Loving an Enemy


Jesus commands us to love our enemies(1). But how does fulfilling that command play itself out when one's being attacked violently?

If one hasn't trained in the arts of both life and death, it will be difficult to fulfill that command. Loving someone who means to cause you (or someone you love) harm is not natural to those steeped in a fallen condition. But to one who's become love, with the aid of Loving-kindness Himself(1), loving an enemy is the natural (even "every day") fragrance of that self-giving state.

As someone who's trained in both arts for most of my life, I know all too well the frailties, both morally and physically, within the human soul. This is because I see and know them acutely within myself. Martial techniques, in and of themselves, are neither bad nor morally wrong. Their in-the-moment, life or death qualities are manifested only within the specific contexts (basically, the "hows" and "whys") of their wielding; and such hows and whys are directly connected to the wielder himself (or herself). A warrior wields life (or at least he tries to); a bully wields death.

When attacked or threatened, a bully will react ruthlessly, even lethally; a warrior will respond lovingly, with the desire to preserve life: his, the one he's coming to the defense of, and the enemy's. Have you ever considered that an enemy, while he's behaving violently, becomes a little less human (and more monstrous) with each violent act? A warrior, in attempting to stop him, may hurt him (perhaps even irreparably), but he does so to preserve life: his, those he loves, and the enemy's. He doesn't want to kill the enemy (even though that does happen sometimes); he just wants to stop him from hurting or killing other people; and, to a lesser extent, from hurting or killing himself.

An enemy's violent and hurtful behaviors, when summed together, equate to a kind of "suicide-in-progress" against his own humanity. In stopping an enemy, a warrior helps preserve that which is still human within that one; he also gives that one yet another opportunity to see himself as he is, rethink his life, and surrender to the sanctifying care and loving-kindness of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and second Person of the Trinity. A violent person is not beyond saving. Just look at the Apostle Paul before he came to Christ, and then look at his life years afterward. Yes, he was the same man; but, paradoxically, he was NOT the same man. This is what happens when a soul surrenders to God. God gets ahold of him, and that's always a game-changer.

Always.

The above is just one way in which a warrior lives out his love for an enemy. It's not the only way, but it's a prominent one. Other, less overt, strategies involve in-the-moment prayer, which I recommend in all situations, and the mental jiu jitsu of situational awareness and aggression deescalation. All the above are implemented within an overall strategy of overcoming evil with good. And isn't that what we all want? To overcome evil with good?(3) Even the evil within ourselves? So that we and those around us might dwell in goodness and do so peacefully and peaceably, without fear of harm? Even when coming to the defense of another, I have no desire whatsoever to hurt the one who's attempting to cause harm. If I have to, I will; but if I absolutely don't have to, I absolutely won't.

As I've written before, if you're not working to cultivate love, gentleness, and respect in your martial training, your training is useless. In fact, I'd go so far as to write it's harmful to you and everyone within the sphere of your influence and existence.

Take care, peace to you, and happy training!

Notes

  1. See Lk 6:27-36.

  2. See 1Jn 4:7-8.

  3. See Ro 12:17-21. If, in a particular situation, overcoming evil with good directly seems untenable, doing whatever you can to stop the propagation or magnification of such evil seems like the next best thing. For example, fleeing a violent scene may not overcome the evil being perpetrated at the scene, but it will, at least, stop or lessen its propagation toward you and those with you.

 

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