“If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:19)
Is it possible to love someone who hates you? Yes. This is the challenge Jesus poses for us today. By the example of his own life, Jesus shows us that is possible to love and even die to redeem people that hate you. It was while we were enemies of God, that Jesus died on our behalf to show us that it is possible to love one’s enemies. (Cf. Romans 5:10)
Ordinarily, one would assume that if we love others as Jesus loved us, they would love us back but the shocking reality is that no matter how much love we give, we still get back hatred. Why does the world hate us so much? Jesus answers: “Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own.”
Those who belong to the world operate by the principle “survival of the fittest” which implies the destruction of the weak. For the worldly-minded, it is a sign of weakness to forgive or spare the life of one who poses a threat to you. This is why St. John and St. James warn us against being worldly-minded. (Cf. 1st John 2:15 & James 4:4). You cannot be worldly-minded and still try to love those who hate you.
A lot of Christians today cannot accept the teaching of Jesus to love those who hate them because they basically operate by the standards of the worldly-minded. These are those who pray for the death of their haters and would readily take up arms to fight anyone perceived to be an enemy.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:43-45). That is to say; our unique identity as Christians is that we are a people who love those who hate them.
We are a mysterious people. We always forgive those who hurt us. We turn the other cheek when someone slaps us on one side. We let others have their way and we pray for God’s blessings rather than heap curses on our haters. (Cf. Matthew 5:38-39). This is how we melt the hearts of our enemies. This is the principle that has made our religion spread all over the world and continue to grow in leaps and bounds.
We don’t believe in fighting on God’s behalf, we allow God to fight for himself and protect us while we do what He commanded – we love everyone including our enemies; including those who insult us or threaten to kill us. Surely, this is hard but Jesus would not recommend it if it is entirely impossible to do. We can love our enemies if we choose to. It takes courage and self-sacrifice – it is carrying the cross behind Jesus.
It was with this spirit of self-sacrifice that Paul went about carrying out his mission of evangelization to various towns and villages. Paul did not mind the challenges and persecutions he was facing. He was not discouraged because within his heart, he knew that he did not belong to this world and that even if he died, a better place lay ahead for him.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, teach me to love just as you loved. Amen.
( Bible Study: Acts 16:1-10, Ps. 100:1-3,5, John 15:18-21)
© Rev. Fr. Evaristus Abu