Tuesday, June 14, 2011

love your enemies

today's Gospel Matthew 5.43-48

Love your enemies. Now that's a tough one. I didn't think I hated anyone. Then a few days ago a clergy colleague, hearing where I had gone to school, mentioned he was good friends with one of my old teachers. I actually had to get out of the conversation. I went to school in the days of corporal punishment. I've forgiven most of my teachers - those were the times we were in. But this teacher sticks in my craw. He, for some bizarre reason, didn't like my footwear. They were a bit eccentric, I admit, but they weren't against the school rules. He was always going on about them, but he couldn't make me not wear them & frankly these were the days when most people only had one pair of shoes - I had nothing else to wear. I was a good student, never in trouble, but he bided his time & one day he got me good. It was also the days of most kids only having one pair of uniform trousers. I got mine dirty & had to go to school in jeans - it was something that had happened to all the kids at one point or another with no response from the teachers other than a bit of grumble about it not happening again. I'm sure you know what's coming - this teacher gave me an unmerciful thumping. He used open hand and fist. We were doing exams, so I got my beating in front of the whole school. When he was done he told me to go back to my seat. The look on his face was one of enormous satisfaction. I then, hurting & holding back the tears, had to sit down and do an exam.

That was over thirty years ago. Just thinking about it makes me seethe. We're told to love our enemies. Can I bring myself to love this man? The truth is that I can't. The man I am now can forgive him in his head; the boy he struck still feels all the pain and anger of that day. If I was to meet him, could I act lovingly toward him? I hope so. I'd like to think that I could, even though there is part of me, the boy I suppose, who would long to give him a smack. I'd like to act as if I could forgive him if only because the hurt and anger that I carry around from that day only allows him to hurt me still. He's probably forgotten it. I haven't. But that doesn't mean I should let that day make me into someone who behaved as he did that day.


  1. That's awful Patrick, I'm sorry that you had to endure that. I had a teacher that was out to get me too - one thing she did to me I can thankfully laugh about now (but not when it happened). I would not eat dessert one day, which consisted of a plum. This particular fruit has always (and still does) make me feel sick. I was hauled outside and forced to sit at a a table in the middle of the playground with the plum on the table and told to stay there until I ate it! The other children were playing all around me, thankfully many of them were sympathetic. I tried to eat the plum, threw up all of my dinner that had gone before and was then made to clear it up! My anger turned to pity and sorrow when I found out years later that this teacher had died, an alcoholic and alone.

  2. Thanks Daniel. What happened to me is minor compared to so many others have endured - which makes it all the more humbling that so many can find it within them to forgive.

  3. Shar Lewis Said: I have always adhered to the "do as you would be done by" principle. I understand that this partic extract exhorts man to be perfect just like God. Well, all one can do is try. There's lots of other areas in the Bible which kinda contradi...ct the love thy neighbour bit - eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth and all that. Love is a many layered word and perhaps in this instance thes best you CAN do is (as Matthew says) pray for the culprit. It seems you are encouraged to be the better man. If you are, and can rise above it, treat the perpetrator with civility then you have done the best you can do. That is all that can be asked of imperfect man