Verses 27–31: Jesus said, “But to you who hear me I say: Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you; pray for those who treat you spitefully. When a man hits you on the cheek, offer him the other cheek too….Treat others as you would like them to treat you.”
One of my guides once said to me, “There are no people who need to be fixed, only a lot of people who need to be loved.” His direction acknowledges the lack that is the root of the errant behaviors named in this scripture. Hatred, hostility, cursing, and violence are born and perpetuated through a lack of love.
The lack of love allows fear to dominate. Fear breeds destructive aggression. The scripture calls us to meet fear with love. To do this, we have to see the person behind the acts of hatred, spitefulness, and hitting.
We use the word love to describe a variety of feelings that revolve around the desire for and approval of another. I would like for us to consider love as an archetypal force that cannot be adequately put into words. We see its effects—kindness, acceptance, safety, belongingness, joy, buoyancy, and generosity of spirit. We know love is present because we feel lighter and more connected to our selves and to other people.
As a spiritual practice, I envision love as compassionate presence. To stay compassionately present to our enemies, those who hate us, those who curse us and treat us spitefully, and those who strike us is a tall order. The animal impulse in us wants to strike back or to run away. We have to develop the capacity to stay connected to our larger Self, the point of connection to God Within, to override the instinctive impulse.
God Within holds all of us together. In the whole of our soul, we can stay compassionately present to the person who hates and mistreats us. We have to build the channel of conscious communication with God Within in order to access the muscle of compassionate presence. The building starts within our selves.
We have to practice compassionate presence with our selves. When our self-hatred, the inner demeaning voices that judge us, the hostile attacks from internalized authorities, and our inner bully appear, we have to see beyond the violence to the hurting bit of self that wants love. Loving ourselves is the starting point for loving our enemies.
Loving instead of hating and demeaning is a radical action. We humans have centuries of practice in acting out the animal nature—kill or be killed. Creating an environment, inner and outer, where all can co-exist in peaceful dialogue with respect for the person created in the image of God is our cutting edge. When we live in harmony within ourselves, we can “Treat others as you would like them to treat you.”
Who are your inner enemies? What are the voices, impulses, desires, learned beliefs, or behavior patterns that treat you spitefully, curse you, hate you, or hurt you? Breathe into your body-mind and feel grounded in the totality of who you are.
Ask God Within to help you see behind the hurtful action to the bit of self that needs your love. Maybe it’s the child self that’s caught in shame or guilt. Maybe it’s the young adult that struggled to be accepted. Maybe it’s a desire of the soul that got left behind.
Extend compassionate presence by acknowledging and dialoguing with whatever shows up. Call on God Within to help you love.