Consider the following sayings attributed to Christ, three of which may well be from the common source. In order to confirm our suspicion let’s examine the text for philosophical coherence.
“I am telling you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
If someone slaps you on the cheek, offer your other cheek as well. If anyone grabs your coat, let him have your shirt as well. Give to anyone who asks, and if anyone takes away your belongings, do not ask to have them back. As you want people to treat you, do the same to them.”
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?
Even Non-Jews love those who love them, do they not? And if you embrace only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Doesn’t everybody do that?”
“If you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you?
Even wrongdoers lend to their kind because they expect to be repaid. Instead, love your enemies, do good and lend without expecting anything in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of God. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good; he sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
Luke 6:27 and Matthew 5:43
Obviously, we have three ‘phrases’ that have been extensively elaborated on by the gospel writers. It is unlikely that each complex definition could be remembered. We must be very sceptical of these obvious embellishments on the ‘Golden Rule’ as being somewhat facile and illogical.
It is also a mistake to assume that the phrase ‘Love your Enemy’ is advocating passivity – it is not. This teaching is a discussion of the practical application of the concept of the ‘Restriction of the sense of self’.
When you learn to notice the ‘you’ that exists beneath your ‘idea’ of you – deep within the silence inside of yourself. You will see that most of our lives are lived on autopilot. We only love people who love us back. We give to people, if there is something in it for ‘me’. Anger and hatred are AUTOMATIC reactions to external stimulus. The Jesus of History is teaching us how to live ON PURPOSE – in the real world.
Most people live their lives like dogs mindlessly barking into the night. We react without thought. In the modern world, we put the responsibility for our reactions onto someone else and demand that they give us a ‘trigger warning’ before speaking. The teachings of the Jesus of History suggest that it is precisely our control of our instinctive reactions that leads us to spiritual growth.
Rav Michael Berg says, “Resisting our self-serving nature in everyday life is an external act that awakens our own inner potential, and that of everyone (around us) as well.”
The Kabbalists teach ‘Living on Purpose’ and it is all about restricting our reactive nature. I suggest that the Jesus of History was serious when he said, “Love your enemy” but as a symptom of an inner reality rather than a conscious show of piety.
As our ego is slowly crushed, we begin to naturally react in different ways. Loving our enemy is not something you should have to try to do, it is a product of the changes that occur through practice. Instead of reacting we find that we can empathise with where the other person is coming from, we can share their pain.
That empathy and control gives us a power. Sometimes life, in the real world, demands that we have to sometimes do terrible things. I don’t hate a dog with rabies but if I were attacked by one in the street I would have no choice but to kill it.
That doesn’t mean that I hate the dog, nor do I have to see the dog as my enemy. In fact, my empathy and love gives me the power to give the dog a kind death. That is also true of war. People who believe that loving your enemy only leads to defeat have probably never even fought off a cold. The most efficient soldiers are those who truly understand and respect their enemy.
“If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. But, if you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”
Sun Tzu – The Art of War
This Blog is taken from the book – “The True Sayings of Jesus: the Jesus of History vs. the Christ Myth”
Watch the video on Forgiveness – “The Dangerous Myth of Forgiveness”