Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏹️

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
Matthew 5:43-44

For the first part of this statement Jesus is quoting the scripture,1 but nowhere is it written that you should 'hate your enemy'. This was likely to be a message preached by the priests and pharisees who at that time were very protective of Jewish culture, and fearful of the gentiles, who were to be both feared and treated with contempt and ridicule. Whenever there is an in-group there must be an out-group. We see this today of course, all over social media and even the mainstream press, with words like 'stupid' and 'idiot' occurring in many headlines, referring to anyone from Brexit supporters to Extinction Rebellion activists, from the vaccine-cautious to the supermarket hoarder. We actively seek to group individuals into collectives based on single issues—groups we can then despise and vilify. Jesus' advice in this verse as as pertinent now as it was then.

Why does it matter? Why should we bother to love those we see as unloveable, dirty, ignorant, even downright evil? Jesus reminds us that God ...maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.2 We are all equal in God's eyes, though some of us may go astray. If we look through compassionate eyes we see a different world, and perhaps most importantly we are able to shed the burden of resentment which anyone hating must carry. The weight of such a burden holds us back, even cripples us—those harbouring resentment and anger are more likely to get ill, and on average live shorter lives.3 Having unconditional positive regard for all people, no matter what, lifts this burden, lightens our journey, improves our health and propagates a spirit of curiosity—a collective seeking to understand. In such a climate, we are all lifted towards a higher state of being.

When someone behaves in a way not to our liking, or has riled us up, rather than cursing them out we might instead pause, and think, "I wonder what is going on for that person at this time". Such a pause allows for a reset in our emotionally aroused brain, allowing rationality to retake control. It is a simple act, with far-reaching consequences.

1 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord., Leviticus 19:18
2 Matthew 5:45
3 e.g. How Pent Up Anger Can Actually Shorten Your Life, Rose Hayes, sharecare 2020