Testimonial: Is it realistic to love your enemies?

17 April 2024|Norbert Piché

When I hear about wars on the news, I shake my head.  I confess that it discourages me to listen to what’s happening in Ukraine, Ethiopia, and more recently in Palestine (and there are so many others).  I say to myself, “Why can’t we live in peace?”  

 Over the past six months, I’ve come to better understand why the peoples of this world can’t live in peace with one another. You see, I was faced with a peculiar situation: the Quebec Revenue Agency accused my wife and me of an illegal act of which we thought we were innocent.  If we were found guilty, the fine was several thousand dollars. 

I naively thought that if I explained the situation to the Crown lawyer, she would understand and drop the charges against us.  But this was not the case.  After several weeks of searching, I found a lawyer willing to help us.  But I realized that the lawyer’s fees would be almost as high as the fine.  And if we lost, we’d have to pay the fine plus the lawyer’s fees. Seeing this injustice and feeling powerless against an impersonal government apparatus, I was angry.  And because it became clear that I couldn’t really fight it, I let this feeling of anger eat away at me from the inside, to the point where I began to cultivate an unhealthy hatred for the crown attorney.  Then I wanted revenge.  I imagined all kinds of scenarios to satisfy my vengeance.  It wasn’t pretty.  

It wasn’t until I integrated all this into my prayer that I began to understand.  Understand what, you might ask? To understand the depth of Jesus’ words.  In Luke’s Gospel, chapter 6, verses 27 and 28, Jesus says: “But I say to you who hear me:  Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who defame you.”  I was far, far away from that.  I wanted to cause harm to this lawyer who was the personification of this government apparatus that was hurting me. 

 

I began to realize that it was very difficult, if not impossible, to live these words of Jesus. 

But that’s what Jesus demands of us if we really want to follow him. I also realized that I’m no better than those people who go to war with each other.  They seek revenge for a wrong the other has done; and there’s no end to it.  But I understand, because this hatred and revenge were present in my heart.  And when those two have a hold on your heart, it’s impossible to love.  To love this crown attorney, to do her any good; no, I couldn’t.  It was hard enough to simply not wish her ill, let alone do her good.  

  So what could I do?  I could continue to feed this hatred that was having a perverse effect on my being.  Or, I could begin to admit my weakness and ask God for help in living out these demanding words.  But to really live them. I just couldn’t go through it alone.  In Alcoholics Anonymous, one of the twelve steps is to admit that you need help from the Supreme Being, however you define this being.  I needed help.   Taking my prayer a step further, I saw that it’s only with Jesus that I can truly love my enemy. 

Jesus doesn’t ask me to do the impossible.  He’s asking me to love the other person who is, after all, just as vulnerable as I am.  The person who harms me wants to be able to feed his family, wants an education for his children, wants to live free of disease and poverty.  Loving is therefore the only way for me to get out of this hatred and vengeance; and it’s also the only way for my enemy to get out of his own hatred and vengeance.