Why Love Your Enemies Is A Revolutionary Act

Love your enemies is one of those things that sounds like a luxury for peacetime, an exercise for cloistered life, the resort of weaklings and doormats, or at best, a do-gooder sentiment that can lean perilously close to betraying the people and values that you love.

“But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you…” Matthew 5:44

Love your enemies is one of those things that sounds like a luxury for peacetime, an exercise for cloistered life, the resort of weaklings and doormats, or at best, a do-gooder sentiment that can lean perilously close to betraying the people and values that you love.

Being a liberal living in Trump country and speaking up in defense of my right-leaning neighbors brings up whispers of doubt. “Don’t you risk becoming an apologist for attitudes that you abhor? Don’t you, by arguing for tolerance, enable or gloss over the toxic beliefs that threaten the very fabric of a free and open society?” Wherever you stand on the political spectrum, leaning toward generosity brings a person up against these kinds of voices.

To all of these voices I say, love your enemies is a revolutionary act that has nothing to do with being virtuous or making excuses or denying hard realities.

First and foremost, loving your enemies, unlike loving your family, friends, and heroes requires something more of you. I would argue that only the best part of you is capable of it, and that herein lies its revolutionary power. 

The part of you that can love your enemies can literally change the world.

Loving your enemies is not the same as being sympathetic or feeling sorry or making excuses. 

Loving your enemies does not make you a good person or give you a reason to pat yourself on the back.

Loving your enemies is not ignoring or denying their danger to you.

Loving your enemies doesn’t mean abandoning your love for the people or values you hold dear.

Besides, no one wants your virtuous sympathy or patronizing understanding! It’s cloying, insulting, and doesn’t feel like love. Likewise, you risk yourself and others by ignoring clear and present dangers in favor of high-minded compassion.

Pulling this off can feel like a tall order, especially when your enemies are perpetrating grave crimes and the voices of righteousness urge you not to waste your time.

But the secret power in loving your enemies is that only the greatest part of you can do it without falling into the pitfalls of denial and virtue-seeking. This is the part of you that can hold forever in your heart, that can see all the things and still hold them all together, believing in the long view that we belong together–indeed, making it so through the power of your love, even as you allow eternity to work out how. 

The part of you that can love your enemies has the power to change the world.

And so I say, become a revolutionary. Hating your enemies is easy. Loving your enemies is an act of courage worthy of perilous times like these.

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