By Sami Awad
We all seem to have enemies; individuals, groups, communities and/or nations that we have labeled as “the enemy.” They are our enemies because they are different; their values clash with our own, they threaten us and attack our way of life, take advantage of us, hate us, control us, suppress us, and hurt us. They even demonize us, dehumanize us, and seek to erase us from the face of this earth.
We have experienced great pain and suffering at the hands of our enemies. They started wars that killed thousands of us, made us bury our children, stole everything we owned, raped our women, destroyed our land and livelihood, locked us in prisons without due process, insulted us in the streets because of our sex, race, color, or the way we dress. They have shown no mercy, no compassion, and they clearly show no interest in making peace with us.
In my life, I have felt animosity towards uncounted numbers of people. It is not only in the political context of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but also in my interaction with people from within my community and circles. From the person who cuts in front of me in the supermarket line, the person who smiles in my face and insults me in front of others when I leave, the person that spreads a false rumor, the government employee who asks for a “gift” in order to get some paper work done, to the taxi driver who charges a foreign guest of mine one hundred dollars to bring them to my office instead of five dollars, we can think of tens if not hundreds of examples.
Why did God create in us this sense of animosity towards others and of others towards us? Why didn’t He just create in us the ability to get along and tolerate everyone even when differences and conflicts occur? The only answer I can think of is God’s desire to make us understand, to the deepest level possible, His true expression of love, not any love, but love fulfilled without conditions, restrictions, exceptions or expectations. He may be telling us that until we understand His love in its deepest sense, we may never truly understand Him, and until we live this love, we may never realize who we truly are as His creation.
Perhaps God for some wonderful reason – maybe because he knows us and our potential more than we know ourselves— does not want us to simply engage in the possible / expected expression of love (towards family and people who are like us). Maybe He wants to remind us that He created us with hearts much bigger than what we imagine can fill with love and compassion towards others. The only true way we can realize this heart and learn this love is through living it out in the most difficult and challenging circumstances; by asking us or even pushing us to stand in the face of the “enemy” with all the fear, hatred, jealousy, mistrust, resentment and anger that rises in us; expressions that are not of God and feelings that pollute us in our heart and soul.
He probably wants us to know that until we are able to fully realize and heal these toxic triggers in ourselves we will not be able to see His fullness in our lives. So God gives us opportunity after opportunity to live out this love, and in every opportunity he gives us the ability, even in a split second, to make a choice. Either we fall into the domain of hatred and animosity or engage in an expression of love that truly challenges us to our core and, at the same time, creates the possibility of liberation and healing for both ourselves and our “enemy.”
What we see as impossible, God only sees as possible and He expects us to be true reflections of His mercy. He sees in us the fullness of grace, compassion, forgiveness, peace and love.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus not only asks us to love the neighbor and the stranger, he challenges us to go further and love our enemies. In learning to love our enemy and engaging in pro-active expressions of this love, we will be able to transform and heal ourselves and our enemies beyond anything we have experienced in the past or expect for the future. We will become true children of the Creator and expressions of his love on earth.
The next time you get a feeling of animosity towards someone or some group, take a step back and in the deep pain that is in you, do the unexpected and thank God for the opportunity. Challenge yourself to think differently and engage in love towards them so you can see miracles take place.