Love Your Enemies, Like Osama Bin Laden?

This post features guest blogger Jonathan Lewis. Jonathan is a fellow twentysomething working for the Catholic Church. After graduating from The Catholic University of America in 2008, he headed to Notre Dame for his MA in Theology, through the Echo Faith Formation Leadership Program (in the same class with Mike and me). Jonathan currently works as the Director of Religious Education at Mount Lady of Carmel Catholic Church in Mill Valley, California.                                                     

The recent announcement of the assassination of Osama Bin Laden causes me to reflect on one of Jesus’ more uncomfortable teachings: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Sit with this and say it again: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Bin Laden’s death carries with it a variety of emotions; it is rare that we have such a visceral reaction to one of our “enemies.” Because of this, it is important to sit with that feeling and to allow God’s love, peace, mercy and presence to dwell within us. Faith is not something added on to our lives for convenience but should be our source, especially in times of great emotion both in joy and in sorrow. I rejoice that Bin Laden will no longer be able to inflict evil and pain on this world, but I am also saddened that his heart was so hardened and I pray for his soul and for those of his followers.

My response is that I may “be the change [I] want to see in the world” (Ghandi) and that I may allow peace to begin with me. We are called to transform the world and we are offered an amazing moment to transform the world today. This is not easy but this is the radical love that we are called to, which counteracts the evils of terrorism and violence. May we emulate the heart of God our Father to hold both justice and mercy in our hearts.

This news came on the same day when Pope John Paul II was declared Blessed and 1.5 million gathered to join in prayer and celebration of holiness. His words continue to resonate:

Let there be an end to the chain of hatred and terrorism, which threatens the orderly development of the human family.

May faith and love of God make the followers of every religion courageous builders of understanding and forgiveness, patient weavers of a fruitful inter-religious dialogue, capable of inaugurating a new era of justice and peace.

- Blessed John Paul II, Easter Message, April 20, 2003

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5 Comments on “Love Your Enemies, Like Osama Bin Laden?”

  1. This needed to be said. It’s hard to hear, but it needed to be said.

  2. Mike says:

    Thanks, Rocky, and thanks to Jonathan for allowing us to share this.

    As I’ve been reflecting on the news, I keep coming back to my family’s Passover Seder, which we celebrated two weeks ago today. In the Seder, participants actively remember the story of the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt with readings, prayers, ritual items and a great meal.

    One of the most powerful passages for me comes as the story of the crossing of the Sea of Reeds is retold, with everyone around the table reading a paragraph from the Haggadah (a kind of script/prayer book; means “telling”).

    The story, as it appears in the Haggadah my family uses, includes the main details from the scriptural account, but also adds in some passages from the Talmud, ancient rabbinic teachings and discussions compiled in the first few centuries CE.

    After the Israelites cross safely over the divided sea on dry ground, the waters crash back in on the Egyptians, killing them all. The Israelites celebrate on the shore, singing to God.

    This is how the segment of the story ends in the Bible, but a Talmudic text includes another moment. As the Israelites and the angels in Heaven sing their glory to God, God silences them and says, “How can you sing when my children are drowning?”

    God himself had wrought the deaths of the Egyptians, in freeing the Israelites from slavery. His own hand had seen to their demise. Yet he does not rejoice in the death of his children — despite their great evil — and he does not permit his children to rejoice in it, either.

    I think this is why the scenes of celebration in Washington, New York and elsewhere are not sitting well with me. That bin Laden’s reign is over is just and right, and the tactics themselves are likely compatible with a Catholic/Christian just war philosophy. But I do believe that God mourns the loss of each one of his children, and that we are all created in his own image and likeness, even the ones who have strayed so far away from love and goodness.

  3. Katie L. says:

    My mom and I were up last night watching the news. The crowds outside the White House and at Ground Zero were surprising to me. It seemed like everyone saw Bin Laden’s death as the ultimate victory, like we had accomplished this great feat. I don’t know if I’ve even seen so many people happy about a death. I kept thinking about Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt and the Red Sea falling back over the Egyptians. The Israelites cry out with joy, but God says something like, “How can you rejoice when my children are dying?” This is one of those things that makes me think about that. While our whole country is rejoicing, what is God saying?

  4. Kevin says:

    Jonathan, you point out that “Bin Laden will no longer be able to inflict evil and pain on this world.” However, except for releasing a few tenuous recordings, he has been largely thwarted from his terroristic efforts for the past ten years, due to our pursuit. We’ve been enjoying a slightly safer (effectively Bin Laden-free) world for a while now. The celebrations we’re seeing are clearly because of his death, and that’s sad.


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