“To you who hear I say, love your enemies, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic.”
Who is capable of doing this? To love one’s enemies, do good to them and to pray for them is foolishness in the eyes of the world. But this is the norm for Christians. Is there really anybody in this world who can do things such as these?
I believe, being able to treat our enemies well requires forgiveness. We must forgive them first before we can be good to them. Do we really have to forgive them and do good to them? Why can’t we simply just love those who love us in return, and be good to those who are good to us? Is this a kind of a test for all believers before we can be assured of a place in heaven? The gospel says, “Forgive and you will be forgiven.” But what if I cannot do that because I am only human? Well, it scares me to think that I will end up in hell if I will not comply with what Christ is telling us to do. Still, there are people out there that are bent to keep a promise not to forgive an enemy even until death. I believe they are destined to rot in that fiery furnace of Satan.
I had experienced a lot of little “wars” with people around me. I experienced hurting and even scandalizing people because of my misbehavior, and I also experienced getting hurt by others because of their misdeeds and insensitivity. Sometimes I win and sometimes I lose. Well, that is the reality of life. My human aspect would always whisper in my ears to get even and be on the upper hand at all cost. Doing so, however, will not add any amount to my bank account but it will only add a lot of noise of revenge in my head and will leave me feeling so stressed to the limits.
In normal human situations, I am always good to those who are good to me and I can be so crude to those “toxic” people who are out there to bring down your enthusiasm to the lowest level. But I know that I must transcend this attitude if I want to be a real Christian. To be a Christian is not always easy and most people ignore the teaching of Jesus to forgive and pray for our enemies because it is harder to do than to engage with them on a level ground and equal footing.
Christ Jesus set an example for us to follow when He forgave those who crucified Him on the cross. St. John Paul II, after recovering from his gunshot wounds, visited his murderous assailant in jail and assured him of his forgiveness.
But what is the real meaning of forgiveness? What does it take to forgive? Forgiving a person who has done a terrible mistake is humiliating on the part of the one who forgives. It is a swallowing of one’s pride and putting aside his dignity and it may even mean forgetting his very self. So, it takes a great leap just to forgive because our human nature is simply against this idea of forgiveness… it is only reserved to the “divine” and to those who have that divine life in them. Forgiveness is a noble gift, and when it is authentically offered and genuinely received. But, a gift of forgiveness, which is followed by constant reminders of the other’s past guilt, is not a gift at all. There is no forgiveness or freedom if hurtful memories of faraway sins are brought up again and again.
Who is capable of loving their enemies? People who were transformed by the Spirit, they could love their enemies. If we look only to ourselves and to our own talents and abilities and everything that we have, the demands of the gospel reading are impossible. But by praying to the Holy Spirit, even the impossible can become a way of life, a life that will, in turn, transform the world. By loving our enemies, we are transforming the world and we become children of the Most High.