Understanding Jesus’ teaching: Love your enemies

The WORD in Other Words by Fr Randy Flores SVD (Philippines)

Thursday Week 23 Ordinary Time, Col 3:12-17, Lk 6:27-38

“Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer” (a line from the movie The   Godfather: Part I1), means that you must keep an eye on your enemies all the time so that   foreknowing their strategies and next moves, you can devise ahead your counterstrike.   

“Love your enemies, ” now an often-heard line, was unheard of before the time of   Jesus. It was Jesus who first taught it and it‘s one of a kind in its originality.

Similar commands in antiquity were about non-retaliation or benevolence to enemies. You might recall passages from the Old Testament like “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself:  I am the Lord” (Lev 19:18), and “If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat: and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink; for you will heap coals of fire on their heads, and the Lord will reward you” (Prov 25:21—22).

Even the Hellenistic Greeks had a teaching on being humane (philanthropia) as reflected in the Book of Wisdom (11:17—12:22) but not as direct as “love your enemies.”   

The biblical scholar, Er. John P. Meier (Marginal Jew vol. 4) identifies only three   of Jesus’ ethical teachings as unprecedented: no to divorce, no to swearing, and love your enemies. Nobody had taught these before Jesus aid. 

“Love your enemies” is mentioned twice in today‘s Gospel reading from Luke and once in Matthew‘s Gospel. Jesus laid a foundation for the survival of humanity which at times chooses to turn its plowshares into swords and pruning hooks into spears (cf. Isaiah 2:4). If only nations were to heed this disconcertingly short and uncompromisingly forthright command, peace will rule the universe. 

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