we disagree or who is different from us. Though it may be impossible to reach Jesus’ ideal, as stewards and disciples of Jesus, we can do better.
- Turn from hate. It may be too much to love our enemies, but we can start by turning from hatred. When negative feelings arise, refuse to marinate in them. Pray for guidance and strength.
- Remember that loving your enemy doesn’t mean approving of who they are, what they do, or letting them escape responsibility for their actions. It also does not mean you cannot protect yourself or others from harm.
- Imagine them as a broken, imperfect child of God (just like you!), who needs God’s love and mercy.
- Pray for them. Ask God to lead them, guide them, fill their lives with healing. Ask God to give them the kind of loving heart that you are hoping to develop in yourself.
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.Matthew 5:43b
If you do these things consistently, with God’s help you will have transformed your heart, your life and our world.