Anonymous asked: Growing up in a small town in Texas it is not always the easiest for a young gay guy, and I look forward to the day I can move out of here! I love your work and wanted to ask you this. The bible gives the impression that one should love one's enemies and do good to them: "But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you* (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27). What do you think that means? Should we always be nice to our enemies and how does that help us? - Luke
Thank your for your question. As you might have noticed I rarely answer questions about religion, as I generally think anyone should believe as they wish. Religion doesn’t have a big influence on my life, but as I currently have had a lot of thoughts on “enemies and love” I will try and answer your question as good as I can :)
One can well enough do good to his enemies - but can you also love them? Strictly speaking, no, because when you love someone, they are no longer your enemy. So the statement here is one of the “glorious” paradoxes that Jesus used to make us think.
So how to start loving someone who is your enemy? You start to put yourself in his place, so you understand the reason for his hostility. And I believe it requires a different consciousness than the one we would normally might hold. You must be willing to listen without prejudice to his arguments and show empathy for his feelings. If you can do it, I think you in almost all cases make the discovery that the enemy is rather your then him. Once you recognize it, you must show yourself compassion and love yourself first. As Jesus says somewhere else: “Love your neighbor as yourself!” Therefore, love yourself first, then you can also love others. If you truly love yourself in a self respectful way, I believe you will be able to love everyone. There is simply no longer any enemies.
That can be so incredible easy to say, which is why I think that initial sentence can be quite difficult to understand. I don’t think giving love is the same as rewarding. To me Love does not give gifts or grant prizes, sometimes not even forgiveness. It gives itself. It embraces, respects and highlights always the best in the other but doesn’t embrace injustice and evil. Therefore, you may love someone without loving what he does. Like Jesus also loved the Pharisees, but spoke against anything they stood for. As humans we always seek truth and justice through love, and to many, myself included, it can conquer almost anything - or your will to love can.
To me, when Jesus said, You shall love your enemies, I really think the enemy would primarily be us self. I don’t see Jesus as a moralist with high ethical claims to people. If he existed as described in the bible, he was a wise man, and a wise man does not try to get his disciples to change the world. He tries to change them. Therefore he said something like: “Do not resist against evil, thereby the evil destroys you.” He knew that when you oppose evil - in this case your enemies - then you are wasting your energy on evil. Evil can not be neutralized with resistance. On the contrary, the evil destroy you, when you do resistance against it, just as it destroys you if you give into it. Whether you resist, or you give in, you are still tricked to play by the rules of “evil”.
I try to never waste my time and energy on evil. Not to give in but also not to resist. “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other” Jesus said. That is to say: Do not let it gain control but hold on to your inner dignity and power. This helps keep the energy within yourself. It is through this energy that the world around you unnoticed change, including your enemies. - and most of all yourself.
Religious or not…
I didn’t grow up in a very religious family, and I use the believe in life as a daily religion, and therefor don’t have a large knowledges on these things. I do however believe we can freely choose what to think on religion and I hope I didn’t step on anyones toes with my interpretation.
I thank you very much for your lovely question, and hope you will freely be able to be who you are very soon.