Friday, January 28, 2005

How Do You Love Your Enemy?

How do you love your enemy? How do you let go of your anger and animosity and fear? Is it merely an act of will, a matter of right thinking? Is it a product of emotional development, or intellectual insight?

Or is it an act of faith?

You cannot love what you do not know. To try to do so is an act of madness, an empty gesture that proves meaningless. But how do you love the one you know who does wish to harm you, the one who seeks your life or the life of those you care about? How do you decide what is within, and what is outside, your control?

Begin with your self. Where is your center? What is your self? How do you define it? Is it the boundaries you try to maintain? Or is it the irreducible center that you recognize and accept? Is it established by your constant efforts? Or is it established from before the time you were born, and you need merely hold on to it? And do you find it by your own efforts? Or by your openness?

Greek epistemology presumes that all knowledge worth knowing is uncovered by an act of will: a willingness to learn, to seek, explore, discover and finally know. "We shall not cease from exploration," says Eliot, "and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." But Hebraic epistemology presumes that all knowledge worth knowing is revealed, because all that is, comes from the hand of God; it comes from the Creator.

One pillar of Western civilization presumes that the most important relationships are the human ones, that how we relate to the community, how we find our place in the community, is what defines us as human beings. This is not Greek particularly; it goes back as far as the epic of Gilgamesh. Another pillar of Western civilization, however, presumes that our most important relationship is with the Creator, that from that relationship all other human relationships find their meaning, purpose, and place. This is why Genesis opens, not with the story of the Garden of Eden, but with the six days of creation, each act spoken into existence by the Creator, each result pronounced good, and humankind, male and female, placed in the midst of it and given stewardship and responsibility over it, and all related to all and to the Creator because the word of the Creator is the creative force and is the origin of everything that is. All relationships within all creation, start there.

So how do we love our enemy? We start with the impossibility of the command, and with our move toward our center. Love is a matter of vulnerability, but the more we move to our center, the more we move to God (it is the confession of Christianity, after all, that God is who gives us this command), the more we lose our vulnerability to each other, as we gain our security in God. How do we love our enemy? By loving and trusting God. Any other answer would mean it is simply an act of will, that this command is simply a statement of wisdom, and that human effort alone will finally secure our salvation. If that were so, there'd be no need for a Christian confession, for any religious confession, at all.

No comments:

Post a Comment