“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45)
While God sends Elijah to Ahab to deliver curses for Naboth’s murder, Jesus is telling us to love our enemies. How do we reconcile our first reading today with our Gospel passage? God hates evil. He doesn’t just watch while innocent lives are being crushed by those in power. However, as much as God hates sin, He never hates the sinner. Make no mistake about this – the wages of sin is death (Cf. Romans 6:33) yet God takes no delight in the death of the sinner. (Cf. Ezekiel 18:23) God’s merciful gaze is always upon one who sincerely repents and expresses sorrow for his sins.
Jesus says “love your enemies,” he didn’t say love the evils they do. Jesus is not saying we should condone evil. Jesus is telling us to treat the sinner like a person who does bad things, not like a bad thing who happens to be a person. The kind of love he is talking about is the kindness of surrendering such persons to God in prayer. The love that Jesus is talking about is the love God showed to Ahab when he humbled himself and repented of his sin.
We can love our enemies if we realize that they are just humans after all. This entails refraining from labelling anyone; refusing to look at a person through the lens of the evil he or she has done. It is seeing people as God does when He allows his rain (goodness, favours, blessings, provisions, etc.) to fall on both the good and the bad. Loving our enemies entails that like the Prodigal Father, we sit at the front pouch waiting and hoping for the return of our lost son. It entails forgetting what they have done and realizing they are still persons.
If God does not bless us according to the degree of our holiness (righteousness), then we ought not to save our goodness (our kindness, favours, greetings, good wishes, etc.) only for those who are good to us. Jesus knows this is very hard to do, so, he gives us a reason (a strong motivation) why we have to step out of our comfort zone to love our enemies: To place ourselves above the Gentiles.
In other words, our failure to love those who hate us keeps us on the same level as non-Christians. Our failure to forgive people puts a big question mark on our baptismal certificate. Our failure to be merciful to people as God was merciful to Ahab makes us no better than Jezebel. It is horrible for someone to kill another person (because of land or anything whatsoever) but it is even more horrible for a Christian to partake in jungle justice which has now become the order of the day today.
Let us pray: Lord God, give me a heart that mirrors your sacred heart, a heart that is ever ready to forgive, to love, and to let go of hurts through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Bible Study: 1 Kings 21:17-29, Ps. 51:3-6,11,16, Matthew 5:43-48)
© Rev. Fr. Evaristus Abu