I think it’s very counter-cultural to think of loving your enemies, showing kindness to those who don’t reciprocate your love. But many of our great peace leaders practiced non-violence.
Ghandi lead this revolution of passive resistance while he was being oppressed. And there was a lot of suffering during the civil rights movement, people died and burned and were hated and oppressed. But Martin Luther King Jr. used the sword of his mouth, used his words and love to go against his enemies. He didn’t take up arms against them.
And this is so hard, I have a warrior spirit, a Viking spirit, I want to bring up the old football player inside me when people cut me off in traffic, or cut in line. I hate it when people cut in line at the border, or take waves they’re not supposed to and didn’t wait their turn. I get really upset and I think most people would. But the divine dying to self that Jesus demonstrates, brought salvation to the world. He came and lives and died and served those who didn’t love him and changed their hearts. He gave to those who were hard-hearted and angry over and over again and melted them with his love.
We want justice to happen on a personal scale, a global scale, or even just for our kids. We’re a culture full of suing and fighting. But imagine how we could change the world, the atmosphere of the world, if we tried to live out and speak out and have our attitudes change in light of this proverb. We’d be like a beautiful garden that would spread flowers and seeds wherever we went. The world becomes harder and harder and more fearful and more might makes right every day. But our culture is crying out for this, that love and dying to the self can win. It might not win right away, right in front of us, but long-term it wins.
In Les Misérables, in the story of Jean Valjean, there’s this moment where he’s released from prison and he’s poor. This Bishop takes him in named Myriel and the bishop is really kind to Valjean. At night, Valjean takes all this nice, valuable stuff from his house. He leaves and steals from him. The next day, the police find Valjean and take him back to Myriel and ask the bishop if this man stole from him. Jean Valjean’s fate in his hands and the bishop says no, it was a gift, I gave it to him. By that supernatural giving to his enemy, Myriel changed Jean Valjean’s life and Valjean changed many, many people’s lives as a result.
In the right setting, if angry people get kindness from certain people throughout life it can change their stony heart. It happens very mysteriously and secretively. On a personal level, wherever we go, if we can err with patience and kindness and overtly giving gifts to people who seem to be our enemies, God will honor and reward that. From a horizontal, epistemological, empirical perspective where we know things through our senses, it doesn’t seem like it. That’s where we need to trust the divine hand. God will see it and reward it. Imagine if every time we said or thought or did something wrong, we got justice or we got in trouble. We’d all be prison! We’d have a million speeding tickets and a million people that want to fight us. We’re very quick to forget how nasty we’ve been. I say this to myself, too, don’t try to vet out our personal justice and err on the side of kindness and service to others.
Lastly, not that the orphans or the poor are our enemies, but do stuff for those whom you won’t get anything back from in return. We don’t get much back from ministering to poor children in a different culture over and over again. But I have to believe that by fulfilling this proverb, we’re changing the world.