Easter's call to 'love your enemies'

A Christian Science perspective.

“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,” Jesus prayed while on the cross (Luke 23:34). Only pure love for God and His sons and daughters could have prompted such a profound and holy response. In the midst of the hate, insolence, and scorn surrounding him, Jesus’ emotion held no bitter or rebellious expression. And humanity’s future of hope and salvation lay cradled in that crucial moment.

The Master’s perfect display of righteousness speaks to a moral love or principle that Christians strive to emulate. Can we learn to love as he did? While knowing Judas to be his betrayer, Jesus called him “Friend” (Matthew 26:50). How do we honor this man of God, who lifted himself above the crucifying beliefs in evil with the outcome of resurrection and final ascension, overcoming all mortality? 

Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, revealed the theology and practice of the Christ in her textbook, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.” Powerfully she speaks to Christians: “To keep the commandments of our Master and follow his example, is our proper debt to him and the only worthy evidence of our gratitude for all that he has done. Outward worship is not of itself sufficient to express loyal and heartfelt gratitude, since he has said: ‘If ye love me, keep my commandments’ ” (p. 4).

Christ Jesus transformed the Mosaic law by understanding God as Love. Love for God and for one another was the new commandment. He called on his followers to keep the moral and spiritual requirements of this new commandment by expressing the spirit of God’s love as reflected in their character and actions. But the Master, in confronting the matrix of materiality and the burden of the world’s blindness to spirituality, gave us this further commandment: “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44). So fundamental to Jesus, this demand condemns looking unfavorably on the character and actions of others. It’s a call to see each individual as the son or daughter of God’s creating, in His image and likeness only, spiritually defined and pure. 

This practice of loving his enemies ultimately opened the way for the Master’s resurrection. Christian Science interprets resurrection to be the spiritualization of thought (see Science and Health, p. 593). To me, this resurrection of thought – of the heart – is the focal point of all Christian hope and ministry. So when confronted with suffering through injustice or malice, unfaithfulness or deceit, we are faced with a choice: hating our enemies or loving them.

The spiritualization of thought that enables one to love instead of hate is so radical that people have often shunned it. But it is so effective that we owe it to ourselves to explore it thoroughly. It’s in the teachings of Jesus and his legacy, and it is actually what God created us to do. The Bible declares: “The darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.... Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God” (I John 2:8; 4:7). This true light is the light of the Christ that Jesus exemplified, the spiritual illumination revealing God as all-powerful Love and each of us as the expression of this Love.

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