Why We Have to Love Our Enemies

Jesus told us to “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” Indeed, He gave us an example of this when on the Cross He prayed, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” But when we think of our enemies we may think of people we just don’t like, or people we have had arguments with in the past. Not so tough. It gets much more difficult if we have people in our lives who have deeply hurt us, or when we think of people committing grave injustices and violence. Do we still have to love those who commit or promote evil?

This was the question posed by a listener recently on Go Ask Your Father™. The caller wanted to know how to respond to someone who feels passionately that those who work to end the lives of unborn babies are committing evil, who said that they hope pro-choice people ‘burn in hell.’ Monsignor Stuart Swetland responded:

“Well, the Scriptures themselves say that the measure we measure with will be measured back to us.  And to say that you hope someone burns in hell is to say that you hate them. And if you hate someone then you yourself will be rejected by God.

God is particular on this, that we cannot hate anyone. So that kind of response is the kind of response that separate us from God and God’s love. Now, obviously those who have committed grave injustices, or promote grave injustices, are sinning seriously objectively. Subjectively, we don’t know where their heart is because we don’t know their conscious. But objectively that is gravely disordered, and we pray for their conversion. We try to give witness for them to convert. But the worst witness we could possibly give is to want them in hell.

We hate the sin, but not the sinner. The sinner always remains a human person created in the image and likeness of God. And we’re called to love the sinner, even our enemy, especially our enemy. Jesus is specific on this.

If we are Christian, we have no choice but to love our enemy. And to love is to want, will, and work for the true good of the other. So to say, ‘I hope they are in hell’ is to do the opposite of love. It is the definition of hate. Perfect hate is to want someone lost for all eternity.”

Listen to the full conversation below:

Go Ask Your Father airs weekdays at 1:00 p.m. Eastern/10:00 a.m. Pacific on Relevant Radio® and the Relevant Radio App.

Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at relevantradio.com and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.