Can you define "Love your enemies" for me?

I have a question regarding Jesus’s directive to love our enemies. Consider that someone is an enemy, and their sole motives in interacting with us are to be hurtful, destroy, exploit, etc. Many enemies are very crafty and clever in using charm and cunningness to continue to inflict pain. In other words, our desire to treat them with love, kindness, and trying to understand their earthly and/or spiritual positions puts us in a weak position in dealing with them.

Specifically, I recently attended the funeral of a family member who was a young college age student but having difficult, divorced parents. The opposing parent’s family was quite friendly with me initially at the funeral, as I desired to be a bridge builder to their loss also. Concessions were given with kindness and respect to them. But it ended the same way it always has for many years; anger, fighting at the funeral and spiteful actions. Intimidation even as I spoke the eulogy. Afterwards, they requested another bridge through me to visit the home and it again ended badly, they even lied to the children about the events and our family. It pains me to see the effects of the opposing family on her remaining children. It was disturbing to me.

How are we to balance love for our enemies and praying for them when their sole intention is to destroy us and use us, even at the cost of their children? Why can’t we just ignore and cast them aside to protect ourselves? Thank you.

Love of enemies does not mean we necessarily abandon all defenses against them. The Church has always taught that individuals (and nations) have the right of self defense. This doesn’t just mean physically, but emotionally as well.

You said that “our desire to treat them with love, kindness, and trying to understand their earthly and/or spiritual positions puts us in a weak position in dealing with them.” I would disagree. The person who is not obsessed with “sticking it” to someone else and knows the other person’s motivations (know your enemy, as Sun Tzu said) is actually in the more “powerful position.”

Christ’s commandment to love our enemies is not about being “weak” but recognizing that hatred and revenge drown both parties to a conflict. Hated and looking to penalize others desecrates who were are as children of God. But the God of love is also the God of justice, so we can act with justice but we cannot act with vengeance.

Setting limits and conditions in dealing with others does not go against the commandment so long as the reason behind them is to protect people or good intentions. Such things only go against the commandment when we use them to punish and put down another person or group.

So when dealing with others who are constantly manipulative, lying and scheming it is not a violation of the commandment to set limits and conditions to protect the personal rights and emotional well being of ourselves or others.

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