by Michael Maciel
Jesus told us to love our enemies. WHAT are we supposed to do with that? I mean, it’s hard enough to love the people we love, right? How, then, are we supposed to love those who, by definition, we hate?
Let’s define our terms:
And these definitions aren’t conclusive, they’re just something to work with—a working model.
What do we mean by love? Let’s use THIS as our working model:
Love is connection. Like in the movie, Avatar, love is saying, “I see you.” When we love someone, we don’t see them through a filter. We don’t see them through the filter of our judgments about them. We don’t see them through a filter of what they’ve done to us in the past. We don’t see them through any filter at all. We see them.
We see the person. And we see past their filters—the way they see us. Because, we’re their enemy, too. So, it’s two people looking at each other as God Beings—no filters, no history, just awareness in the present moment. That’s connection. That’s love.
When you do that, even if it’s one-sided, the event is too large for emotion. The sheer intensity of the moment takes us to a higher level of experience and we see him or her as they are, not how we feel about them.
The truth of the matter? — the purer love is, the more impersonal it becomes. Don’t ask me how or why—that’s just how it works.
And then there’s the word “enemy.” Now, the important thing about this is that when Jesus said, “Love your enemies,” he didn’t say anything about that magically turning them into your friends. No. He didn’t say that at all. And that makes it all the more difficult because loving them doesn’t come with any promises. We have to love them as they are. We have to be able to love them even though it doesn’t change anything about the way they feel towards us. In fact, it implies that we have to love them even if we’re engaged with them in combat.
Okay. So love is seeing the other person—in this case, your enemy. This is true connection because when you do this, you’re seeing them in the present moment. And that changes everything. Now, remember, this person is your enemy. That means that he is coming at you. He is actively opposing you and what you’re trying to do. It’s gonna be a fight, whether you want one or not.
Jesus was a person. He knew how this works. If someone is trying to do you in, the worst thing you can do is close your eyes. Because that breaks the connection. In other words, be with your enemy AS he’s being your enemy.
Martial artists know how to do this. They can be so much in the present moment that they can feel what their opponent is going to do almost before they do it. But here’s the thing. It’s not that Jesus is telling us how to be better fighters. He’s telling us not to break the connection. No matter who we’re dealing with.
Because if we can do this with our enemies, we can certainly do it with the people we love, haha. And right now, that’s pretty important, wouldn’t you say? I mean, Thanksgiving Dinner is only eleven months away, so we better get ready now!
Being connected with your enemy does three things:
First, you get to know where he is at all times. That’s a huge advantage.
Not that we’re trying to beat him, necessarily, but we’re trying to keep him from beating us. Because either way, nothing good comes from that. It’s much better to work it out—in such a way that everyone benefits. Love is not a zero-sum game.
And it’s not easy, either.
So—the second thing being connected does for us is that it keeps our emotions in check. And that’s important. Because the first thing people do when they pick a fight with us is to get us riled. Then they play off of that. But if you stay connected with them, that’s not gonna work.
This leads to the third way that staying connected helps us when we’re dealing with someone who intends us harm. It establishes RESPECT. And respect is what keeps squabbles from turning into murder. At least it keeps aggression within certain bounds. When you respect your opponent, you’re not likely to make a bad situation worse. You’re gonna look for ways to save face—for both of you. And that can make the difference between a brief battle and a multi-generational feud.
So, in a way, Jesus is teaching us how to fight—he’s teaching us how to fight fair.
It’s this teaching that prompted America to rebuild her enemies after the Second World War. It’s what helped Nelson Mandela heal the wounds of a divided nation. And it’s what helped Martin Luther King to bridge the racial divide and bring both parties to the table. This is what connection does. It allows good things to happen, even in the face of animosity.