F. Neil Folks: Love our enemy as ourselves
Love our enemy as ourselves — what a commandment from God’s son.
And he also said trust the enemy before our friend. Let’s sort some of this out and see if we can make some sense of this charge.
Jesus said love is the only goal, God is love and our neighbor can be our enemy, as well. We are to love our neighbor as ourselves, not as much as we love ourselves. And I am afraid this includes the sex offenders, the abusers, the murderers, the child molesters — and the list goes on — as well as loving the righteous and other good souls.
There is no partiality of God’s love or his grace. In order to follow this great commandment, we first must understand who this “other” is in God’s universe.
St. John of the Cross, in his “Spiritual Canticle,” describes to me the very process of love at its best:
“You give a piece of yourself to the other.
You see a piece of yourself in the other (usually unconsciously).
This allows the other to do the same in return, if capable (my emphasis).
You do not need or demand anything back from them, because you know you are both participating in a single bigger gazing and loving — one that fully satisfies and creates an immense inner aliveness (in normal situations, my emphasis).
Simply to love is its own reward.
You accept being accepted — for no reason and by no criteria whatsoever!”
John is writing about everyone being basically “normal,” biologically and psychologically. Yet we know the world isn’t all perfect as I just mentioned.
How can we love someone that’s very atypical? The Good Book says God knows each and everyone while in the womb, yet some are born far from being “normal.”
Here, we must realize that God set the universe into motion with his biological and physical laws and lets the universe progress accordingly to these laws. Although some are very, very mentally off-balance, they are still God’s children. If you don’t love your brother, or the least amongst you, then you don’t love me, Jesus said.
They are all my children.
God requires us to treat such souls with dignity, respect and love. He’ll do the judging.
Although we are to love the worst of the worst, that doesn’t mean we have to like what they do. It’s our job to get them the help they need.
Oftentimes, we forget that our “normal” world can be turned upside down in seconds, and in the woundedness and suffering we experience, we hope others will treat us this same way — with respect, dignity and love, and maybe a dose of hope.