LOVE YOUR ENEMIES
(For that is probably the only way in which you will express your love for God)
Canticle of Love
What is love? We take our cue from St. Paul’s famous “hymn to love” in chapter 13 of First Letter to the Corinthians. The context that provoked the showering of praise on the theme of love was the deep conflict that had erupted at Corinth. The Corinthian church was ripped apart ostensibly because some members claimed to possess charisms of glossolalia, speaking in tongues and esoteric knowledge. In the eyes of the Corinthians those who possessed such spiritual gifts were seen to enjoy a higher status in the church. Paul the Apostle of Christ, took it upon himself to mend the rift that had torn the church, the Body of Christ, asunder. He was at pains to reverse the status indicators, to turn the tables so that greater honour might be given to those who are considered as having a lower status. Using the body analogy, he says that “God has formed the body together, giving all the more honour to the least members so that there is no bodily rupture and members are mutually concerned about one another” (1Cor.12.24-25). The eyes, ears, hands, are just as important as the head and heart. The metaphor of the body highlights the diversity and collaboration of the various members of the body. Paul expects the Corinthians to appreciate that the Church, the Body of Christ, should function like the human body and overcome its divisions and treat each member with the dignity he or she deserves.
Love, the Highest Value
Even though Paul claims that he himself enjoys the charismatic gifts of speaking in tongues, of prophecy, of esoteric knowledge and faith, he strongly maintains that these count for nothing if one does not have love. Giving up one’s possessions or even sacrificing one’s body, in the absence of love, all these efforts would be meaningless. Paul then goes on to state categorically that love (agape) is the cornerstone, the essential quality of Christian life. It is a gift beyond compare, (sans pareil) a gift ‘par excellence’, a ‘sine qua non’ of Christian living. (Collins, Sacra Pagina, 474).
Attributes of God
The essence or qualities of this love are selflessness, benevolence, readiness to forgive, patience and kindness (13.4). But these qualities are attributed to God:
“turn to Yahweh your God again,
for He is all tenderness and compassion
slow to anger and of great kindness
and ready to relent” (Joel: 2.3, Ex.34:6).
For Paul, love is not just one of the many virtues or spiritual gifts of God. It is not just an ethical or religious value; it is the very “power” of God poured into our hearts ‘by the Holy Spirit’ (Rom.5.5). (Collins,481,484). Read more