Love Your Enemies?

love

More than a decade ago, I found myself in a vulnerable position in some conflicted relationships. During that time, this became a mantra for me:

As much as it’s up to me, I will work to be at peace with everyone, but I will not denigrate my sense of peace in order to give them a false one.

That’s the kind of thing that’s easier to say than enact. But still, I tried to hold both of those clauses in tension, and it was helpful to remind myself of these words, and even to say them aloud, as I considered how to act and interact in those conflicted relationships.

Last night, years later, I found myself thinking about these words again. They’re not just words. They’re a relational posture. I found myself wanting to expand them, saying,

As much as it’s up to me, I will work to be at peace with everyone, but I will not denigrate the peace of the most vulnerable to give a false peace to those who oppress them.

This is also easier to say than enact. But still, we can hold these clauses in tension. It may even be helpful to say them aloud.

When I say these words aloud this morning, I recognize that my social location has moved around this framework. A few times, I have been the vulnerable party. At other times, however, I have been the oppressor, representing and benefiting from an oppressive force.

I want to say that I’m grateful for people who refuse to give a false peace.

Martin Luther King Jr. used to say, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.” And just this morning, I saw a quote from Cornell West as well: “Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”

I take both of these to heart.

Jesus challenged us by saying, “Love your enemies.” Now that has never meant, “Love the harm that enemies do to you,” or “Let your enemies continue their oppression unchecked and unopposed.”

No, never. That is not justice, and that is not love.

When we stand up and say no to oppression — when we say, “You will not denigrate the peace of the vulnerable” — we are doing the most loving thing possible. Oppression begins to look a whole lot like inhumanity, and when we protect the vulnerable, we invite, and frankly, demand, that oppressors do the same. That is love in action.

So perhaps we can enact some version of this today,

As much as it’s up to me, I will work to be at peace with everyone, but I will not denigrate the peace of the most vulnerable to give a false peace to those who oppress them.

Renee Roederer

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