Thursday, August 11, 2016

What do Christians do with their enemies?

1. Christians do not revenge. They refuse to open the doors to possibly doing violence and revenge. St. Paul was realistic about the human heart when he wrote, “do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath” (Rm.12/19) and St. Paul continued saying to let the anger of God do its own action. In fact, a better way to show revenge is to show more humanity. St. Paul suggested, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink” (Rm.12/20). In the book of proverbs we are told never to wish bad things against the enemy (see Pr 24/17-18). Christians do not say, “sana ma-disgrasya sya” or “sana ma-karma sya”. If it is really that tough wishing that good things happen to enemies, do not wish bad things, try silence instead and observe the anger arising and passing. I am reminded of the Cain story where God tells the frustrated Cain to be careful, “ sin lies in wait at the door: its urge is for you, yet you can rule over it” (Gen.4/7).
2. St. Paul exhorted “patience, bearing with one another” (Ep 4/2). “If possible”, he wrote, “on your part, live at peace with all” (Rm 12/18). He was realistic in saying “if possible”—hangga’t maaari, sa abot kaya. (No, he did not write in Tagalog). St. Peter was also realistic in recognizing that at times one feels victimized and wants to resort to violence. He wrote, “Let no one among you be made to suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as an intriguer” (1Pt. 4/15). Ok, bad things do happen and bad deeds are done now and then, if not regularly. But St. Peter’s remarks point out that one does not have to fall into the trap of repeating the cycle of doing bad things. When victimized by violence one will only continue to be victim when resorting to violence.
3. Christians do not commit murder but can defend themselves. Jesus said, “Love your enemy as yourself” (Lk 10/27). Yes, “as yourself”. It is alright to require respect for oneself and one’s right to live. Self-defense does not make for a homicide and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) affirms it (see #2261 and #2264). Self defense is even a duty and a responsibility, especially when the lives of others are threatened. Again the CCC has something to say about this (see #2265). A class in moral theology discusses this too.
4. Christians may not be effective enough to completely delete violence from society but they can try to limit violence. Again the CCC (#2309) has something to say about this. Moral theology also discusses this in the topic of “the morality of a just war”.
5. Christians pray and in their prayer they ask that they become channels of peace. Prayer is integral to Christian living. Turning towards God is a big help in resisting answering enemies with violence. “Pray for those who mistreat you (Lk 6/28)”, Jesus said.
6. Christians love their enemies. “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt.22/39). To love one’s enemies is really a recognition of the dignity of the enemy—of any human person—and violence serves as a rejection of this dignity.
7. To love the enemy is a surprising command, it seems bizarre. Jesus says, “I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father” (Mt.5/43-46). The Christian, as disciple of Jesus, is called to live this out.
8. The love of enemies requires mobilization of energies. Jesus is not na├»ve in thinking that loving enemies is easy and natural. Love of enemies is a combat, a battle. The battle is against the temptation to opt for violence. Do not regard the enemy as an enemy, wrote St. Paul, “but admonish him as a brother” (2 Th 3/15). To avoid answering violence with violence is not necessarily a sign of weakness and passivity. It is not to allow injustice and shutting one’s mouth. The social doctrine of the Church states that violence only destroys what it tries to defend. “ Violence destroys what it claims to defend: the dignity, the life, the freedom of human beings” (Compendium #496).
9. Christians love their enemies and even forgive them. To love enemies is also to decide forgiving them. To forgive, in this case, is to help liberate the enemy from the bad things he/she does.
10. Is this but a silly, romantic way of dealing with enemies? Maybe, and without doubt many would really want revenge and countering violence with violence. Many who have really been deeply hurt by violence done to them and their families would, of course, want to resort to violence too. Many will think that the Christian way is…well, too soft and impractical. But I remember what a good friend told me once, Yves Becquart, that the Parousia is not strictly something in the future. Parousia means presence and presence means that the future is always possible. There is always something to look forward to. To treat an enemy with the same strategy as he/she treats me is to reject presence; it is to say that there is no more future to look forward to between you and me; we have chosen to die and condemn ourselves both to the fate that the resurrection of Christ had defeated—the fate of death. In my violence not only do I reject your presence but the presence of God who gives life... for I too prefer death.

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