Straight Talk Advice

“Love your enemies” a message for our times

Sep 08, 2015

On crowded imperiled planet, coexistence is key to survival

Dear Straight Talk: Thank you, panelists, for addressing my question (AUG 11) regarding development of your moral compasses vis-à-vis the five major religions. For my next question, let me describe a time 2000 years ago, when war and tribalism were more commonplace than today, human testosterone levels were 5-10 times higher, and Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount (below). Today, the same winner-versus-loser mentality reigns and our planet is imperiled and crowded to epic degrees. If religion taught nothing more than this sermon, how might coexistence, including with one’s enemy, change our world? —“John” in Pennsylvania

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Jessie 17, Sebastopol, California Ask me a question

To me, coexistence means not only cooperation, but communication, consideration and compromise. When you love your neighbor, you create a relationship. When you love your enemy, you create a middle ground from which a relationship can grow. Imagine a country loving its “enemy” country, or corporations practicing the four c’s. The difference would be profound.

Lara Vienna, Austria Ask me a question

Filtering this sermon through my agnostic-spiritual-Buddhist-Christian-humanitarian worldview, Jesus asks us to look beyond boundaries, beyond an “us-them” mentality, and connect with the other/enemy. I see its power for solving the European refugee crisis, the deadlocked U.S. two-party system, racism, and for taming personal demons which, in therapy, begins by loving them. Initially, I criticized the word choices of the sermon, but with closer listening and dropping of judgement, I saw we speak the same language (again, not so “otherly” after all). Loving our enemies is possible, and indeed is happening as a positive result of globalization.

Karlee 18, Bentleyville, Pennsylvania Ask me a question

It's hard to grasp a peaceful world because after generations of war, repression and strife between countries and individuals we forget that others are humans, too. I was taught to treat others as you wish to be treated; to love your enemies as much as your friends because we’re all dealing with the same stuff.

Nicole 25, San Luis Obispo, California Ask me a question

Before organized religion, humans were not separate from the earth. There was true coexistence of all life. When consciousness moves beyond the illusion of separateness, there is no enemy to begin with.

Lisa 23, New York, New York Ask me a question

Just recently moving from Eugene, Oregon for a PhD program in New York City, the human dis-connection is striking. Here are millions in one place with massive potential to unite for change, but nobody’s looking past their phone screen. The issue for most Americans isn’t hatred of enemies, but well-meaning apathy. We flatter ourselves that if we aren’t hostile, we’re good people. I often hear, “I hope the best for so-and-so but it’s not my job to fix things.” Love isn’t the absence of hate. Love is active. It isn’t love if we’re not willing to act against the forces which created someone’s plight, particularly when we (consciously or consciously) support those forces. Many white Americans insist they aren’t racist because they don’t hate people of color. But until they acknowledge their privilege and actively work against oppression of people of color, they aid societal racism. When those with wealth say they’re against poverty, yet don’t acknowledge their privilege and blame those who are poor for being lazy, they aid widespread poverty. Well-meaning apathy is as dangerous as outright hate. An overcrowded planet could work in our favor, if, instead of turning away from the many strangers, we united as neighbors in pursuit of a rightful solution.

Shel 18, Pleasanton, California Ask me a question

Coexistence is key. If everyone followed this moral principle, we could achieve world peace, end our military, and focus on problems like cancer. Loving one another is the simplest solution to any problem. But our definition of perfection, which currently means rich, smart and beautiful, must be altered to match the Bible’s, otherwise instead of coexisting, we fight and compete for false values, envying those who have obtained them, believing that not everyone can succeed.

Icis 17, Lehigh Acres, Florida Ask me a question

Everything from personal to political lifestyle would be peaceful and correct if neighborly acceptance was practiced. Unfortunately, the human “race” has taken itself literally and every race needs a loser. We thrill to competition, enemies, and survival of the fittest.

Samantha 23, Toledo, Ohio Ask me a question

We spend much time criticizing and hating others for choices different than our own, rather than letting God judge. Take same-sex marriage, which involves two adults in love, not cruelty or violence. Yet we're literally killing people over this. As soon as we start loving our neighbors as ourselves, we will change the world. It starts with one person.

Dear John: Humans are crushing hard for the Darwin Award. The harm we’ve done to our host planet, other species, and ourselves is unrivaled. Yet, get this: Before 10,000 years ago, there is virtually no evidence of human strife or warfare. The lack of fanglike canines, even on our oldest human ancestor, “Ardi”, who lived 4.4 million years ago, indicates we are wired for cooperation not warfare. Thank you for asking the panel to comment on Jesus’ profound sermon. I believe His message beckons to our true nature and is, ultimately, what can save us.

  1. By Cammie, age 17, from Carmichael, CA on 09/09/2015

    “Love your enemies” is easier said than done.  Those who preach this are usually telling others what to do, rather than actually doing it themselves.  I agree with the idea of peaceful coexistence, but it is a 2 say street, as you can’t peacefully coexist with your enemies if they will not peacefully coexist with you.  I say this because I am gay, and our enemies clearly will NOT allow us to peacefully coexist.  I know that similar issues were discussed in last week’s column and other recent Straight Talk columns, but it is very relevant right now to this issue.

    A very good example (but not the only one by any means) is the clerk in Kentucky who refuses to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples.  She claims that this would violate her religious beliefs.  BULL!  She can believe whatever she wants, but this does not give her the right to tell others who they can love and who they can marry!  She’s been married 4 times,  did anybody tell her who she could marry any of the 4 times?  Many religions do not believe in divorce, but did anyone try to impose their religion on her any of the 3 times she got divorced and tell her she couldn’t get divorced?  But she says that she can impose her religion on others and tell them who they can marry.  That is HYPOCRICY with a Capital H!  How can you love enemies such as this and peacefully coexist with them?  It is not possible!

    As was written about last week, our enemies also stereotype us and label us sexual predators.  How can we peacefully coexist with this?  Last weekend my girlfriend and I went skinny dipping with a straight friend and her sister who have a pool and one other straight girl friend of ours.  It was fun and relaxing to take it all off and be like this with each other with no inhibitions and a good bonding experience.  However, it did not raise sexual issues for us at all, despite what many would think.  My girlfriend and I get turned on by each other’s nude bodies when we’re in a private romantic setting, but seeing straight girls nude is not a sexual matter for us at all as many have written in Straight Talk.

    Cammie

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    1. By C.J., age 16, from Vacaville, CA on 09/10/2015

      Right on Cammie!  How can we love and peacefully coexist with our enemies when they discriminate against us and will not let us be who we are?  Do we gays try to tell straight people what they can do or whom they can marry?  No.  So what gives them the right to do it to us?  (Not all straight people of course, just those who bash gays and try to regulate our behavior).  Should African American’s in the 60’s have just sat back and “loved their enemies” and sat and taken the discrimination so that they could “peacefully coexist” or were they right and justified in following people like Martin Luther King and demanded equal rights (which they still do not have, but things did improve).  The same is true of gays today.  As you say, it has nothing to do with freedom of religion.  Those who use this excuse to discriminate only want freedom of religion for themselves and those who agree with them and deny it to everyone else!  And I should love and peacefully coexist with them???  I have a guy friend who is gay who is constantly bullied by the jocks and the so called “Christians.”  Should he just sit and take it and love them and “peacefully coexist?”

      In response to both this week’s and last week’s column, we are not sexual predators and nothing “terrible” will happen if a girl who happens to be gay shares a room with her sister.  Anyone who doesn’t believe this should talk to my younger sister who has been sharing a room with me and undressing in front of me her whole life.  I have no sexual interest in her or in any other straight girls.  I see other girls naked all the time and it does not raise sexual issues for me despite what many think.  I have a girlfriend and she is the only one I have sexual interest in or who arouses me when we’re naked together.

      C.J.

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    2. By Jennifer, age 17, from Toledo, Ohio on 09/12/2015

      I totally agree.  My little brother isn’t even gay, but he’s been labeled gay by the macho guys because he’s small, has a somewhat high pitched voice, and is very shy.  He is constantly harassed and bullied for allegedly being gay.  It doesn’t matter that he isn’t gay, he’s been given this label and most kids believe it.  High school is pure hell for him, and the school’s anti-bulling policy that the administration is so proud of is nothing but “bull” as it is worthless.  This has caused him stomach problems and he has trouble eating and often vomits after eating as he can’t keep food down.  We share a room and I can see him getting thinner and thinner when he’s undressed.  Since he’s a boy, I don’t go out of my way to look at him when he’s naked, but since we share a room it’s impossible not to ever see anything.  I also have a girl friend who is gay.  She also gets harassed, but not as bad as the guys who are gay or are labeled gay.  I’ve had sleepovers at her house in the room she shares with her sister and am totally comfortable undressing in front of her, and she and her sister who is straight are very close and have no problem with this issue.

      I hate the people who are doing this to my brother, and I do not agree that we should “love” them, and do not see how we can “peacefully coexist” with them when they will not let others live in peace!

      Jennifer

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    3. By LAUREN, from StraightTalkAdvice.org on 09/13/2015

      To Cammie, C.J., Jennifer and all who are persecuted:  You have my sympathy entirely. This quote, which I just saw this morning is another way of saying what Jesus said 2000 years ago.  Perhaps the words are more modern and make more sense.

      “The only way to live in the midst of inharmonious influences is to strengthen the will power and endure all things, yet keeping fineness of character and nobility of manner together with an everlasting heart full of love.”—Hazrat Inayat Khan

      To keep a loving heart in the face of persecution is perhaps one of the most difficult things asked of humanity; I work on it myself and am far from having arrived. That said,  keeping our hearts full of love and enduring hate with nobility of manner and fineness of character DOES present the best chance of YOU emerging from your struggle emotionally healthy, and also has the best chance of changing the haters. 

      Becoming a hater yourself as a response is an easy tendency, but doesn’t help you or anyone, as noted in another quote I read recently:  “Filling one’s heart with hate is like eating poison while expecting the other person to die.”

      Please recall that the first person to deliver this message was persecuted mercilessly and died a slow agonizing earthly death. This is not a hypocritical statement. Most people that understand it have been through persecution themselves and that is why they have arrived here. My blessings to you all.—Love, Lauren

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  2. By John, age 45+, from Philadelphia,PA on 09/13/2015

    To one and all,

    COEXIST. While its as important as ever, it is also as hard as ever to embrace and to put into practice.

    To all the unjustly persecuted people reading this, note, you are not alone. In my younger days I wore my hair very long and I wore a surplus army jacket. While hitchhiking I was “occasionally”: attacked, spit up on, called every name possible, almost ran over and sent into a swamp by a FLA State Trooper.

    However, I was also embraced by many people I never knew, some who fed me, some who transported me and some who shared all they had with me.

    I would never trade those experiences both good and bad although I wish to return to many of the good experiences, at times. I would describe my attitude as: coexist heartily when I found people I liked, try to exist when I ran into dislikable people but not to hate those “dislikables”. I truly understood how sad and mis-directed many of those haters were, that in fact THEY were living like weaker human beings for hating something ( me and my army coat/long hair) that they did NOT understand nor agree with.

    Know this, you cannot force co-existence, only encourage it. The planet has a sad history of tribal driven thinking, meaning , IF you are NOT of my tribe, THEN you are a threat to me/my tribe. This holds us back as a force for good and one for progress.
    Sadly, religion has played a negative role in this ongoing struggle. Kim Davis, the Kentucky county Clerk who tearfully went to jail to avoid issuing a Supreme Court ordered marriage license based on violating her religious belief. I will guess she is citing a passage from Liviticus(sp?) as the basis for that belief while ignoring New Testament passages that void many of the old Testament “teachings”. Try to remember, the Old Testament A-OK’d “slavery”! I cannot imagine God A-OKs slavery in any form at any time in our existence.

    I stand with all of the unjustly oppressed as does our President and I think many of our clergy are realizing the hurt and problems they are allowing to exist incorrectly, in God’s name.
    John in Ph.Pa

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