Guest Article – Love your enemies

Jesus’ understanding of what kind of God God is and what God expects of us was radically out of harmony with people’s religious and secular consciousness at the time of His birth, as it is two thousand years after His birth. In his seminal work on the subject of the Jewishness of Jesus entitled, Jesus of Nazareth (1921), the famous Hebrew Biblical scholar Joseph Klausner, writes,

“There was yet another element in Jesus’ idea of God, which Judaism could not accept. Jesus tells his disciples to love their enemies, as well as their friends since their Father in heaven makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends his rain upon the righteous and the ungodly…With this Jesus introduces something new into the idea of God…But his teaching has not proved possible. Therefore he left the course of ordinary life untouched, wicked, cruel, pagan and his exalted ethical idea has been relegated to a book, or at most becomes a possession of monastics and recluses who live apart from the paths of ordinary life…As a sole and self-sufficient national code of teaching Judaism could by no means agree with it…and such has been the case with Christianity from the time of Constantine to this present day.

Pharisaic Judaism was too mature; its purpose too fixed to change. Its leaders were fighting for their national existence and grappling with foreign oppressors and with semi-foreigners that sought to crush it, and with a decadent idolatry that sought to absorb it. In such days of stress and affliction they were themselves far removed and would remove also their fellow Jews from the dangerous fantasies [of Jesus], an extremism which most of the race could not endure. They saw at the outset what the end would be of following Jesus. How could Judaism accede to such an ethical ideal?”

John Meier, Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame and a Catholic priest has spent more than twenty-five years writing five volumes on the Jesus of the Gospel, titled A Marginal Jew. Each volume carries the Imprimatur of the Catholic Church, meaning it is free from doctrinal error. Harold Bloom, Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale, and renowned religious and secular literary critic speaks of John Meier as doing “the finest scholarly work on Jesus at this time.”  In Volume IV, Meier spends twenty- three pages of text and ten pages of footnotes on Jesus command, “Love your enemies.”

He writes,

“’Love your enemies” is a brutal, brief direct command. It is a counterintuitive command. But, Jesus is not so foolish as to command emotions. He is rather commanding his disciples to will good and to do good to their enemies no matter how the disciples may feel about them, and no matter whether the enemies remain enemies despite the goodness shown them. [Emphasis in the original] The laconic and disturbing command, ‘Love your enemies,’ finds no exact iteration in the Old Testament or Qumran, or intertestamental literature prior to A.D. 70, or even in literature that is especially relevant to this topic, namely, pagan philosophical works. By ‘exact iteration’ I mean that no parallel, however, close in thought or spirit, uses the terse, stark juxtaposition of the ever-popular direct imperative ‘love’ with the impossible object ‘enemies.’  Nowhere though in the huge amount of material that ancient parallels provide us do we find the terse, direct disturbing command, ‘Love your enemies.’ The troubling content is embodied in a troubling formulation, all the more forceful for its brevity and originality. This command goes back to Jesus.”

As a final and hopefully helpful pastoral thought, concerning which all of us should be very clear, “Love you enemies” as spoken by Jesus in the Gospels is never presented as a suggestion or as an invitation, or as a counsel which the Christian is free to follow unless he or she or their institutional Church can come up with a better idea on how to respond to enemies. It is always a command from the Word of God Incarnate, containing not a hint that there are situations or contexts that can override it and make it for a time an inoperable truth in a Christian’s life or a Church’s life.



Is love blind?

We all know the great treatise by St Paul on love (Greek: Agape, Latin: Caritas)

If I speak with the tongues of men, and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And if I should have prophecy and should know all mysteries, and all knowledge, and if I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.  Charity is patient, is kind: charity envieth not, dealeth not perversely; is not puffed up; Is not ambitious, seeketh not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinketh no evil;

Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never falleth away: whether prophecies shall be made void, or tongues shall cease, or knowledge shall be destroyed. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But, when I became a man, I put away the things of a child. We see now through a glass in a dark manner; but then face to face. Now I know in part; but then I shall know even as I am known. And now there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.

Epistle of St Paul to Corinthians 13

Is love blind though? The problem is rooted in the modern misconception that love is a feeling. Love is not a feeling, love is a doing. Love is an action, a “do” verb. The root of the misconception comes from the problem of translating the Greek (and even Latin) word for “love” into English. There are some people who will read Saint Paul’s great treatise on Love in the sense of “eros” reciprocative love, or the emotional feeling that the mainstream media propegandises as “love” (as represented by the Cupid, or the lovey-dovey couple or whatever the media throws at us in this regard).

The emotional feeling, is often blind, because it can be more powerful than reason. “Eros” is also often blind, because the reciprocal satiation (pleasure) is very “more-ish” (addictive). But neither these are the “love” that saves, neither of these are the “love” that Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ talks about. In fact neither of these forms of “love” are actually used in the New Testament, at all.

The love of the New Testament is in Greek; “Agape”. Agape represents the willingness to serve without the desire for reciprocation and the willingness to suffer without the desire for retaliation. This kind of love is never blind. It is summed up in this symbol


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