Love your enemies

Author: Fr Mieczysław Piotrowski S.Chr.

There are situations where it seems to us that Christ’s injunction to forgive and love our enemies is beyond our human capabilities. In this matter, however, the Lord Jesus is uncompromising.

He appeals to us: “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; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt 5:44–48).

Ask and you shall receive

God loves all people with unconditional love. He wants us to receive his love and tells us to pass it on to others, even our enemies. This becomes possible only when we believe that it is the only effective way of overcoming evil, when we pray sincerely every day, make personal contact with Christ and accept the gift of His love: the person of the Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus really wants us to trust him completely and treat him as the closest person to us, as the greatest treasure and love of our life. Then, just as He does, with the power of His love, we will be able to love our enemies and to forgive everyone everything. The ability to forgive and love our enemies is a gift that we will definitely be given when we sincerely ask for it. The Lord Jesus assures us: “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:9–13).

If I do not respond with love and forgiveness to the hurt inflicted on me, then evil will take control over me, to my great detriment

Love and the ability to forgive is the fruit of true faith and union with Christ in prayer and the sacraments. Love and forgiveness are most fully expressed in prayer. We should always pray for those who have hurt us and whom we are to forgive. You could say that prayer is love in action, because it is the fulfillment of Christ’s command: “But I say to you that listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” (Luke 6:27–28). Christ says, “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25).

It would be advisable for you to write down on a piece of paper the names of people to whom you want to show forgiveness, and to commit them to God’s mercy in your daily prayers

When you pray for your enemy or someone whom you are to forgive, imagine the person for whom you want to pray and Jesus standing next to him or her. Then pray, saying, “Lord Jesus, I forgive ............. (specify the name of the person you want to forgive), because you always forgive me all my sins. I want to love him/her with the same love you love me and him/her. Heal the wounds of my heart and set me free from all the negative thoughts and feelings that arise spontaneously at the thought of ............ (specify the name of the person). Please, Lord, I want to always overcome evil with love and forgiveness, and just like you I want to always love and forgive. Because you desire my good and happiness more than I do, I ask you to help me desire the same for ........... (specify the person’s name). Lord, may your love flow through my heart to him/her, set him/her free from all evil and bring him/her to full happiness.”

It helps greatly to use one’s imagination in recalling memories of specific painful events and to invite Jesus to be present there to heal difficult and broken interpersonal relationships. While praying, try to see in your imagination Jesus united with the person you desire to forgive. After such prayer, the Lord Jesus will completely heal your mutual relationship.

It would be advisable for you to write down on a piece of paper the names of people to whom you want to show forgiveness, and to commit them to God’s mercy in your daily prayers.

The only effective defense against evil

Forgiveness does not mean forgetting or erasing an event from one’s memory, neither is it removing responsibility from the person who committed evil. The person whom I have forgiven continues to be accountable for his or her sins before God, himself or herself and others. When forgiving, I do not absolve the perpetrator, because that can be only done by Christ; neither do I free the person from responsibility. I forgive, which means I overcome evil with good, responding with love and forgiveness to every wrong and every glaring injustice. That is the logic of Christ and His followers. It is the only effective defence and weapon against evil, especially evil which is committed by people who do not show any repentance or signs of conversion, who are full of “every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die— yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.” (Rom 1: 29–32). The Word of God leaves no room for doubt here: evil can only be overcome with love, and you can defend yourself against it only with the power of forgiveness: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. […]. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom 12:14.17–21).

If I do not respond with love and forgiveness to the hurt inflicted on me, then evil will take control over me, to my great detriment. Unforgiveness is a lack of desire for good, the opposite of love, and therefore it is a certain kind of hatred. Responding to evil with evil, to hatred with hatred, I become a slave to sin and I give the devil a way to direct my life. Selfishness will come to the fore and I will be guided by bad emotions. However, Christ calls us to desire good for each other. When someone unfairly hurts us and we cherish deep resentment, regret and anger, then we succumb to hate, we become agents of evil forces that enslave and plunge us into darkness. If, however, we respond with love and forgiveness to the hurt inflicted on us, we become free, and Satan does not get access to our inner fortress.

The healthiest instinct of self-defence

Modern medicine makes it clear that anger, hatred, resentment, regret and bitterness, which are all consequences of unforgiveness, cause so much stress that they contribute to a number of irregularities in the biochemical processes in the body, and consequently to the development of many diseases. So, from a medical point of view, forgiving everybody for everything and not holding onto grudges, blame, anger and regret is the healthiest form of instinctive self-defence, confirming the gospel principle of not being overcome by evil, but of overcoming evil with good. When I forgive, I block access to my inner person to such destructive forces of evil like hatred, grudges, resentment and anger which destroy health in all its dimensions: spiritually, mentally and bodily.

Forgiveness is carried out independently of feelings, at the very moment when we make the decision concerning forgiveness

If you trust Jesus and choose to live according to the commandment of love, forgiving everyone for everything, then the Lord Jesus will heal you and you will become his instrument, assisting in the healing of others.

During the agony on the cross, Christ’s response to the greatest hatred and sin was forgiveness: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34). To forgive is to stand in the truth and to see events, the world and other people in the light of Jesus’ love, and thus to see them for what they actually are. To forgive means to allow the love of Jesus to work in us and through us to reach our enemies. Forgiveness brings true freedom, because it unites our suffering with the suffering of Christ. Then we can say with St Paul: “I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.” (Col 1:24). It is of the utmost importance for you to decide now to forgive all the people who have done you wrong. Ask Christ to give you the grace to decide to forgive. Only then will the process of inner healing and reconciliation begin in your life. The Lord Jesus requires of you to make a conscious act of will, expressed in the words: “With all my heart, I want to forgive the person who has wronged me.” It may happen that negative emotions will come to the fore. What will count then will be the decision of the will, and not feelings. Forgiveness is carried out independently of feelings, at the very moment when we make the decision concerning forgiveness. Aggravating feelings need to be given to Jesus every time they come. Anyone who loves and forgives by uniting with Jesus has a share in His victory over Satan, hell and death and therefore, even here on earth, experiences the joy of the Resurrection.

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