Christianity and the Problem of Human ViolenceChristianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 56: Loving Our Enemies
from Guide to Kingdom Living

True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth.

Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 56: Loving Our Enemies

By Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

Jesus taught that we should love our neighbors as ourselves. However, because of mimetic rivalries, we often regard our neighbor as our enemy. Yet, Jesus taught that we should love our enemies (Mt 5:44; Luke 6:35). We often find it difficult, or seemingly impossible, to love our enemies. How can we love those who have wounded us badly, or who continue to hurt us and/or those we care about? I think Jesus offered some helpful guidance. For Jesus, love was always about actions, not feelings. The Good Samaritan story did not describe empathy with the injured traveler; it showed how love involves actively helping those in need. When trying to explain the concept of the Kingdom of God with parables, Jesus did not describe a place or a state of mind; he repeatedly described people doing things.

Loving our enemies, then, is something one should do, not necessarily feel. Recognizing that all life comes from God, we may act lovingly towards everything as expression of our love for God. This may be easier to do when we realize that we have all been enemies of God, victimizing the innocent to maintain our worldviews, our self-esteem, and our lifestyles. We almost always see our violence as righteous and just, but all violence is violence against things God created.

When one thinks about the massive torture and killing of animals, for example on factory farms, one sees that humankind has been an enemy of God’s animals. People typically justify their violence against animals on the grounds that animals are “inferior” (as if any of God’s creations are unworthy of respect) or our enemies (e.g., “pests” or “vermin”). Even if we have trouble finding love for God’s animals in our hearts, as disciples of Christ was have a sacred calling to act lovingly towards our animal neighbors.

The problem is that we almost always regard our violence not as violence per se, but as righteous punishment of evil-doers. One reason that Christians believe in retribution and punishment is that they believe that God endorses punishment. The Bible says, “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord” (Deut 32:35). Theoretically, this should discourage human vengeance, but in practice those who seeking vengeance have generally believed that they are assisting God. Our desire for revenge is strong, particularly when our self-esteem has been damaged or when those who have offended us seem to live smugly and comfortably. It is tempting to expedite God’s “justice” by avenging those who, we believe, have wronged us. However, the declaration, “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord” does not necessarily mean that God will mete out punishment. What it says is that, if there is vengeance to be had, it is the proper province of God, not people. A principal source of the conviction that God demands punishment derives from Paul’s letter to the Romans.

Next week, we will begin to explore how Paul’s discussion of “the wrath of God” has been widely misunderstood.

Go on to: Part 57: The Wrath . . . of God? part 1: Introduction
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