Loving our Enemies

Through The Despised Ones‘ network, I found out that a prominent writer/blogger Ken Silva has been suffering from intense pain owing to an unforeseen disease in his spinal cord. I personally had not heard his name before, but I believe I had heard of his antics, so I looked through his posts. Though his present suffering is immense, I could not help but read his older posts with a sense of disgust and disdain. They were truly awful. In the article I read, he just couldn’t help but call Catholics “apostate” as often as possible, counting it mere accident that any Catholic were truly Christian.

According to a private conversation with a fellow blogger, he turned down an offer to join in a cooperative effort to help the poor simply because my fellow blogger supported Rob Bell. I don’t particularly care for Rob Bell, myself (nor do I hate him), but disagreement over that sort of a thing should not stand in the way of doing what is right. Yet Ken Silva seems intent on making people who disagree with him into his enemies. Fine; let him. He is an autonomous individual capable of making his own decisions, even to his ruin. My question is how to love a person like that.

I have hinted at and/or outright stated previously that I have been through two trying periods in my life characterized by hatred directed toward me on the part of fundamentalist Christians, and I find myself really quite unable to figure out what it means to love them in spite of what they’ve done. They hurt me in serious ways. “Love” sounds like a good concept with no practical application to reality. The fact is that I really want to punch some of those people square in the face. I kind of would like to do the same to Silva, because he perpetuates the hatred that has hurt me and so many others — friends, loved ones, and strangers alike.

That’s the really challenging thing about Christianity. Paul loved his guard in prison by not escaping from prison when afforded the chance, which would betray the guard to his death. Jesus loved the people whom he came to save sufficiently to not exercise his own will against them even as they put him to death. That is the challenge of the cross: when infinite power comes up against its enemies, what does it do? Jesus chose to love them instead of crushing them like ants.

If I had to hazard a guess as to what it means to love your enemies, I would say this: loving your enemies means surrendering your power to destroy them and hoping for their gain — true gain, which in the case of Ken Silva means healing of both body and soul. That is what I pray for him, and I hope that it comes to pass. I think I can honestly say the same about those who have hurt me: I really want their true healing. That would be a lot better than their annihilation.

But still, I remain vexed as to how to pray for such people. The temptation is for my prayer to run something like this: “Please heal this poor, deluded sinner, and let him think like me.” I can’t think of anything more patronizing, and I would be ashamed to pray like that. Again, I am only throwing out conjecture, but I suppose our prayers must be honest about our frustration: “God, everything that I am and that I have experienced tells me I should hate this person, but I’m really trying not to. Heal this person in body and mind.”

That’s about the best I can offer. Anyone who has other thoughts, please chime in, because I don’t know what to think, here.

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About Chris Attaway

Raised in the digital wilderness of the pre-Internet 2.0 era, Chris Attaway is a true gamer and Internet citizen. After a stint studying computer science, his life got flipped turned upside down, and he ended up studying philosophy to help him sort out his life. Now the black sheep in a family of engineers, he has set out to get his footing in the world of freelance journalism. With interests ranging from gaming and technology to LGBT rights, race and politics, Chris is a diverse and skilled writer who always tries to give a fair shake to his subjects.
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14 Responses to Loving our Enemies

  1. jonolan says:

    And that is exactly why I could never be a Christian. I could respect my enemy but never love him. Nor could I not strive to bring about his annihilation and that of any kin he might have that would naturally seek reprisal if he was the enemy also of those I am responsible for.

    Your belief in loving your enemies is very well what may doom your religion and deny it to your children or your children’s children because you keep balking at what is necessary to defend it from your enemies.

    • Quite the contrary; what I have seen of the Christian attempt to defend Christianity has been precisely its undoing in modern times. Apologetics has driven so many from the faith that I can’t think of a less productive enterprise for Christians. Perhaps this sort of defense is incompatible with the ideas it is trying to defend, and thus it strikes others as disingenuous and drives them away.

      • jonolan says:

        LOL You think in terms of apologetics whereas I think in terms of actual defense such as removing one’s enemies from any position where they can harm one or what or who one cares about.

        Then again, loving one’s enemy doesn’t leave much for defense other than apologetics, which I agree do not serve anyone well because they are just attempts to justify Divine decrees in terms which are acceptable to mortals who won’t ever accept those decrees in the first place.

      • I would cycle back four posts and read my two-part series on suffering in Christianity.

      • jonolan says:

        I, at your suggestion, did so. I’ll leave now. Much of what you said alluded to ideas that would make you an enemy to be destroyed for the sake of defending of what I’ve sworn to protect and there’s no further point in discourse.

        Please block me to avoid further accidental contact between us.

      • Jonolan, I have perused your site, and you seem to be very conservative and fairly clear-thinking individual; however, what you have stated here could be construed as a threat, and I want to offer you the chance to explain yourself, because I take threats very seriously. If you would, please, I would appreciate that.

    • Ken Nichols says:

      “I could respect my enemy but never love him.”

      Jonolan, this is so true of ALL of us, whether we choose to call ourselves Christians or not. The ability to love, truly LOVE, anyone comes ONLY from God through Christ. It is a matter of seeing the world differently, and therefore seeing people differently than we do as humans. It’s most definitely a supernatural thing that doesn’t come from US at all. And the amazing thing is when this supernatural love is prevalent, it changes your enemies INTO your friends, thus negating the problem of your enemies destroying you. You can’t change your enemies into your friends from the outside, you can only tolerate (respect) them. But the true love of Christ gets into a person’s heart and changes it from the inside, which will eventually change their attitudes towards YOU.

  2. Ken Nichols says:

    I think what helps ME deal with people like this is to take myself OUT of the situation. In other words, my prayer for THEM needs to have NOTHING to do with ME. MY current emotions preclude me from wanting to help them, and there’s no point in trying to pretend they don’t. So I ask God to work in that person’s life to make Himself and His will clear (not as I define that, but simply as He sees fit). Then I ask God to help ME see this person (and ALL people) as God sees them (not as hostile and angry, but as broken and hurting) and give me the love I don’t have within myself for them. You can’t “conjure up” love on a whim, it really HAS to come directly from Christ, because it is supernatural in nature. So, in summary, be honest with yourself and God, ask that God give THEM a greater revelation of Himself and give YOU a different perspective and supernatural love for people.

    • If we take ourselves *out*, then it is only God loving that man. Only when we are honest with God about who we are and how we feel can that begin to change. I suspect, though, that you’re saying the same thing I am, though perhaps less carefully-worded.

      The main issue I see here is that if we try to rationalize their condition from “hostile and angry” to “broken and hurting,” we may be guilty of patronizing them. Maybe they really are hostile and angry. I don’t see why we would suppose they are otherwise unless given a reason to do so… and even with a reason *why* they’re hostile and angry — such as a bad experience — doesn’t change the fact that they still are hostile and angry. It’s a dangerous place where we start second-guessing others’ emotions.

  3. Mary Rogers says:

    Hi Chris,

    I read Ken’s comment a bit different than you have. We can understand that underneath the anger is someone who is broken because we are all in the same boat. Psychologically anger is not a primary emotion. There are two emotions that give rise to anger: fear and/or hurt.

    Now understanding this of course does not mean we have to accept someone’s bad behavior, however in my own life I am working on forgveness and I have found that when I pray for their healing that I am able to let go easier. The only way that this can be patronizing is if we place ourselves above that person and judge them. I am certainly not saying that I have mastered this. Easier said than done, for sure!

    • Ken Nichols says:

      Thank you, Mary. Yes, that is exactly what I meant. I don’t think we are judging someone’s motives when we assume that negative actions are caused by emotional hurt. That’s pretty much a given. We all act out when we are hurt or feel threatened. It’s just a natural human response.

      Also, Chris, I didn’t mean to imply that we should REMAIN out of the equation in regards to dealing with difficult people, but that we should realize that their relationship with God is more important than our relationship with them, and that God doesn’t NEED us in order to forge or strengthen that relationship. Still, we should be open to building a relationship with them as opportunity arises based on God’s love running through us, not trying to manufacture it out of our own abilities.

      I hope that clarifies and I’m pretty sure we are on the same page with this, which is wonderful in light of the hostile responses that I see spewd across “Christian” websites and FB pages. Where’s the love?

  4. Not in any way Arthur says:

    To paraphrase AA. Accept the things you cannot change. Change the things you can. Know the difference.

    Why does loving the jackasses at the acts whatever church really matter? Your love does nothing. Your hate does nothing also. Just screw ’em.

    This doesn’t necessarily apply to all people in that church or all potential converts to said church, but for the council of Rivendale, or whatever they call themselves, screw ’em.

    If try as you might you’re caught with them and subjects come up be civil or dodge the subject depending upon preference at the time and if they seem amenable to change. If they start the conversation with “let me tell you why you’re going to hell and a servant of Satan” I suggest spacing out or leaving. If it’s like “here’s the latest from Answers in Genisis” then maybe.

    Just my two cents.

    • (Just as an aside to anyone reading this, “Not in any way Arthur” is a personal friend commenting on some real-life situations from my past)

      The reason it’s important to me is that the nature of Christ’s salvation is universal and extends even to horrendous douchebags. If I can’t commit myself to attempting to love such people, then I can’t really call myself Christian.

  5. Cheryl Dau says:

    Some of us struggle with getting our feelings hurt and see those who hurt our feelings or disagree with us as enemies. Others are choosing to love and forgive people by the grace of God, who have have tortured and/or murdered someone they love. For me it is harder for me to forgive someone for hurting someone I love than forgiving an offense done to me. I suggest some links concerning forgiveness because it is the essential ingredient if you want to love your enemy. http://www.salsa.net/peace/conv/8weekconv4-2.html
    http://www.rw360.org/2013/05/30/love-your-enemy/
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fLh_Hu93DlM Forgiveness Part 1
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dA3urR869bI Forgiveness Part 2

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