Making enemies isn’t very hard. It is as natural, for some of us, as breathing. Loving those enemies, however, is divine. Yet, in order for this divine quality to shine in us, we must first understand what it really means to ‘love’ our enemy.
Love must be understood, first, and foremost, in a spiritual and philosophical sense if we have any hope of exercising it in a truly human way which involves emotions, passions, preferences, and prejudices.
Love has been defined as ‘eros,’ which basically means our physical expression of love. Love has also been defined as ‘philia,’ meaning our expression of love through friendship. And then there is ‘agape. ‘
Agape is the Christian epitome of Love. Agape is the ultimate human response to God’s Love, given freely to us, in the theological virtue of charity. It is best exemplified in the Cross of Christ.
Agape, moreover, has the power to overcome the limits that human emotion often places on ‘loving’ an enemy. For Christ died for us while we were still sinners. Gethsemane, and the sweating of blood, prove His agape for us!
So the love of our enemy comes only through struggle. It comes through the struggle of prayer, sacrament, and self-denial. It comes, not through emotion–though our emotions might come around in time–but through an obedient and loving will.
Therefore, love of enemy is our will for what is best for them in God’s Will.
Subsequently, I can love the abortionist by praying for them, witnessing to them through charity and evangelization, and by shutting them down through my vote. For the best thing that can happen to them is if they convert or, at least, are forced to find another occupation.
Subsequently, I can love the religious persecutor by praying for them, witnessing to them through charity and evangelization, and by peacefully resisting their anti-Christian demands. I can also love them by voting them out of political existence.
Subsequently, I can love the proponent of ‘gay’ marriage by praying for them, witnessing to them through charity, evangelization, and through healthy traditional marriage, and by voting and advocating for states rights in this highly charged decision. I can also love this ‘enemy’ by remembering that their sexual orientation is not sinful if they are not acting upon it; moreover, I can remember that I am also a sinner.
There are many other situations within our culture which pit people of a certain ‘special interest’ against the Christian. In all these cases love of our ‘enemy’ is possible only through the grace of God, manifest in the gift of the example of Christ in prayer, in the sacraments, and in the Way of agape, in carrying the Cross.
Love of enemy is certainly painful. But it is possible, and absolutely necessary, in our current world situation.
As I have written in the past, love of enemy doesn’t eliminate the right, and the responsibility, of self-defense, and defense of the defenseless. For the gift of Life must be protected against its enemies. But it does call us, however, to seek (theirs and ours) reconciliation, and conversion, first. And to seek it even if it involves immense personal sacrifice. In this there is a paradox of balance. For we must simultaneously love the life of the innocent and the life of our enemy. Loving our enemy, therefore, always involves the Will of God first.
And we cannot know God’s Will unless we pray, frequent the sacraments, heed the teaching of the Church, and follow our conscience in difficult times.
I pray that we, as individuals and as a nation, may love our ‘enemy,’ and protect the innocent, through the grace of God in His Loving Will.