Do good to those who hate you


In the Book of Samuel we find two mortal enemies, David and Saul, in conflict. Saul is the anointed King of Judah and David has been anointed to succeed him. What happens next is an all too familiar human story.

David is jealous of Saul’s power; Saul is suspicious of David’s motives. How often family feuds and human relations take on these negative forces of jealousy and suspicion resulting in the breakdown of relationships. We also see this operating at the international level between ethnic groups and nations resulting in open conflict and even warfare.

To return to the story of King Saul and the yet-to-be appointed King David, there is a glimmer of light. Previously, in a rage, Saul attempted to kill David by throwing a javelin at him! In today’s story, David has the opportunity to kill Saul, but relents. Choosing not to kill your enemy is a good first step! Even here we note David’s motives are not entirely pure. He acts partly out of guilt, fearing divine anger if he was to kill one of God’s anointed. However, fear of God has its role as a pathway to a more authentic and loving life.

Let us now compare this approach to the words of Jesus in today’s gospel: “Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you.” At a logical level, Jesus’ reasoning is difficult to dispute: “If you only love those who love you, what thanks can you expect?” No, says Jesus, you must overcome all those narrow views of love and forgiveness: “Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.” Moreover, “don’t judge others, don’t condemn, always forgive.”

We may complain that Jesus is asking too much of us! Surely all this love and forgiveness will be seen as pure weakness, leading us to being eaten up, spewed out and trodden underfoot by our enemies! Yet, something within us knows we must break the cycle of violence and vengeance if we are to achieve peace, harmony and goodwill among people and nations. This is the way of the Gospel as lived and proclaimed by Jesus.

This is also the centre-point of Pope Francis’ encyclical Fratelli Tutti (2020) where he uses the parable of the Good Samaritan to insist that love must go beyond tribe, family and nation to include stranger, migrant and refugee. We also note Francis’ joint statement with Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayeb in Abu Dhabi (2019) which acknowledged that “God has created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity, and has called them to live together as brothers and sisters.”

In today’s world, ‘loving your enemy’ is best expressed in terms of commitment to dialogue and mutual respect among peoples of diverse religions and cultures. This enables us to open our hearts to become people of love, service and compassion. This way, we allow God’s love to enter our lives and world keeping in mind Jesus’ words: “The amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back!”

Gerard Hall SM

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