Verses 44–45: “But what I tell you is this: Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors; only so can you be children of your heavenly Father, who makes his sun rise on good and bad alike, and sends the rain on the honest and the dishonest.”
What does it mean to love? What does it mean to love your enemies? Philosophers, theologians, and writers throughout the ages have attempted to describe love, as it evades a single definition. We most commonly imagine love as the non-rational desire for affection from and union with another.
When we love someone, we want to be with that person. When we love something, we want it in our possession. When we love an activity, we want to spend time doing it. Love evokes desire to move towards the object that is loved. We act with or without our rational mind’s agreement.
Our movement towards the object (person, thing, or activity) may initially be a phantasy, a vision of the imagination prompted by our body’s sensations. We imagine being with the person we long for or engaging in the desired activity or possessing the object. The common denominator is we want to be in the presence of who and what we love. We want to have a feeling of oneness with them. We want union.
Most of us react in the exact opposite way to parts of our nature and people we consider enemies. Think about it. What are the thoughts, feeling states, or memories that you consider to be your enemies? Common “enemies” include anxiety, judgments, perfectionism, self-hate, disgust, self-sabotage, procrastination, inertia, depression, and intrusive thoughts. These are just a few of the inner characters we consider enemies. We encounter them vis-à-vis outer-world relationships as we unconsciously project—i.e., blame—others for what we are feeling and doing or not feeling and not doing.
I imagine love as compassionate presence. I define compassionate presence as being consciously attentive in a non-judgmental, relational way. Non-judgmental presence breathes our consciousness into the moment so we can see more clearly what is. It brings acknowledgment, acceptance, and respect of the reality of the moment.
Compassionate presence allows us to start where we are and move towards where we want to be. Compassionate presence does not mean indulging our inner enemies. It means relating to them by way of conscious presence and respectful inner dialogue. It means looking to see how the negative state formed and what the original purpose was. It means setting needed limits with our energies, just as a loving parent does with a toddler.
When we can lovingly thank our enemies for how they helped us survive, the energy of the negative state is transformed. Perfectionism becomes striving for excellence, and celebration of your excellence. Harsh judgments become wise discernments. Self-hatred becomes compassion. Anxiety morphs into excitement about new experiences.
Love means caring. We are called to care for all of our self—what we like and what we dislike in us. Loving our inner enemies invites the power of God Within to shift our cellular consciousness. Set sacred intention to move towards, spend time with, and respectfully relate to all within you.
What are the inner enemies with which you are struggling at this time? Withdraw the projections you have on the outer enemies by asking how does that quality, behavior, etc. live in you.
Breathe deeply to surround the identified negative with compassionate presence. Extend the arms of love: acknowledgment, validation, acceptance, respect, and care. Ask God Within to give you the needed wisdom on how to relate to this part of you with loving action.