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Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Danger of Dehumanizing the Enemy

“But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27-28

I think in our society (as in most societies throughout history) we are taught that certain groups of people are our enemies and we learn to label others who are different from us or who may have hurt us or who we don’t understand as our “enemy”, fostering a great hatred for these individuals or groups.
The problem is that we often do not really make an effort to get to know these people or try to understand the reasons for what they do. Several examples come to mind in which I or others I’ve recently talked to were pleasantly surprised by those who we had labeled as “bad” when in fact, it was discovered that they are really quite incredible and inspiring people.
If we only took the time to get to know our “enemies” and understand them a little (whether they be individuals or entire populations) we might actually accomplish something and find some solutions to our problems. I think the reason that Jesus tells us to pray for and love our enemies is because if we truly do that, it will be difficult to still see them as our enemy. We will probably not agree on some things, but at least we will begin to view them as real people who we value and respect and (as I have often found to be the case) we might even come to like them.


Anonymous said...

what is it thenthat makes it so difficult?....ego,pride or both? It's a stand off the first one to blink loses.

Michelle said...

Nice reflection, Matt. So true-- We often hear "God loves you." We hear it so much that we accept it, we try to convince others of that truth, we even make it into bumper stickers and pins. Perhaps what we really need to think about, though, is who is included in the "you?" Everyone, not just those that stand with us-- the enemies in our lives are also included.

For the first time when I read this, God turned my thoughts inward. I am reminded of the "enemies" within ourselves-- those parts of us that we find unappealing and unattractive. I'm not talking about the physical (that's a whole other topic in itself!), but rather the things that we consider weaknesses. Maybe for some of us, it's our need for control, or our temper, how we let our fears become objects of our obsessions, or our need to feel needed. Some of us may feel we have to prove ourselves to others to be accepted, so we hide those parts, lock them up, and pretend it's all fine and dandy. The funny thing is, we'll even go so far as to hide those parts from God-- the Lord who created us with those idiosyncrasies in the first place! So perhaps one of the messages we can also get from this scripture is accepting and loving the "enemies" within ourselves. We can do this by owning them: naming and claiming them as real and then beginning to work on them. Nobody's perfect, so go easy on yourself. Love yourself. Be good and gentle with yourself. Bless yourself.

On another note: That's a good question: What makes it so difficult to love "the other"? You mention pride & ego. I'd agree that those have a large sway in our unwillingness to love, but sometimes it's fear. Fear of the unknown, fear that "the other" will take advantage of us, fear of rejection... fear that we OURSELVES are "the other." BOOM.