love your enemies

As if it isn’t hard enough, sometimes, to love our neighbour, we’re to love our enemies, too.

We’ve done our best to love our neighbours—

even the noisy ones, the messy ones, the ones who play their music too loud or mow their lawns too early in the morning;

the neighbours who paint their homes in ghastly colours or have mates around who, really, aren’t quite who you’d expect in your neighbourhood, with their rusty cars and their parties and their bizarre language;

or who wait at the bus stop, mumbling and dribbling; or take your seat when your feet are tired and you’ve got umpteen shopping bags;

or whose inner beauty didn’t get much chance to shine, from years of neglect as children or abuse as adults;

or who just whine a lot: the incessant writers-to-the-editor, the doom-sayers and gloom merchants; the whingers; the ones who try to take the shine off others’ achievements…

Those neighbours.

who are our enemies?

...but who are our enemies?


Apparently the one thing that differs from the philosophies of all other religions and teachers and wise ones is Jesus’ injunction to love our enemies, and do good to those who hate or persecute us.  But how, and who?


I never thought I had enemies.  There were a few people I disliked and who didn’t seem to like me much, but no-one was actually out to get me.  No-one on whom I’d declare a righteous war...


So who are my enemies?


April 2008’s Healthy Food Guide had a bold headline on the front cover: “Are your friends and family making you fat?”  Of course, I left the magazine lying around for my husband to see.  He knows I’m trying to lose weight, and if I’ve asked him once not to offer me pudding or cake or snacks, I’ve asked… my teens again...

And there’s that voice in my head that I hear when I’m unsure of myself.  It’s my sister’s voice—and the weird thing is, I’ve got three, and I can’t remember which sister—but if my confidence is at a low point, I hear, “You really are a selfish bitch” and I think, that’s what X said, too, so maybe I really am.


The words of my counsellor—who said everything I told her of my life spoke of generosity, and maybe sharing too much of myself, fades—and I’m in my teens again;

the doubts and despair are back, and I’m the one without a date, the wierd, religious wallflower at parties when other kids are dancing; my forbidden and inexpertly applied make-up’s too thick and my pantyhose have a ladder and I’m chubby and plain…


Who is my enemy?  Who do I need to love?

the wicked who use the last milk in the fridge...

Uh-oh, there it is again: I have to love myself, to love that in me which is God, to love the nasty voice that whispers I’m a failure.  I need to love and set boundaries, refuse to listen to negative thoughts and people; love them and love myself enough to celebrate who I really am, not how I acted once or twice when I was upset.


We have to love ourselves so much that the friends and family who love and want to make us feel better will respect our need to say “no” sometimes, to their offers of another helping or their kindly-meant advice that puts us down or their assumption that we’ll fall back into the role they’re used to us taking.


In the Gospel of St Luke, if we read a bit further than “ do good to those who hate you”, we find some further encouragement: “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great… because [God] is kind to the ungrateful and wicked”.


Who is our enemy?


It’s the wicked who use the last milk in the fridge and don’t replace it, or the last loo roll and don’t mention it, or who never remember to pick up their towel and put it in the clothes basket.

The ungrateful who eat the meals we set before them day after day, and think having thanked us once was enough.


It’s the friend who’s always after a wee loan to buy the coffees, and never repays us, or who borrows books and doesn’t give them back! 


It’s the parent who encourages us to eat everything on our plate or the aunt who gives us cake and sweets; who doesn’t think ahead to cholesterol and diabetes and wobbly knees.

enemies to our self-respect

We have to love the enemies to our self-respect, the rivals for our self-control, the depression that forces us to stop and take a rest, the crises that shake us apart when we’re so set in our ways we’ve got brittle.


Then we see that sometimes, we’re the noisy ones, the messy ones, the ones who take someone else’s seat when their feet are tired; sometimes we’re the incessant whiners, the gloom merchants that would drive a saint wild.

Sometimes it’s our inner beauty that isn’t shining through.


When we see that we’re our own worst enemy, and sometimes those we love are more difficult than the neighbours, and our best friends unwittingly lead us astray: then we understand that maybe our neighbour and our enemy is one and the same—and very often, it’s our own foolish selves. 


Does that make it easier—or so much harder—to love our enemies? 


Either way, it’s worth the effort.  For great will be our reward.

Inner Beauty

© Bronwyn Angela White (2008)—Wellington, New Zealand

This work is licensed under a

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License



Gospel ofMatthew 5:44
But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”

Gospel of Luke 6:27
"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you…”

Gospel of Luke 6:35
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”


Healthy Food Guide , April 2008