“How to Raise Human Dignity Very High and Affirm our Shared Humanity in the most Excellent Way”
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
What a tough message to listen to, and what a hard thing to do!
The command to “Love your enemies” simply means to treat people who do not like you or those who hate you with kindness and understanding; it is also a candid instruction to treat them with the same attitude as those who like, admire, favor, or love you.
The call to love the people who despise you is a clarion call to self-examination, to practice humility, and to work toward internal healing through the process of (self-)forgiveness and freeing yourself from anger and an attitude of retaliation or vengeance. Love allows us to be both vulnerable and self-giving.
To pray for the individuals who are persecuting you or those who are causing you pain and suffering is the highest form of Christian spirituality and the noblest expression of human care and empathy toward someone, including your oppressors and abusers. Praying for your enemies and oppressors will lead you to confront your own alienation and vengeful attitude to pursue the welfare and peace of those individuals. Arguably, praying in this way is an act of self-liberation and mental rehabilitation. Intercessory prayers, like the act and practice of love, invite us to go beyond the possible and the visible.
Interestingly, love and prayer are the best gifts an individual can extend to his or her oppressor and abuser. Loving one’s enemies is act of prayer, that is, to earnestly seek divine favor to embark on the journey of reconciliation and peace-making. We become more human and Christ-like when we love and pray for the individuals who can’t stand us. Loving someone, especially the abuser, the enemy, the oppressor, is another way to celebrate (their) human dignity and to affirm someone’s humanity. In the same line of thought, intercessory prayers on behalf of the abuser, the enemy, and the oppressor is the most effective strategy to promote peace and harmony between two individuals who were once enemies and lived in alienation with one another.
The peacemakers are not only children of God when they live in harmony with God and other human beings; they are also individuals who live in peace with their enemies and seek divine favor or blessings on behalf of their persecutors.