Love Your Enemy

That is the message of Matthew 5:44. " love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you"

I have to believe that this sentiment arose neither with Matthew nor the man he believed he was quoting. Ideas like this do not just spring out of the ground, so it must have been there for centuries before. Most of the great spiritual traditions have elements of forgoing the indulgence of hatred, of the futility of repaying evil with evil. Even the Quran, surah 45, states "Love your enemy. Forgive your enemy." But few of their pronouncements along these lines have resonated down the years as has this verse from Matthew. Simply said. "Love your enemy. Pray for those that persecute you."

The Buddhists call it compassion.

I've been thinking recently, of course, about the Boston bombings and the 19-year-old boy currently lying in a hospital bed who, when he wakes up, will wish for the comfort of whatever nightmares he may have been having while asleep. Whatever are we to do with him? How in the world are we to love him? Where does compassion come in? Can we truly love mercy and do justice?

Justice must surely be done upon him. But justice, in itself, can be a form of compassion. This child of ours (and yes, he seems to me to be very much a child, and as one who has become a citizen, he is indeed ours) can be shown our compassion in the very act of giving him his Miranda rights. Of providing him with an attorney if he cannot afford one. Giving him all the rights and privileges of the laws of our land, carried out to the best of our ability, will be the act of compassion of a civil society. A society in which ideally all are equal before the law. An ideal which has not, to be sure, always been carried out as some of us might wish. But an ideal nevertheless, the mechanisms for which remain in place.

Things will work out the way they work out. But here is what I wish for him today. I wish for him to see the people that he killed. The people that he injured. I wish for him to see who they are, who they were, who they might have been. I wish for him to see the good things his friends thought of him. I wish for him to see his brother, to see their childhood together, to see them as happy children, for surely they were, at some point, happy children. To see himself. All the possibilities for a meaningful existence. All those possible futures, his included, now wiped out.

I want him to dream forever of 2:49 pm EDT, 15 April 2013. The world he wakes into - his world - will always be after 2:50.

I have compassion for the boy in the dream.