On loving one’s enemies. In one of the Sunday Gospel readings we hear very difficult words: “love your enemies,” – the Lord says to us, – “and do good unto those that hate you.” These words are difficult for us to comprehend, because such a situation – to love one’s enemies – seems unnatural to us. But it is precisely in love for one’s enemies, in the payment of good in return for malice – that we discover in ourselves the true image of God.
It is easy to love those who have affection for us; it is easy to do something for those who respond in kind. But the Lord points out that we see the very same nice relationships among the pagans, and while we do the same as they do, we – Christians – do not differ from then in any way. But in order to be a Christian we must do something greater, some-thing loftier, we must follow the example of Christ.
Our Lord Jesus Christ has shown us the ultimate example of love for one’s enemies, both in general and in particular. The Lord forgave those who committed the most evil deed in the world – who crucified Him to the cross, and in such forgiveness the Lord revealed the greatest love. But on a larger scale the Lord also revealed the greatest love for us, sinners, by taking upon Himself the sins of the whole world, and that means our sins, too. Sins are God’s enemies, because they go against the goodness and perfection of God’s creation, and thus the Lord showed love for His enemies, i.e. our sins, by erasing them through His sacrifice on the cross.
And in this sacrifice on the part of our Saviour we find the key to loving one’s enemies. What is the key? Humility. Absolute humility, complete suppression of one’s pride, a complete rejection of one’s ego. Why is it difficult for us to love our enemies? Solely because of pride. We think to ourselves: how can I love someone who does not see my merits, does not understand what a wonderful person I am? How will I do good unto someone who does not value my precious gesture?
Here we can see how our pride, our egoism slip in. But let us try to be nice to someone, no matter how the other person acts towards us; let us try to do something good for him without expecting anything in return. And if we are able to do this, an entirely new world will open up to us, a higher world, and we will feel the extraordinary power and energy of love, we will feel all the joy of love. Then we will clearly realize that it is much more wonderful to give than to receive – both things and feelings.
The Lord urges us to be similar in charity to our Heavenly Father, i.e. to treat everyone equally, to do good unto others equally. We see the sun shining equally on all people – both good and bad. On hot sultry days the Lord sends rain to all people equally – both good and bad. In this manner we will reveal the image of God within us, if we show love and charity to those who bear malice towards us, just as the Lord Himself showers bounty upon the whole of mankind, despite all the evil it contains.
Yes, it is not easy to love one’s enemies and to do good unto them. But before us we the wondrous example of the Royal Martyrs, who in their exile entreated the Lord to grant them “inhuman strength to humbly pray for their enemies.” Actually they needed not only inhuman strength, but superhuman strength, because their enemies were not just people, but people possessed by demons, possessed by evil. However, the Tsar-Martyr himself left us a testimonial by saying that the evil in the world will become even stronger, and yet it will not be evil which will win, but love. And so their love – through their humility and meekness – has won over evil: the Royal Martyrs are now glorified, they pray to God for us, they entreat His mercy for us.
Similarly we, too, should overcome evil with love. Then God’s mercy will pour out upon us and a totally new world will be revealed to us: a world of joy, a world of grace, a world of true life.
Father Rostislav Sheniloff
Praying for one’s enemies If we offer prayers for those who grieve and offend us, then our prayers for ourselves will also be heard. Whenever anyone prays against his enemies or those who have offended him in any way, those are words not of man, but of the devil.
We must pray for our enemies, no matter how grievously they offend us. If we do not do so, we will perish. To pray to God for harm to befall one’s enemies is to offend God.
The Lord wants us to be meek towards those who sin against us, to forget their sins, to earn forgiveness of our sins by forgiving theirs.
Let us say not only to God: “Forgive our trespasses,” but let each one of us also say to himself: “Let us forgive our brethren who trespass against us.”
Saint John Chrysostome