I have been thinking about this question for such a long time. I understand that God told us that we have to love our enemies becasue if we only love our nieghbors then what cross is on our part? NOTHING.
BUt is it really realistic to do so?
Does anyone really love their enemies and is that the same as not hating them?
I think the more difficult saying is to love your neighbor as yourself. How do you reach that level? If I loved my neighbor as myself I would give him half of my salary, help him pay for college, wash his car, etc. Is that realistic? Is that possible? I don't think so.
But as St. Paul writes - "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me"
You can also think about it like this. God tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves and our enemies - he wants us to love our brothers and sisters in the same way we love Him. With all we have. For if we cannot love the people we see with our eyes, how can we love the unseen God?
We should not think of love as an emotion but as an action. And we may not like a person but we can still love them. Love is what we do not how we feel.
What I do not understand about this verse is that it says 'enemies' . . . are we to love a devil worshiper? How are we to love them if we should not associate with them?
Just a reminder of the context of the command: Nobody wonders about loving the people who are easiest to love! :D I'm not sure exactly what to say about associating with them (though I would think that you don't necessarily have to associate with someone in order to love them), but it seems clear that loving them is the ultimate test of one's fidelity to our Savior's command.
Our Lord loved those who crucified him. He loves those who make themselves his enemies today. He loves us when we turn away from him and sin.
Love is not an emotion, it is a determination of our will, and the desire of our heart to see the best for people and in people.
i used to pray to God to help me understand this, and after some years, i got the answer.
i had a serious enemy. he was trying to get me sacked and out of a job permanently.
it was doing my head in. i spoke to abouna and he looked at me very intently and said 'you have to pray for your enemies'. i was about to say, 'yeah, whatever, i read that in the Bible but this guy's a psycho and needs locking up', but there was something about the way he looked at me (i think many of u know what i mean!) that made me shut up and say, 'yes, abouna, i'll do that this week'.
i got home and prayed, and tried to pray for this guy. i couldn't.
the next day i tried and failed again.
after several days (and knowing i would have to do it by the end of the week!), i cried out to God in desperation and said, 'God, you help me, i suppose you love this guy, i certainly don't! show me how much you love him'.
then i started to think about him going to hell. it was not the first time i thought about it! :-[
but this time was different, i wasn't hoping he would go away, very far away (like to hell), but i imagined him far, far from God with no chance of coming back and no-one to love him.
that's when i realised, he was a human too, and i certainly am not a saint. i prayed hard for him and actually became very sad thinking about how he was going to die and suffer in hell. that's when i understood what abouna meant.
the next day i saw him in work (i was normally really scared of him!) and i remembered i had been able to pray for him and gave him a big, really genuine smile, and said 'good morning'. he froze and freaked out, hardly able to respond to my greeting, as i never smiled like that at him before.
anyway to cut a long story short, he didn't change his actions, and in the end i did stand up for myself but in a way that was hesitant and kind, not laughing at the eventual punishment he got from God for his actions.
what did change when i prayed for him was that i was no longer really scared of him and learning that was better than anything, as i was able to be less scared in other work situations after that.
if he had been alive, i would have prayed for him to repent.
Jesus Christ loved the pharisees. if he had not, he would have said nothing and just let them die in their sin.
there were converted pharisees in the early church, even saint paul was a pharisee.
Maybe I've misunderstood the Savior's command...anyway, I'd like to know what you think.
Those we should not associate with are especially those who are caught in wicked and immoral behaviour and habits, in so far as we might also be attracted or tempted to fall into such behaviours, and we are especially to be cautious in associating with those who hold to false teachings.
But there is also a difference between associating with those whose lives are incompatible with the Orthodox Faith, and having nothing to do with them. There is a difference between engaging in ministry with alcoholics, addicts, criminals even in prison and in rehabilitation, and having acquaintances who are not Orthodox, or are even Protestants; and making them our special friends. There is a need to be careful. Even while our Orthodox Faith urges us to be generous.
If there are those who are trying to harm us, I mean that they make us their own enemies, then we are not to consider them as our own enemies. Usually they will not want to associate with us in any case. But every time we meet them we can do our best, as mabsoota described, to be friendly, and we can and must pray for them and do good to them.
But there are those we must pray for and also need to avoid. When St John arrived at the public bath of Ephesus he heard that Cerinthus the heretic was within and he insisted on leaving immediately. It is not so much that the person is our enemy, they are not, but that the false teaching, or the false and destructive lifestyle a person endorses and promotes, is what we must resist and reject, and sometimes that does mean we must avoid the company of people.
Sorry this is a bit rambling, but what I am aware of is that people who might be considered those we must not associate with fall into different categories. We have a responsibility to both preserve our own spiritual health and purity, and also, as far as we are able, to seek to reconcile those who hate us, correct those who are in error, and save those who are on a path of self-destruction.
It is clear that there are many Coptic Orthodox youth who associate with those the Scriptures teach us to avoid and are led astray by such associations. It is not an academic matter.
or maybe i missed something?
that's ok then