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Jesus calls us to love our enemies

Jesus calls us to love our enemies

Talking Point by Fr Peter Day

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”  (Matthew 5:43) 

DAVID was a good Jewish man, faithful to his God, devoted to his family and deeply connected to his land.

Khalid was a good Palestinian man, faithful to his God, devoted to his family and deeply connected to his land.

Each year, in early spring, David and Khalid would meet for a chat at a small cafe.

It always began with a respectful, silent handshake.

Then, after a kindly nod towards the waiter, the pair would sit down.

More silence would follow, usually a couple of minutes, until their coffee and sweet biscuits arrived.

Then, without any small talk, off they went – as they had done for 30-odd years:

Said the Jew: “I think it’s important we are allowed to state our case.”

Said the Palestinian: “I think it’s important we are allowed to state our case.”

Said the Jew: “This is rightfully our land.”

Said the Palestinian: “This is rightfully our land.”

Said the Jew: “We are victims of your aggression.”

Said the Palestinian: “We are victims of your aggression.”

Said the Jew: “We will fight ‘til the bitter end.”

Said the Palestinian: “We will fight ‘til the bitter end.”

Said the Jew: “We are a brutalised and traumatised people.”

Said the Palestinian: “We are a brutalised and traumatised people.”

Said the Jew: “You hate us.”

Said the Palestinian: “You hate us.”

Said the Jew: “There can be no peace ‘til you change your ways.”

Said the Palestinian: “There can be no peace ‘til you change your ways.”

Said the Jew: “Mmm, a nice coffee. Give my regards to your family. See you next year.”

Said the Palestinian: “Mmm, a nice coffee. Give my regards to your family. See you next year.”

The never-ending cycle of misery that is the Middle East is a painful reminder to us all of the consequences borne out by pride, hatred and an inability to forgive.

On a much smaller scale, we too can find ourselves living in a state of “war”, a war within that corrodes and destroys – a culture of death.

The Easter event, on the other hand, is a glorious reminder of the consequences borne out by humility and forgiveness.

It invites us to that place the warmongers and cynics want us to believe does not exist – communion with the One who, while pinned to a wooden cross, said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing”: a culture of Life.

This commandment – it was not merely a suggestion or recommendation – to love our enemy is extraordinary … and unreasonable and irrational and, gosh, nigh on impossible.

Yet it is the only way to end the “war”.

It is Christianity at its purest, saltiest, and most transformative.

And, while one might be a wonderful prayer, or Mass-goer, or charity worker – none of us can claim to know and love Christ until we are prepared to know and love our enemy.

Fr Peter Day is a priest of the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn.

Written by: Staff writers
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