What Does it Mean to Love Your Enemies

Luke 6: 27-31:

But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,

bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.

Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.

Do to others as you would have them do to you.

This passage from Christ's Sermon on the Mount is easy to read when you don't have enemies. When Christ gave this sermon, the Jews at the time understood it in the context of a Roman occupation. The Romans abused, killed, and took advantage of the native Jews that they were occupying. The Romans wished for and enacted significant harm on the Jewish people.

My life is very different from a first century Jew's. I am not in an occupied country. I am not abused. I'm a straight, white, cisgender man. I'm almost as privileged as possible. So who are my enemies?

Well, that's becoming a little clearer day by day. This election has opened my eyes to the realities and challenges of having enemies. To broadly generalize, Trump supporters are my enemies. Not because I hate them or wish them harm, but because they wish harm upon and support policies that hurt women, LGBTQ, Muslims, immigrants, etc.: people I care about.

Since Trump won the election I have felt an overwhelming burden to protect my friends. They are the ones who will be hurt by what America is becoming. They have enemies and my love for them includes sharing their enemies. For the last couple of weeks I haven't been able to get Christ's words out of my head. How do I protect my friends, resist oppression, and still love my enemies?

This post really is more of a question than an answer; I do not know how to interpret Christ's words in the face of real and malicious enemies in my day to day life. I only have two real ideas so far.

Loving your enemies does not take away your ability to resist them. We should still fight, protest, speak out, and legislate against this growing racist, misogynist, and fascist movement in America. But when I encounter my enemy in the form of an individual, loving them means treating them like another human: someone created and loved by God. I have friends and family who voted for Trump. If I had the opportunity to serve a need they had, I wouldn't neglect them because they are a cog in this machine of oppression. Loving them is not supporting their cause or enabling them, but rebuking them when necessary and serving their needs as an individual human. I think that's the best I can do right now.

Loving your enemies is also pragmatic. The end goal for the problem of American fascist oppression should be to change the hearts and minds of those who want to harm others. Treating your enemy with love and kindness is going to be an effective way to open their hearts to our stories of suffering.

I want to disclaim that I realize oppressed groups in America have been struggling with having enemies forever, but I'm a dumb white dude who is just waking up to this. I apologize for that. I'm not asking for my gay friend to go have a beer with Mike Pence, that would probably be traumatic. Allies like myself are in a unique position to do this work on behalf of our oppressed friends.