Why we Christians don’t love our enemies

[Ted Grimsrud]

I continue to reflect on the issue of violence and religious faith. In the class I am teaching on nonviolence, we have had some good discussions lately about the link between Christianity and violence. In our discussions, many of us express some mixed feelings about our religious convictions and traditions.

On the one hand, some of us strongly believe that our own Christian values push us in the direction of nonviolence—and even have the sense that religious faith seems essential for sustained commitments to nonviolence (we discuss Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., as obvious examples in both thought and deed). But others of us note that religion seems to exacerbate, even originate, many violent dynamics.

This discussion made me go back to some thinking I did some time ago about why Christians, in particular, seem to find it especially difficult to embody the teaching of Jesus, the one we profess to seek to follow.

Our need for Jesus’ love command

If there is one passage in the Bible that points to both the glory and shame of Christianity, it is this statement by Jesus: “I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matt 5:44-45). Here we have a direct statement of a profound ideal, a call to break the cycle of violence that so bedevils our world. And here we have a stark reminder of just how far Christianity has strayed from the will of its founder. Continue reading “Why we Christians don’t love our enemies”