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Loving thy Enemy ... Help!

Lent is upon us -- a time of purification and penance. Because I'm not particularly interested in being just a nice pagan, I thought I would really spend this Lent meditating upon how I can love my enemies (actually, one in particular as I try not to cultivate too many -- which is difficult since I am always defending Justice Scalia). This is easier said than done. While it is not too difficult to love those that wish us ill or hate us for what we stand for, when your enemies infiltrate your personal life or family, that is when it gets tricky.

While I think praying for your enemies and willing their authentic good is a start, does our obligation to love our enemy end there? What are the positive obligations of this command? What if they continue to sin against you and spit in your face? Must we be civil? Must we try to be-friend them? Can we admonish them as sinners and instruct them as ignorant?

I think this would be a great thread in our comments box. Please offer your suggestions to the benefit of our readers (and writers).

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Comments (2)

sniemann:

Certainly it seems we must be civil. In fact, it seems likely to me that the best way to win them over is through transparent and authentic kindness. I don't have an enemy in my own family (that I'm aware of...?) but I think that kindness is the only way. Didn't St. Paul say "Love your enemy and heap coals of fire upon his head"? I had an English teacher who was fond of that particular saying.

What gets tricky for me is when a person whom I am close to is going down the wrong track, and I have already given my opinion about it. What then? Do I go over to the house of the cohabiting cousins? Do I act really happy when someone tells me -- quite spontaneously since I would rather die than ask -- about their husband's vasectomy?

One has no obligation to act happy about the intrinsically immoral acts of one's family members. In fact, one has the obligation not to act happy. One must clearly not make a direct praise of the act, as it is either a sin of omission, a lie, or both. A person can try to avoid the topic entirely if it is prudentially sound and if one has no obligation of correcting the persons, an obligation that seems corelative to the nature of the relationship (e.g., I have a different obligation of correction toward a stranger in a bar than I do to my son.)

That being said, visiting a cohabiting cousin doesn't seem like a problem unless you are going because you specifically approve of the relationship. If you are going because you wish to visit your cousin and would go even if there was no cohabitation, then I think you can go on the same grounds that you could go to someone's house who is openly contracepting (both involve illicit sexual acts). This is all provided that scandal would not result, so your position in life makes some difference.

When your enemies infiltrate your personal life, the first response is unceasing prayer. The second response is to make sure that you are not causing scandal that would keep them from embracing the faith. The third is to engage them in dialogue as appropriate. It is pointless to "throw pearls before swine," especially to someone who won't listen. If, however, they are interested in talking about a moral topic, use the opportunity to your advantage. I have seen good fruits come from the enemies in my life after I stopped initiating dialogue and waiting for them to do so; they seemed to want to talk more often after that.

And among all of these, always stand for truth; never water it down because you think it will bring them home.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 5, 2005 11:00 PM.

The previous post in this blog was Homosexuality for Kids.

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