Love your enemies — Matthew 5:4
Man is a social animal who dislikes his fellow man –Eugene Delacroix
The Christmas season is here again, and just like other festive seasons, it is that time of the year when most members of the human species pause briefly from their daily chores to dwell on the subject of “Love”. These seasonal activities seem to have been programmed into us. Just like a reflex action, we begin to sermonize about love, make elaborate preparations to celebrate it, send wonderful messages to supposed loved ones, not because it really stems from the deeper recesses of our hearts, nor that we really wish to excoriate all our selfish desires, but because it is a yearly routine; a mechanical reaction to the promptings of the moment.
It is very easy to pronounce the word love; one syllable and one vowel sound. But love is a word and a word is simply a symbol for expressing a thought. What comes to mind when we mention the word love? Now, different people have different connotations of love depending on their personal idiosyncrasies, experiences and environments. But due largely to conditioning we are quick to define love from very narrow, often times, selfish standpoints as affectionate, erotic relationships between the sexes, close friends or relatives. While this constitutes an aspect of love, it does not take other salient indices into consideration.
For a proper understanding of love in its holistic sense, a peep into the Bible, specifically the teachings of Jesus the Christ will suffice. Christ defined love from a universal perspective. This is captured by the Greek term for love used in Matthew 5:44 which come from the word “Agape”. Agape connotes a kind of love that is based on righteous principles. Warm affection is not a necessary precondition for this kind of love. It is altruistic in character and disposition and is universal in its application regardless of primordial considerations. In active terms, it is a passionate yearning for peace and abhorrence of hatred, envy, jealousy, and selfishness. This kind of love transcends personal enmities. Buddhism, Islam, Taoism, Hinduism and other religions have teachings on love and the universal brotherhood of man.
Despite the obvious utilitarian values of love, why does hatred, racial, ethnic, religious and other animosities continue to define the relations among men and nations? Hatred fed by ignorance, bigotry and propaganda have continued to accelerate globally at an alarming rate. Men and nations seem to have lost all sense of decorum as they pursue parochial ends that have only pushed the world closer to the precipice of total annihilation.
The history of human civilization is littered with painful cases of man’s inhumanity to man. The displays of man’s beastly capacities have been mind-boggling. Bottled up animosities dating back decades have resulted in pogroms, rapes, forced displacement of persons, arson, systematic starvation and razing of homes and villages. These endless lists include: the maniacal extermination of over six million defenseless Jews by Adolph Hitler and his bloodthirsty goons in the villainous Holocaust of World War II, the tribal hatred that reared its head in Rwanda between Hutu and Tutsi Brothers which resulted in the death of over 800,000 of the Tutsi population, the mass genocide launched against the Ibos in northern Nigeria prelude to the civil war, the senseless terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, New York et al. Man has sadly tended to dominate his fellow man to his injury (Ecclesiastes 8:9).
We have largely paid lip service to love. The many ugly faces of man’s selfish and uncaring nature stares us in the face everywhere we turn. In standards of living, opportunities for health care and education etc, man’s inhumanity to man reads likes a dirge. Notwithstanding our pseudo expressions of love, hatred eats us up slowly like a malignant cancer that has defied treatment; it spreads menacingly across all facets of human society. The pain it leaves behind in its different ramifications penetrates to the very marrow. Yet every year we expend tremendous energy, time and sundry other resources that would have been put to better use celebrating a utopia we don’t believe in simply because we want to identify with an ideal we preach but don’t practice.
Love has taken flight from the affairs of men; hatred bestrides the world like a phantom. What is really wrong with the world? Where is the love in this world of manmade inequalities driven by greed and hatred? Where is the love in a world where an African child has to share one doctor with 2,569 other people, whereas a child in Europe does the same with just 289? Where is the love when about one third of the boys and two thirds of the girls in India will grow up illiterate, whereas in places like Japan, Germany, and Great Britain, practically every child is guaranteed an education? Or can people in Central America with per capital income of $1,380 enjoy the same standard of living with their counterparts in France earning $24,990? Where is the love?
If love in its pure, untainted and uncorrupted mien is to rule the affairs of man, then he must realize his original unity, his total and inflexible brotherhood in the soul of his maker. When man sincerely begins to identify with the starvation, craving, slavery, oppression and misery of his fellow man, whether or not they live in close proximity, he will then demand for justice for his brother man as for himself. The God-nature in us must fight to freely express that divine nature.
“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. Regardless of the manner hatred is expressed, it begins as a thought and expressed through words and other means. The declarations of war by politicians are formal expressions of pent up animosities. “We are at war in our hearts long before we express them with arms”. Thus, the place to abolish hatred is in our hearts. So, if we must hate, then let us hate all enemies of universal love with all our might and all our hearts. Let us identify, ferociously attack and destroy the real enemy – greed, selfishness, covetousness, vanity, hatred, prejudice, cruelty, mistrust and other vices – in one fell swoop. These satanic enemies are cleverly hiding inside our hearts, and it is only when they are hewn out that we can invent our dream of true love. Peace!