[June 21, 2020] I grew up in a very religious household, weekly attending church services, being part of prayer groups, and associating closely with other church members. It was a time to learn and to build character; we learned to be a ‘good’ person. Love your enemies is one of the often-quoted texts of the Bible. But I didn’t learn what it meant.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:43-5:45
I’ve read a lot about this quote from the Bible and listened to religious lectures on it. How could I justify having a military career where destroying (read that as killing) our enemies remains our central mission? I had to come to grips with my confusion over the quote of Jesus and my job.
Still, I found that a simple but incomplete understanding of ‘love your enemies’ is all too common. This was the root of my confusion and dissonance that had built within me. The depth and richness of understanding are not there. What does it mean? Can it mean more than what it says literally?
I believe that it means several things:
- In its purest form, it means never to gloat when your enemy falls, have humility, be merciful, see your limitations, and be grateful for your good status in life. Hate only destroys.
- Learn from the success of our enemies. Incorporate their successes into your positions and ways of getting things accomplished.
- Listen to the criticisms of our enemies so that we can glean from their opposition whatever fragments of wisdom we might incorporate to our betterment.
- Adopt as our ambition, the creation of a world in which those who work against us see the light and wake up and succeed. In this way, we can be better at what we can do to succeed, so our enemies can succeed.
As soldiers, we were all taught the popular quote from the famous Chinese General Sun Tzu:
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.”
This is a story that should be pursued with vigor, and wisdom will the result.