In this week’s gospel reading, we hear a portion of Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount. He declares, “I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
In our Politically Correct culture these days, many people say we should never use the word “enemy.” It’s too harsh and inflammatory and it may hurt someone’s feelings. Also, it might even provoke someone to do something violent.
Well, Jesus didn’t shy away from using the word “enemy.” There was no doubt in His mind that people who follow the Gospel would have enemies. For example, in many countries, the murder of Christians has become so commonplace it doesn’t even make the news anymore.
Here in the U.S., Christians are not being systematically murdered, but in recent years an unbridled hatred toward Christians has bubbled to the surface in amazing and ugly forms. One prominent Christian-hater is the alleged comedian Denis Leary, who apparently is trying to beat out Bill Maher for the title of “Most Venomous Ex-Catholic Celebrity.”
A few years ago, a Denis Leary special aired on the Comedy Central network. Early in the program Leary appears on stage with a large illuminated cross in the background. He pranced around and repeatedly thrust his middle finger at the cross. Three women in nun’s habits, but wearing very short skirts, helped Leary sing crude and profane lyrics bashing the pope in particular and Catholicism in general. Suffice to say it was a disgustingly hateful performance, which should have prompted mental health professionals to worry whether Leary owns any firearms.
Anyway, the point is, Jesus did not say we MIGHT have enemies once in a while. He made it clear we WOULD have enemies. And today we surely do. There are people in certain parts of the world who are hell-bent on murdering Christians. There are people, like Leary and other celebrities, who regularly spew hatred toward Christians.
Jesus flat-out said we will have enemies. But what He told us to do about it is absolutely remarkable. Jesus said we must love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Wow.
That got me thinking. Have I ever prayed for faith-hating celebrities like Leary? Have I ever prayed for pro-abortion, “Culture of Death” politicians, like my U.S. senators, Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal? Have I ever prayed for Islamic extremists who are systematically murdering Christians? Nope, I can’t say that I have.
But how can we love people who are so nasty and hateful toward us, people who even Jesus says are our enemy? Well, it’s not easy. First, we should remind ourselves that God loves them. After all, He created them in His image. He surely is not pleased that they do not believe in Him, nor that they constantly bash those who do believe in Him, nor that they promote destructive godless values. Nonetheless, He still loves them.
Next, we need to remember that loving someone is not the same as liking him. Christian love means we sincerely desire the best for someone; we passionately hope and pray that the other person is abundantly blessed through a close relationship with God. Oftentimes that mean the other person needs to have a profound conversion experience, including repentance and a desire to make amends for past wrongs.
So, is it possible to love Denis Leary or pro-abortion politicians or ISIS murderers? Yes, it is. I don’t have to be fond of them, but I do sincerely have to wish the best for them. And the best for them includes throwing themselves at the foot of the cross and putting their faith in Jesus.
That’s something that even I can pray for. That’s something that Jesus commands all His followers to do. It’s not easy, but then again, the Lord never said being His disciple would be a picnic.