So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Love thy enemy: enemy mine; enemy other.

May this season of grace be a time when we can all look at ourselves in our daily mirror with honest eyes. May God give us the grace to see clearly what we need to change, and may we have the good sense to ask His help in making those changes.

Love your enemies. Pray for your persecutors.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.—St. Matthew 5:43-48.
First off, let's hope one's enemies are very few in number. A plethora of enemies might indicate that perhaps the real enemy is the common one who is staring back at you in the mirror.

Or, perhaps, the reason one has many enemies might be due to the fact one is a follower of the Truth in a community defined by (riddled or saturated with) relativism and falsehood. If that is the case, it is hardly one's fault when dissenters are offended when the truth is spoken to power.

Loving one's enemies.

Notice the possessive case, i.e., one's enemies. In a sense, our enemies belong to us. They are our enemies; he or she is my enemy. Some punctilious grammarians might say that the use of the genitive case indicates that we construct our enemies. In English we use the expression 'to make an enemy'.

Because he or she is my enemy, as a Christian I have an obligation to understand his or her motivations, his/her reason for being my enemy. To put it another way, I have an obligation to understand why I have made someone, or he has made himself, my enemy.

What makes an enemy?
  • The commitment of one offence?
  • Multiple offences constituting a pattern of behaviour?
Do we define our enemies in our own image?

A temptation to resist is the act of turning a person into a some-thing, leaving them less than a some-one, a mere thing versus a person. It's much easier to dismiss, attack and assassinate a thing than a person. Attacking a thing seems less offensive because a mere thing is less than a person. Some people seem to practice the art of making others look less than human with exceptional skill in order to give themselves permission to wage war against an enemy-thing rather than an enemy-person. Equating a person with an insect one typically swats without feeling badly is a sure sign that one's head and heart are empty of compassion.

Jesus shows us the way out of what binds us to rivalry and adversarialism. We who call ourselves Christians are reminded on a daily basis (if we, for example, attend daily Mass) that the law of love requires we love our enemies and pray for our persecutors and to not de-person-alize them. The cycle of violence created by rivalry is only undone when one offers oneself in sacrifice for another. No greater love hath a man than to lay down his life for another.

To be clear, our one enemy, as we are reminded (Ephesians 6:12), is evil:
For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Some people align themselves with evil; thus, to a greater or lesser degree, they make themselves an enemy of humanity. They are allies of the enemy of all mankind, the devil. That is not to say we should demonize those who persecute us or consign someone to hell simply because we do not like what they do or how they do it (... whatever 'it' is.). That would be small minded and diabolical. It may be, however, that the reason we do not like what someone does is because their behaviour is unreasonable, unjust, undignified, unhealthy and unbecoming a child of God. We have a responsibility to identify and challenge bad behaviour, first in ourselves.

If we judge and marginalize the person unjustly by failing to distinguish between the person and his/her behaviour, then we risk becoming like the ugly thing we detest and want to avoid, i.e., an enemy of God and an enemy of mankind.

Getting to know you.

How might one better understand one's human enemies?
  • Start by focussing on the offending behaviour.
Does he (my enemy) provoke me directly in some manner?
  • In what way(s) does his behaviour actually threaten my well being?
  • Is the threat real or imagined?
Does he (my enemy) provoke me indirectly in some manner?
  • In what way(s) does he threaten my family? friends? colleagues? co-workers? etc?
  • In what way(s) does his behaviour threaten the well being of the common good?
How do we proceed without becoming controlled by disordered passions?
  • Focus on your own ability to act rather than reacting to offending behaviour.
  • Are my objections to another's behaviour reasonable? Is the behaviour to which I object truly irrational or merely irksome to me personally? 
  • Just because someone is angry with me does not mean I am the cause of his anger. That person is likely already angry, angry because of unresolved baggage, and our word or action allowed him the opportunity to make us a target. If we can absorb the initial attack or redirect the arrow aimed at us, perhaps by asking the obvious question, i.e., 'Why are you so angry?', perhaps the one who assails us might pause and see through the moment to the actual cause of his anger.
Jesus, Cross, Soldier, Spear.

Jesus, hanging on the cross, absorbed the thrust of the soldier's spear. Water and blood poured out, not anger nor threat of retaliation. The way of Jesus is to absorb and transform the wickedness of the world. When called upon, we are to lay down our lives in defence of others.

Weapons of Reconciliation

Indulging an adversary's bad behaviour is usually a waste of time and resources. The very constructive activity of praying for one's enemy and disarming him through charitable engagement, however, is a good waste of time.

Do not look on him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.
—2 Thessalonians 3:15.

To love someone does not mean we acquiesce to his or her bad behaviour. Given an unjust attack, we may have little choice but to confront someone's bad behaviour in a firm and loving manner in order to prevent an escalation of hostility and additional injustices.

In as much as we might try to resolve matters by acting, some people reject peacemaking because they are not ready to receive peace. Their hearts are conditioned to chaos, anger or some other obstacle preventing them from pursuing the path of peace. When someone is not at peace with himself he makes the whole world, or at least his part of it, into a battlefield. Our first line of defence is to entrust our warring brothers and sisters to God. In all cases, we surrender a child of God to the One Who made him or her.

The ability to avoid reacting to our enemy's behaviour takes discipline, daily practice and, most of all, dependence on the grace of God.

Some people seem to enjoy provoking others. A skilled eye or ear can distinguished between mere attention seeking and ill will. The ability to see through the effects to the cause requires many virtues, not the least of which is patience. If we fail and react in a less than constructive manner, then perhaps we should enter the confessional and try another approach to confronting unacceptable behaviour. Undergirding all our efforts should be prayer and the counsel of a wise guide.

When reason is spent, faith provides.

Prayer should elevate our commitment to reason and elevate our capacity to embrace trials for the sake of another. Reason can and should affirm and purify faith. There is no dichotomy between faith and reason.

A reasonable person must admit that when all attempts at reconciliation are exhausted, someone must bear the burden of loving when loving hurts the most. In spite of loss, anger, violence, all of which can be terribly irrational and confounding to even the most optimistic among us, the realist continues to love, loving even to the point of death. The martyr saints, in particular, remind us that the cost of love is death. Preferring one's own death to that of an enemy's is the way of the saint. Think of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, OFM Conv., the martyr of charity who offered himself so that Franciszek Gajowniczek might live. It takes the grace of God to live and die like Saint Maximilian. It takes grace to forgive another.

We should not hesitate to ask for the grace to forgive. If we cannot readily forgive, we should ask for the grace to forgive our lack of forgiveness and continue to pray for the grace to forgive.
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Unless we forgive, we are bound to our enemies in ways that are often soul destroying. The danger of forming a grudge is all too easy, and the consequence of retaining a grudge into eternity is too terrible to imagine.

How do we respond to the unjust aggressor with whom there is no possibility of peaceful coexistence?

As the Lord teaches:
    Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.—St. John 15:13.
Defend the innocent by all just means.
  • Offer oneself in place of another after the example of Saint Maximilian.
  • CCC2261 Scripture specifies the prohibition contained in the fifth commandment: "Do not slay the innocent and the righteous." The deliberate murder of an innocent person is gravely contrary to the dignity of the human being, to the golden rule, and to the holiness of the Creator. The law forbidding it is universally valid: it obliges each and everyone, always and everywhere.
  • CCC2262 In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord recalls the commandment, "You shall not kill," and adds to it the proscription of anger, hatred, and vengeance. Going further, Christ asks his disciples to turn the other cheek, to love their enemies. He did not defend himself and told Peter to leave his sword in its sheath.
Legitimate Defense: Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), Fifth Commandment.
  • 2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one's own life; and the killing of the aggressor. . . . The one is intended, the other is not.—St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II,64,7, corp. art.
  • 2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one's own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow: If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful. . . . Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one's own life than of another's.—St. Thomas Aquinas, ibid.
  • 2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.
Own worst enemy.

Own your enemy. Own your actions. A common colloquial expression is "to own someone". That expression typically means to better or best one's adversary in business, sports, etc. It can be an expression used in playful banter with just a hint of condescension, or it can be a restrained expression of the worst kind of sinful pride. So, flip the expression on its head by owning up to your own faults.
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.—St. Matthew 7:3-5.
Do I create enemies in a vain attempt to control or blame others for my own failure(s)?
  • If 'yes', redirect your spiritual weapon at a different target. Target sin in your own life. Own that target. Target yourself, your mind and heart, with the weapon of repentance and contrition and die to self so that you might live.
  • By dying to self and following Jesus we discover our true nature, our true identity.
  • We, all of us, are created in the image and likeness of God. Respect for all is rooted in our fundamental dignity as children of God. Christ gives the Holy Spirit so we can live that dignity and respect the dignity of others, even those whose behaviour requires that we challenge them in word and deed to better respect human dignity.
  • By our words and deeds, actions that require the grace of God to be authentic, Christians propose to others the path of life that we live and know to be true for all men. How do we know the truth? Reason illumined by faith (cf. Fides et Ratio by Pope St. John Paul II).

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"A multitude of wise men is the salvation of the world(.)—Wisdom 6:24. Readers are welcome to make rational and responsible comments. Any comment that 1) offends human dignity and/or 2) which constitutes an irrational attack on the Catholic Faith will not go unchallenged. If deemed completely stupid, such a comment will most assuredly not see the light of day. Them's the rules. Don't like 'em? Move on.

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