Who Is My Enemy?
I believe in a common humanity. Practically, that means that we are not individuals, but persons who are in relationship with each other. Most importantly, it means that there is a common thread that is stitched through the bone and sinew of us all; a knot anywhere, affects us all. As Martin Luther King once said,“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Beyond race, culture and religion, we are all made in the image and likeness of God. We all possess frail hearts, we all desire to love and be loved. We all long to find safety and belonging in the world. We all hurt and we fear, we stumble into awkward moments, into our own chaos and anger. We are the same beneath these beautiful layers of skin and confusion. We are all the same kind of broken. And in our broken, common humanity, redemption desires to tell the tale of us all, because there is no one beyond grace.
Yet how many people have we deemed unworthy of grace? How many souls have we too easily condemned?
“Enemy” is a strong word. Strong enough to make us distance ourselves from it and deny that it plays a part in our lives. But when Christ spoke of enemies, he spoke simply; an enemy is someone who stands in the way of our freedom, dignity, our capacity to grow and love, someone who attacks us or our country. An enemy most commonly exists within the person whom we are avoiding.
When the lawyer spoke to Jesus asking how he was to enter the kingdom of heaven, He answered him simply; “love your neighbour as yourself.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” (Luke 10:29). Though the words of the Bible are clear and simple, just like the lawyer, we seek justification. Love my enemy? Who is my enemy? Surely Jesus didn’t mean ISIS, surely He didn’t mean the human responsible for my deepest hurts?
But what if the ones we name offenders can be freed to love?
‘They are people who, if loved, helped, and trusted, can in some small way recognize their faults and their brokenness and can grow in humanity and in inner freedom.” -Jean Vanier
What if humanity rose up to forgive? Like the sacred hearts of Katja Rosenberg, Antoine Leiris and Arturo Martinez. What if we extended forgiveness regardless of our hurts and our rights, and followed the sacred Word that brings all healing. For us to forgive, we must yearn for unity and peace, yearn for the oneness to be united in mind, in heart and in spirit. If we love and desire for all to be free to bear fruit, we will be a people heavy for forgiveness. We will live full and whole that we are no longer driven by our desire to be filled and prove ourselves worthy but we will yearn for the growth of all people in peace and in unity. To be a peacemaker, we must make peace with ourselves and we must make peace with those around us. We must believe that we are all a part of the suffering. We have all hurt and been hurt. When we point out darkness, we must remember to point back at our own souls. It is not easy to see beyond our own suffering, sometimes it is blinding. It is not easy to accept forgiveness or to forgive; it is a struggle.
‘ When we dare to care, then we discover that nothing human is foreign to us, but that all the hatred and love, cruelty and compassion, fear and joy can be found in our own hearts. When we dare to care, we have to confess that when others kill, I could have killed too. When others torture, I could have done the same. When others heal, I could have healed too.’ -Henri Nouwen
The truth is our enemies can often tell us a lot more about us than our friends can. The way we respond to our enemies will tell us the true state of our hearts; if we are hearts walking in forgiveness or if we walk in resentment.
“Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless and do not curse them.
They, rather than I, have confessed my sins before the world. They have punished me, whenever I have hesitated to punish myself. They have tormented me, whenever I have tried to flee torments. They have scolded me, whenever I have flattered myself. They have spat upon me, whenever I have filled myself with arrogance. Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.
Whenever I have made myself wise, they have called me foolish.
Whenever I have made myself mighty, they have mocked me as though I were a fly.
Whenever I have wanted to lead people, they have shoved me into the background.
Whenever I have rushed to enrich myself, they have prevented me with an iron hand.
Whenever I thought that I would sleep peacefully, they have wakened me from sleep.
Whenever I have tried to build a home for a long and tranquil life, they have demolished it and driven me out.
Truly, enemies have cut me loose from the world and have stretched out my hands to the hem of your garment.
Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.
Bless them and multiply them; multiply them and make them even more bitterly against me:
So that my fleeing will have no return; So that all my hope in men may be scattered like cobwebs;
So that absolute serenity may begin to reign in my soul; So that my heart may become the grave of my two evil twins: arrogance and anger;
So that I might amass all my treasure in heaven; Ah, so that I may for once be freed from self-deception, which has entangled me in the dreadful web of illusory life.
Enemies have taught me to know what hardly anyone knows, that a person has no enemies in the world except himself. One hates his enemies only when he fails to realize that they are not enemies, but cruel friends.
It is truly difficult for me to say who has done me more good and who has done me more evil in the world: friends or enemies. Therefore bless, O Lord, both my friends and my enemies. A slave curses enemies, for he does not understand. But a son blesses them, for he understands.
For a son knows that his enemies cannot touch his life. Therefore he freely steps among them and prays to God for them. Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.”
–Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic