“Love Your Enemies”
The idea of loving our enemies has puzzled philosophers, theologians, and people for thousands of years since Jesus Christ originally suggested the idea…
In fact, if we examine the history of Christianity, it seems that there is a whole lot of hatred, blood, and persecution against the enemies of the church. Whether it is the Crusades, the Pope becoming a ruler of most of Florence and sending armies to destroy his enemies, or Christian justifications for slavery during the United States Civil War, it seems like this teaching of “love your enemies” has been thrown in the trash can by most of those practicing the belief system. What happened?
Throughout my time growing up in the Christian church, I felt pretty confused by the amount of judgment hurled towards fellow Christians and those who did not “believe in Jesus”. It seemed pretty hypocritical. For the majority of the time I spent in Christianity, a great deal of effort was put towards teaching us how to behave, how to convert non-believers, how to ensure we did not lose favor with God, and the signs to look for in fellow Christians that might help us determine if they needed to be confronted over some supposed wrongdoing. Of course, all out of “love” for that individual. I began to question if this is what Jesus really meant when he said to “love your enemies”… It seemed hairy to say the least.
I left the church for a variety of reasons. In the years since, I have re-awoken my spirituality thanks to experiences with psychedelic mushrooms, studying world religions, and exploring philosophies dating back to Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece. In the midst of this reawakening, I have begun to think more seriously about the teachings of Jesus and what he may have been trying to express. “What Would Jesus Do?” was a question we asked ourselves often when I was growing up in Christianity. In today’s world, this question might be more important than ever before. However, I believe there are alternative answers than those being propagated by the Christian or Catholic churches... Answers that these organizations might ironically dislike or campaign against spreading.
Loving Our Enemies Means Empathy
In order to really love your enemies, a person must begin to cultivate empathy. What is empathy? Essentially, it is this idea of placing ourselves in another’s position… Seeing the world through their eyes and understanding that there are logical reasons behind their actions. No one in the world arrives at their conclusions from an illogically formed idea. It is important to note: we might disagree with their reasons. This is normal and possibly even worthy of encouragement! When we disagree with one another, we build on the collective beliefs of the past and move our species forward into an elevated state of consciousness by hashing out ideas in the collective consciousness. This is why the internet is so powerful. However, to engage in this level of conversation, we must first understand and empathize that every human arrives at their decisions through a logical and relatable set of circumstances.
Daniel Roberts hosts a podcast called “Unmake My Enemy”. On this episode of the show, Daniel and I talk about the idea of loving our enemies. We discuss terrorism, religious fundamentalism, and how to apply the teachings of Jesus from a secular perspective. Daniel and I were raised together in the same homeschool group while also attending the same church. It is always a pleasure to connect with folks from the past only to find that they have walked a similar road. Check out this show:
When we observe stories like those of the Zealots through the timeline of history, we can understand the logical reasons behind why they do the things they did. We might read our history books and say “yeah, I see how a Zealot initiate might feel as if they were the good guys”. However, in the same breath, we might talk about how ISIS or Al-Quaeda are demons who need to be wiped from the face of the Earth. Now, just to be clear, I am by no means attempting to justify the actions of terrorists. However, I believe it is essential that if we want to end terrorism, we must empathize and understand why someone would become a terrorist… Are they scum? Are they degenerates? Are they less-than human? When we dive into the pages of our history or psychology textbooks, we arrive at the answer being a solid “No”. Oftentimes, they are engaging in a logical train of thinking that leads them towards making the horrible decision of becoming a terrorist.
It’s an ancient saying that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”.
So how can we love terrorists? How can we love those who bomb buildings, shoot up cities, and assassinate or kidnap members of our society?
It all begins in understanding that other people are the same as us.
It is difficult (to say the least) for me as an American to imagine myself committing acts of terrorism against my countrymen. In my eyes, this is an act of pure evil. The perpetrators of such actions must be violent degenerates who should be shot on site… Right?
Well, when we read some history books about the region, we begin to see how there are many reasons for why a Middle Eastern individual might end up becoming a member of a terrorist organization. In their eyes, it is impossible to imagine themselves supplying weapons and promises to the Mujahideen only to disappear and leave you struggling once the Soviet threat was eliminated.
Similarly, if you are a young man in Iraq who decides to join ISIS, you might not be able to understand how someone could ever send robotic airplanes that bomb weddings and kill innocents. In your eyes, those who vote for such actions must be violent degenerates who should be shot on site… Right?
I hope you see the point I’m trying to make: loving our enemies means putting ourselves in their shoes.
When that happens, we can begin to understand why war and violence happen in the first place. Typically, the perpetrators of violence have been harmed themselves. They are victims of trauma that oftentimes can be traced back to us. The endless cycle of war and violence will not end until we collectively come together and say “enough is enough” and refuse to do no more harm and inflict no more killing on one another. War and violence are patterns that are asking to be ended and cleared from our collective consciousness. We have only ourselves to blame for their perpetuation. If we attempt a collective solution, we may be surprised at the result. When we find ourselves inflicting no harm, we may find that no harm returns to us.