Last year I was at a Polish Christmas Eve dinner. And you know, they have a very interesting tradition. Before the meal they read some Scripture, pray, and then each member of the family goes to each other member of the family, breaks their wafer with them, looks them in the eye, and wishes them the very best. It is remarkable and I think powerful because they do this despite all the family troubles there may have been throughout the year.
Why is it so powerful? Why love your enemies? There are seven reasons why loving your enemies is far more powerful and effective on them than taking revenge:
- Because it’s wise. People’s growing oversensitivity means they are more likely to make trouble for your reputation, work and family over something small.
- Love is constructive. Only good is constructive, is creative and bears generous fruit. Why? Because God himself is like this. Evil, on the other hand, only takes away and shrinks. No matter how powerful your enemy is, his evil acts and lies are only over a negation of the good. Evil does not exist of itself: in a metaphysical sense, it does not exist – it merely leeches off the good. This is why any evil, always, is weak and ultimately consumes itself.
- You still defend yourself – but out of love. To be clear love your enemies does not mean you may not defend yourself. A Christian man does not allow someone to have a go at his family. That is not love: that is cowardice. No, out of love for them, he will take their place, taking all the blows himself.
- It means then that, if I am able to do so, I am strong. I’m not a slave to my passions. Rather I’m totally given to the unchanging good. Only a strong man can hold back his temper and his desire to strike back.
- Only a man who is free can do these things. Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly. To the man who slaps you on one cheek, present the other cheek too; to the man who takes your cloak from you, do not refuse your tunic. You see what happens here? The man who does these this is free from the evil done to him – and from attachment to the goods themselves. He has become very powerful, almost invulnerable. His enemy cannot hurt him. And the man is able to do this because he relies, lives off, the generosity of God – infinite, unending good.
- Such people are good people. They, if they persistent in this way, do not become bitter and narky. Free and untouched by these things, determined to live for the other, to live out of love for him, to live to look after him. This is a much bigger man than the petty Vengeant.
- Because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back. These are the words of the Creator today – reminding us that you and I are going to live for eternity – and, very soon, there are consequences and judgement by him about how we have lived out our life.
Conclusion? Christians who live like Christians grow ever more strong, free and good – and have nothing to fear. So let us today offer this mass for the most difficult person in our life: for loving them is far more effective than anything else.