We’ve just finished talking about loving your enemy. In Matthew 22:34 we read of a time when an expert in the law comes to Jesus trying to trap him. He asks Jesus, “What is the greatest commandment?” Jesus answers, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and the second is like it—love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and Prophets hang on this.” Jesus knew that love was at the heart of all the Scriptures, and if he appealed to love, all other laws would be covered in that one.
In Luke 10:25, something similar happens, but with a different twist. In Luke, a lawyer asks Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus says, “What do the Scriptures say?” The lawyer replies, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus says, “That’s right. Do this and you will live.” The lawyer, perhaps looking for a loophole, says, “Well, then, who is my neighbor?” Who counts? Who do I have to love? Who can I get away with not loving?
Jesus answers by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jews and Samaritans did not get along. In fact, in many cases, they hated each other. Jews saw Samaritans as heretics who had twisted the Jewish faith. Around the time of Jesus, Samaritans had desecrated the Temple with human bones. These two groups hated each other. Yet Jesus says that the Samaritan is the neighbor of the Jew. Your enemy is your neighbor.
How does this relate to nonviolence? Many times, the reason given for violence against an enemy is that one is trying to love their neighbor by defending them violently. The problem is, Jesus here seems to be saying that the command to love your enemy and the command to love your neighbor are the same command. Let me say that again. The command to love your enemy and the command to love your neighbor are the same command. You can’t do one if you’re not doing the other. There is no such thing as loving your neighbor without loving your enemy, because your enemy is your neighbor.
We must find nonviolent, creative means to defend each other while still loving our enemies. That is doable, and we find some good examples of that in the history of Civil Rights in America, for instance. But before we get there, we will look at Jesus’ death and resurrection in the next post.