In all likelihood, none of us have an archnemesis or a main enemy. Most of us live regular daily lives and avoid dealing with people who we don’t like or who cause us problems. It’s easier to just associate with friends and family than it is to face adversity on a consistent basis. However, we might be in a situation where our “enemies” are unavoidable like at school or work. In this case, how do we deal with this person? Do we pray for their downfall or rejoice when they suffer misfortune? Or do we pray for them, forgive them, and hope that they make better decisions?
Josh Raymond welcomed Father Craig DeYoung back to The Inner Life to discuss praying for and loving your enemies.
We’ve seen this type of behavior in the Bible a few times, namely at the execution of St. Stephen and even the Crucifixion of Jesus. St. Stephen said, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (Acts 7:60) And we of course remember the words of Our Lord on the cross, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) As Father Craig pointed out, the mission of a Christian is to attain eternal salvation, and to do that we must imitate Christ. “God became man that man might become God,” in the sense that by following the example of Jesus Christ, we will participate in God’s life.
Even before Jesus’s crucifixion, we read in the Sermon on the Mount a similar sentiment. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” (Matthew 5:43-45) Contrary to many stories or movies we get from modern entertainment, God is the hero and when we sin, we make ourselves the villain. But God does not want to punish us for our sins. He wants to redeem the villain so that we may all share in the hero’s glory.
There’s no advantage to sharing in the hate of one’s enemy because the conflict inevitably escalates and then your enemy has successfully dragged you into the mud. Sin is not content to be relegated to the small things. Sin likes to grow, escalate, take hold of one’s mind. Jesus’s example of fighting wrongdoing with kindness is a countercultural take on dealing with hardship, but it works. It effectively shuts down evil and keeps it from spiraling out of control.
Father Craig shared a story from his own youth about his mother. He said that when he was younger, he had a lot of fights with her and they often didn’t get along very well. When he went off to college, he discovered Catholicism and decided to try answering his mother’s hostility with kindness and tranquility. He said, “You know, mom, you have a point. I want to hear what you have to say.” Immediately, it flipped the script and he said his relationship with his mother has blossomed into a beautiful one.
Harboring resentment or hostility is quite a silly tactic in the grand scheme of things. Father said that it’s like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die. Grudges can leak out and affect the good things in our lives negatively. It’s just better to take the high road whenever possible. Even if it doesn’t turn out the way we want with our enemy changing or approaching you differently, we have maintained the moral high ground and stayed the course of Jesus’s example.
Listen to the full conversation below:
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