By Chaplain (Capt.) Cornelius Muasa
Special to GUIDON
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Matthew 5:44.
Jesus’ words turn justice as we know it upside down. Our God-given sense of justice wants the evil person to suffer, and as they suffer, to know it is payback for what they did.
By love your enemies, Jesus is not saying befriend your abuser and pretend it doesn’t bother you. Unlike English, Greek has four different words for love: storge, philia, eros and agape.”
Our text uses the Greek verb agape. Agape is the whole-hearted, unreserved, unconditional desire for the well-being of the other.
When dealing with abusers Jesus is calling us to not be reactive. We don’t have to do what any other person in our situation would do. Our goal is not to seek their destruction but to awaken the humanity within that person.
Sometimes this might mean the individual goes to jail. But the goal for this punishment is to bring them to their senses.
This text is meant for interpersonal relationships, not for Soldiers in war. Soldiers go to war not for a personal vendetta but to take care of the nation’s business. A Soldier in the front lines hesitating to ponder “love your enemy” could mean sudden death. In a just war this would mean failing our God-given mission to restrain evil.
War can become personal if one loses a close friend or is a prisoner of war. When war becomes personal, the Soldier can suffer moral and spiritual trauma.
The book “Unbroken” tells the real story of Louis Zamperini who endured unimaginable suffering as a prisoner of war during World War II.
One particular guard nicknamed “the Bird” targeted Louis and continuously tortured him for two and a half years.
After the war, Louis is consumed by hate for his enemy and wanted revenge. His anger and bitterness drags him into depression, alcoholism and breaks up his marriage.
One day, Louis gave his life to God at a Billy Graham crusade. Experiencing God’s forgiveness set Louis on a journey to forgive his wartime enemies especially “the Bird”.
Loving your enemy is not easy, but with God’s help it’s possible. Loving your enemy is praying for them to find their humanity and repent.
(Editor’s note: Muasa is the 169th Engineer Battalion chaplain.)