So, it’s about 1967 and I’m a teenager playing a record on the stereo in our living room, and I say to my dad, “I love this record!” He listens for a minute and then says, “You mean you’d sacrifice for it?”
It turned out that love is not primarily a feeling, and despite misinformation from the entertainment industry, love does not always begin as a feeling. It’s in fact a commitment larger than ourselves.
I bring this up in light of Jesus’ telling us to “love our enemies.” In theory this is my commitment, but recently this ideal has hit a snag.
Mob mentalities like that of the “so-called Islamic State,” Boko Haram, etc. seem to be an “enemy” that is hard to “feel” love for, let alone “sacrifice” for. (Sacrifice what? My head? Someone’s daughter?)
Still, fear/anger/revulsion is a dangerous and misguided reaction, going to the supposed other side of “love” and deciding to “hate” these people.
Nevertheless it’s a paradox that we’re supposed to love someone whose idea of God apparently is not the “God Is Love” as I know Him, but some irate, worse-than-the-Middle-Ages God of vengence and destruction. Give me a break here.
Meanwhile, we got “Smite mine enemies.” It’s in the Bible, but it’s hard to picture feeling good about “smiting” for my benefit in the first place. What’s “smite” anyway? Torture, burn, kill, bankrupt, disgrace, stuff like that I guess. “Ethnic cleansing.” The kind of things “I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.”
In fact it would seem that if with God we have love for our enemies, then we would have no enemies. Say, if we by our thoughts and actions, could avoid making enemies in the first place.
Though it’s easy to see it another way, it’s possible that these groups are not devoted to hate exactly, or even religion. It could be they are merely a very bad example of an instant gratification society, which always easily becomes devoted to anger, violence and indifference, love’s would-be enemies.
Regardless, I have to assume it won’t matter to these characters whether I love them or not. For someone whose devotion to God apparently REQUIRES making (and then killing) enemies, ideas like universal love and kindness to enemies might even be considered as an “enemy” itself.
In my world-view God is among other things Universal Love, so then “God bless everybody and everything everywhere, all the time.”
But ,”God bless Isis, God bless Boko Haram,” – now that kind of leaves a weird taste. God bless somebody whose notion of a good movie is burning someone alive in a cage? Enslaving women and children for fun and profit?
However, Jesus went further than saying God bless literally everyone, including the bad guys. He’s saying we should LOVE our enemies!
That’s actually a tall order in the worst scenarios. Could be there’s some technicality that makes it work, something about loving the person but not his deeds or his ideas, maybe. No problem with this for God, of course, since His love is universal and too large for us to comprehend anyway.
So it’s an article of faith. At least don’t pass judgement. Turn it over to God’s wisdom. Maybe better just leave it with something like,
God bless the people under the influence of distorted religion and social/emotional illness. Turn their hearts and minds away from the ecstatic death-loving negativity by which they live – and take – both their own lives and others’. Above all, bless their victims.
God’s Universal Love is a constant presence, but for most of mankind, now is a ripe time here in good old Global Humanity for Universal Repentence. We’re starting to make Genghis Khan look good, for heaven’s sake.