“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 children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Another selection from the Sermon on the Mount today, picking up just a little bit after where we left off yesterday. In this section, Jesus focuses intently on charity toward enemies. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”, just as God does, as God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good”. Namely, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Jesus is summarizing what we read yesterday regarding why it is so important to reconcile ourselves with one another, but expanding it as well to all our enemies. Be charitable toward all people, not simply your brothers and sisters. Even pagans love their own, but in order to be truly Christ-like we need to be more.
“Love your enemies” is one of those things that will always be immediately applicable. Think of the state of society at any point in history, and it seems that humanity is always in need of someone to remind us to love our enemies. During the Cold War, for example, communists were not human. I think anyone who lived through that time would tell you that. They were the image of evil, dehumanized to the point that hating them didn’t feel “wrong” in any sense of the word. Indeed, it felt patriotic and right. Before that, it was Jews, or Native Americans, or African Americans. Today is no different. We demonize anyone who is not like us, whether it’s racial, religious, gender-related, political differences, or anything else, we seem to care so much about being upstanding and righteous that we become self-righteous. Anyone who disagrees with us or is different from us is an enemy. Anyone who was upstanding and righteous like I am would agree with me, which means that those who do not must have something wrong with them. They are beneath me.
That’s an attitude which rears its ugly head in every era of human history. I am not sure if it is more prevalent now, but it certainly feels like it is. The advent of social media and highly-sophisticated search engines has placed a gigantic megaphone on the worst of all human qualities—the overpowering need to be right. We surround ourselves with like-minded people, sure, but people have always done that. But now, in the interest of keeping you as a customer, search and content algorithms on Google, Facebook, Tumblr, Reddit, all of your favorite online websites, are tailored to show you content that you will enjoy. It helps keep you coming to their site. But that means not only do we not interact with our enemies very often, which has always been the case, it means that we are probably not even living in the same reality as our enemies. I may be fed news stories by these algorithms from the mainstream media, while others are fed only content from extreme right-wing blog sites, because the algorithm sees that we are each more likely to click on those types of links. Not only are we different—that is, having different political opinions—but we quite literally have different realities.
The fact that this is the case today makes it all the more necessary to be reminded to love our enemies. It is so much easier to dehumanize our enemies when we live in increasingly tighter and more impenetrable “bubbles”. Jesus calls us to pop that bubble. Even the pagans love those inside their bubble. But Christ loves all, and it is our duty as Christians to conform ourselves to Christ.