I have never heard anyone say that their favorite Bible verse is Matthew 5:44, “Love your enemies.” And, no wonder…loving one’s enemy is a strange concept. It is difficult to imagine, much less to do. It makes you wonder what Jesus meant by loving our enemies. Does Jesus mean that we must like them and become friends with them? Send them Christmas cards and have lunch with them? According to St. Thomas Aquinas, the answer to those questions is no. Aquinas defined love as “to will the good of others.” In other words, loving our enemies is not the same as calling them our BFF (best friends forever).
We all have difficult people in our lives; ones who have hurt us, disrespected us, cheated us, or rejected us. We all encounter people who are mean-spirited or downright nasty. But, according to St. Thomas, and Jesus, we should still love them and hope for their good. So, just how are we supposed to do that?
First off, we can pray for them. That prayer might ask God to bless and heal our enemies, to give them what they need to be the best version of themselves. Next, in hoping for the good in others we should be careful not to disparage them, especially to others. Often, it is a temptation to express negative thoughts and feelings about people who trouble us. We need to be careful not to fall into sin ourselves by compromising their reputation or tearing them down. Finally, when striving to love our enemies we need to ask for help, as it is a tough task. On our own, it might feel impossible, but Jesus said we are supposed to love our enemies. So let’s pray to Him so we can be assured that He will bless us with patience and forgiveness in loving our enemies.
“That your enemies have been created is God’s doing; that they hate you and wish to ruin you is their own doing. What should you say about them in your mind? “Lord be merciful to them, forgive them their sins, put the fear of God in them, change them!” You are loving in them not what they are, but what you would have them to become.” – Saint Augustine