One of the most famous sayings of Jesus is his challenge to love your enemy. This always struck me as an odd piece of advice. If I love someone they really aren’t my enemy are they? If they are my enemy then by strict definition I can’t love them. If I do that their enemy status evaporates.
I finally figured out that this saying has little to do with enemies but much to do with keeping our own agenda in life. The idea is don’t let anyone’s actions or attitudes toward you dictate your actions and attitudes toward them. We have to maintain a kind of wall between ourselves and others. They are what they are. The important thing is that we persist in being who we are.
In the same chapter of the Bible, Jesus also said “Bless those curse you” and “Do good to those who hate you.” It’s all the same thing. These statements don’t mean that we necessarily go around blessing and doing good all the time (of course there’s nothing wrong with that!) His point was much bigger.
We just finished a nasty election season. Sitting in the dialysis waiting room I listened as people talked about its outcome. Most were bitter and angry about something. You could feel the hate and see it on their faces. They had been sucked into a national mood of extreme partisan and ideological antagonism. Good people say we need to “come together”, but that isn’t happening and it won’t at the corporate level at least. The only cure for our dark cultural attitude is for each one of us to take Jesus’ advice. We need to ignore whatever mood binds our society and concentrate instead on valuing what we personally value. We have to believe what we individually believe and hold fast to our own (hopefully positive) attitudes toward life. We must never, for even a moment, let the values, beliefs, and attitudes dominate the times that define our lives. Keep your own agenda, and don’t let anyone else set it for you.