Love Your Enemies

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Matthew 5: 43-45

The good people among you might protest, “but I don’t have any enemies!” It certainly appears to be the case that in modern polite society enemies are rather thin on the ground and only the very unlucky or the very irascible actually have any. But for a spiritually sensitive person, though it might sound like a rather severe case of paranoia, enemies are literally everywhere.

C.S. Lewis famously wrote that being a Christian was like being parachuted into enemy-occupied territory: “Enemy-occupied territory – that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.” (Mere Christianity)

So who is the enemy? A Christian might say, “the world, the flesh and the devil”. But then what exactly are “the world, the flesh and the devil”, and if we knew, could or should we love them?

Obviously you can’t love your enemy unless you know your enemy. And you can’t know your enemy if you think everyone is your friend. Again the good people will protest, “but good people should see the good in everyone!” From a spiritual point of view, this is dangerously naive.

From a spiritual point of view, your enemy is anyone who who knocks you off course, lures you off the path, steers you away from God, steals your soul. The archetypal Biblical enemy is of course the serpent in the garden of Eden who tempts Adam and Eve with the promise of god-like status if only they disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit. But in modern polite society, it’s not always so easy to spot serpents.

Know your enemy. On the Wheel of Babylon (see the Home Page) there are six “enemies”: Diva, Demon, Victim, Addict, Muppet, Muggle. These are really six subpersonalities which arise in consciousness under certain conditions in response to certain triggers. We express them through the prism of our particular personalities when we identify with them in characteristic Diva, Demon, Victim, Addict, Muppet or Muggle thought, word and deed. These are the psycho-spiritual enemies we must contend with every day if we are to make any spiritual progress.

With discipline and practice, it is possible to recognise the tell-tale signs of these subpersonalities, disidentify from them and stop acting them out. At the same time, we can develop a sensitive radar to recognise them in others, perhaps most especially in our nearest and dearest friends, family and partners. When we see how the people around us are periodically possessed by these six spirits of Babylon, we see that we are in fact in enemy-occupied territory, that we are beset by enemies on all sides.

Spiritually speaking, we are exiles in Babylon. Day and night we are working with the enemy, drinking with the enemy, sleeping with the enemy. Very occasionally we may come across a Mystic, Shaman, Warrior, Monk or Nun, Philosopher, King or Queen, but these are rare encounters. The sad truth is that, although we may believe the converse, we actually have many more enemies than friends.

When Jesus said, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26), he didn’t mean that you should hate yourself and your family, but that you should know that the people in your life are your enemies, and that you are your own enemy, perhaps even your worst enemy.

Know your enemies, but love them, otherwise you will make your life and theirs a misery. Love your enemies, bless them, do good to them, pray for them. Because hate gets you nowhere – hating on serpents, whether those within you or without you, only poisons you with their poison. Love is the cure. Love is the drug. Love is the bruiser of the serpent’s head.

“‘The fruit of the Spirit,’ says St. Paul, ‘is Love, Joy, Peace, Long-Suffering, Gentleness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Meekness, Temperance’ – all the things the world most needs. … I do not think St. Paul arranged his list of the fruits of the Spirit in a casual order. They represent a progressive series from one point, and that one point is Love, the living, eternal seed from which all grow. We all know that Christians are baptized ‘into a life summed up in love,’ even though we have to spend the rest of our lives learning how to do it. Love, therefore, is the budding-point from which all the rest come: that tender, cherishing attitude; that unlimited self-forgetfulness, generosity and kindness which is the attitude of God to all His creatures; and so must be the attitude towards them which His Spirit brings forth in us. … To be unloving is to be out of touch with God. So the generous, cherishing, Divine Love, the indiscriminate delight in others, just or unjust, must be our model too. To come down to brass tacks, God loves the horrid man at the fish shop, and the tiresome woman in the next flat, and the disappointing Vicar … and the contractor who has cut down the row of trees we loved, to build a row of revolting bungalows. God loves, not tolerates, these wayward, half-grown, self-centred spirits, and seeks without ceasing to draw them into His love. And the first-fruit of His indwelling presence, the first sign that we are on His side, and He on ours, must be at least a tiny bud of this Charity breaking the hard and rigid outline of our life.”

Evelyn Underhill