Loving one’s enemies

A Christian Science perspective: Commentary on Liu Xiaobo’s letter about having no enemies.

The idea of loving one’s enemies can sound, to the uninitiated, naive and impractical. But in fact, it’s a powerful commandment that fosters real and lasting peace. An editorial on CSMonitor.com titled “Love from China’s famed dissident” lifted my thought and led to the resolution of a tough situation at work.

The editorial pointed out that Liu Xiaobo, “China’s most famous political dissident,” is halfway through an 11-year prison term he received for calling on China to end one-party rule. After years of silence, Mr. Liu sent a message to a friend in which he reiterated his belief that he has no enemies. During his court sentencing in 2009, Liu said in part, “Hatred can rot away at a person’s intelligence and conscience. Enemy mentality will poison the spirit of a nation, incite cruel mortal struggles, destroy a society’s tolerance and humanity, and hinder a nation’s progress towards freedom and democracy.”

Liu’s phrase, “enemy mentality,” takes the stance that an “enemy” is not a person, but rather a state of thought. This state of thought is then externalized in hurtful, unkind, aggressive, or dishonest behavior. But it starts with a thought.

Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper and the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, came to the conclusion that everything in our experience starts with thought. Her inspired interpretation of biblical texts and demonstrable healings illuminated the spiritual facts that God is all-powerful good, divine Mind, and that man is the immutable, irrefutable reflection of perfect Mind (see Genesis 1). It’s these teachings I turned to in prayer when confronted with a challenging work situation.

A trusted colleague lied to me. When I discovered it, I felt betrayed. But before I entertained an “enemy mentality” any further, I turned quickly to God in prayer to realize nothing antagonistic could hinder or hurt me. One passage I read from Mrs. Eddy’s book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” perfectly addressed the situation: “We ought to weary of the fleeting and false and to cherish nothing which hinders our highest selfhood” (p. 68).

This sentence stopped me in my tracks. I saw so clearly that my colleague’s behavior was – in the truest sense of things – “fleeting and false.” That kind of behavior isn't part of anyone's God-given nature of kindness and honesty. The only power it had to hurt me was the power I gave it by ruminating or being mad about the lie. Furthermore, I didn’t want to cherish any negative feelings because they would hinder my own “highest selfhood.” A sense of calm washed over me.

As I continued to pray, a practical idea came clearly to thought about how I could respond to this individual. This idea in turn fostered an unexpected solution to a longstanding business problem. I was in awe of God’s goodness and thorough provision. I felt free and empowered, and deeply grateful for the reminder that love is always superior to hate. Whether it’s a work or a personal issue, at a community level or on the world stage, we always have a choice regarding how we think about and respond to a situation. Forgiveness and compassion strengthen and empower the giver as well as the receiver. As the Bible states, “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Proverbs 16:7).

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.