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Love Your Enemies

Papua New Guinea

By Fr. Don Hornsey

I once visited Papua New Guinea and accompanied my friend, a patrol officer on his 10 days of administrative rounds. He hired men from the village to carry his equipment, but when they got to the second village, they dumped their loads on the outskirts. They were afraid to enter for fear of revenge against them because of an historic offense. 

Columban Fr. Don Hornsey with a family in Peru.
Columban Fr. Don Hornsey (right) in Peru.

Revenge can divide regions, communities, families and friends. The ancient law of ''an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth'' was meant to control excessive revenge. ''Let the punishment fit the crime.'' However, in Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 5:38-42), Jesus teaches something much more revolutionary. Don't seek any revenge at all for an offense received, rather love your enemies. This is the center of Jesus' teaching. A person is fully human when all his actions are directed by love and not by hate or even self-defense. We probably never take violent revenge against someone whom we think has offended us. We are subtler. We shut that person out by silently ignoring them. That is more harmful. It is like poison gas that cannot be seen but causes great damage. True followers of Jesus are called to take the first step even when we feel that what happened was not our fault. It is a hard saying, but we cannot walk away if we believe that Jesus has the words of eternal life.  

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