The Practice Of Loving and Forgiving Your Enemies
We Can’t Love Our Enemies without Loving God First
Loving our enemies is a direct result of the love of God. The divine agape is manifested in us by changing us to be more like God, and insofar as we are changed, we make room for God’s love to work in us and through the divine agape, we can be united to our enemies. Again: loving our enemies is only possible when we are filled with God’s love, content to be in His presence, and not worried or fearful about the outcome of our actions.
In the act of loving our enemy, we must submit our feelings and will to revelation to embrace a personal martyrdom of the spirit, the tangible denial of our own selfish motives, and desire the good for someone else. It seems that this is only possible when our own selfish hearts are totally content to be one with God, loving Love Himself even more than we love ourselves. In a basic way, loving our enemy means that our wills are perfectly subjected to God and we respond to others not as our feelings might dictate, but as God would.
Consider the martyrs of the Church, especially those who died blessing their persecutors or commending their murderers to God. These men and women knew that nothing external in their lives could separate them from the love of God. The martyr’s entire being (mind, heart, will, emotions) is so enrapt in the divine love that they fear nothing and act with perfect integrity. They realize in a basic way that their life does not belong to them, it belongs to God.
In a practical way, loving an enemy means that we must act with integrity and kindness toward him, respecting his freedom to be obnoxious or cruel, and desiring to be united to him. In a practical way, when we fail to act with integrity and kindness toward an enemy, it’s a good indication that we may not be as in love with God as we think we are.
If we have a difficult time desiring union with those who hate us or harm us, here are some things that may be holding us back:
- We are particular with our reputation more than our position before God.
- We are fearful of some specific outcome.
- Our passions have control of us instead of our higher sense of agape.
- We don’t want to look foolish.
- We actually want a disaster to come to another person.
- We are worried about the comforts of the world more than the consolation of God.
When we don’t really love our enemy and hunger to be united to him, then our hearts are not subject to revelation and we’re permitting selfish motives and desires to display themselves in us. Our Lord says in Luke 6:45 that when our hearts are filled with God, good works flow from us. There is a direct correlation between our good actions and the presence of God within us.
Truly, the command of Our Lord to love our enemies does not seem easy. But when we’re fully immersed in God’s love, we find out the easiness of our yoke (Matt 11:28-30). Consider the picture of the martyr of the Spanish Civil War, Blessed Martin Martinez Pascual. This picture was taken instantly before his execution. He looks as easy and content as though he had stopped for a photo when out for a hike in the country. There is no fear in his eyes, no worry or terror at what he knows will soon afflict him. He’s more than content to live in the moment and be a faithful witness in his submission to Divine Love, finding joy even in this last minute of his life.
God raises up martyrs to restore our hope. When we look at the photograph of Blessed Martin, we see that it’s possible to be united to our Divine Beloved and, from that union, reach out to be united to those around us, perfectly accomplishing Our Lord’s command to love our enemy.
Actually, this is not easy for us, but Our Lord will give us the grace to do His will if we ask it of Him. Begin today by saying a prayer for someone who has hurt you or a loved one and then praying for the grace to love that person in spite of their actions. Watch the power of prayer make what may have seemed impossible possible even for our fallen human hearts.