Lesson 12: Why We Love Our Enemies

MLK PreachingThroughout my ministry, I have repeatedly reread two works in addition to the scriptures: Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov and Martin Luther King’s “Loving Your Enemies. Both express the love narrative I think the Church desperately needs to use in understanding and identifying herself.

The latter is a sermon Dr. King wrote while jailed for committing nonviolent civil disobedience during the 1957 Montgomery bus boycott. It expresses the urgency of following Jesus’ message in a time when egomaniacs from both large and small nations threaten each other with nuclear weapons. But it also offers hope in a time when many wonder if there is any future for humanity. Dr. King proclaims a divine love that transforms hearts and leads to the Beloved Community of which Jesus spoke. I invite you to ponder his words.

Why should we love our enemies? The first reason is fairly obvious. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.

So when Jesus says, “Love your enemies,” he is setting forth a profound and ultimately inescapable admonition. Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies-or else? The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars- must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.

Another reason why we must love our enemies is that hate scars the soul and distorts the personality. Mindful that hate is an evil and dangerous force, we too often think of what it does to the person hated. This is understandable, for hate brings irreparable damage to its victims. We have seen its ugly consequences in the ignominious deaths brought to six million Jews by hate-obsessed madman named Hitler, in the unspeakable violence inflicted upon Negroes by bloodthirsty mobs, in the dark horrors of war, and in the terrible indignities and injustices perpetrated against millions of God’s children by unconscionable oppressors.

But there is another side which we must never overlook. Hate is just as injurious to the person who hates. Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.

A third reason why we should love our enemies is that love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend. We never get rid of an enemy by meeting hate with hate; we get rid of an enemy by getting rid of enmity. By its very nature, hate destroys and tears down; by its very nature, love creates and builds up. Love transforms with redemptive power.

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  1. Kerry Walters says:

    Thanks for this. I’ll live with these words today.

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