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by Nick Swallow

This column has been republished from Jett Black‘s Tumblr account.

Jett Black on Religion

Growing up in a small town in Texas it is not always the easiest for a young gay guy, and I look forward to the day I can move out of here! I love your work and wanted to ask you this. The bible gives the impression that one should love one’s enemies and do good to them: “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you* (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27). What do you think that means? Should we always be nice to our enemies and how does that help us?

- Luke

Dear Luke,

Thank your for your question. As you might have noticed, I rarely answer questions about religion as I generally think anyone should believe as they wish. Religion doesn’t have a big influence on my life, but as I currently have a lot of thoughts on “enemies and love,” I will try and answer your question as best I can.

One can certainly do good to his enemies, but can you also love them? Strictly speaking, no, because when you love someone, they are no longer your enemy. So the statement here is one of the “glorious” paradoxes that Jesus used to make us think.

So how do you start loving someone who is your enemy? You start to put yourself in his place, so you understand the reason for his hostility. And I believe it requires a different consciousness than the one we normally might hold. You must be willing to listen without prejudice to his arguments and show empathy for his feelings. If you can do it, I think that in almost all cases, you can make the discovery that the enemy is you and not him. Once you recognize it, you must show yourself compassion and love. As Jesus also says — “Love thy neighbor as thyself!” Therefore, love yourself first, then you can also love others. If you truly love yourself in a self respectful way, I believe you will be able to love everyone. There are simply no longer any enemies.

That can be so incredibly easy to say, which is why I think that initial sentence can be quite difficult to understand. And I don’t think giving love is the same thing as rewarding it. To me, love does not give gifts or grant prizes, sometimes not even forgiveness. It gives itself. It always embraces, respects, and highlights the best in the other but doesn’t embrace injustice and evil. Therefore, you may love someone without loving what he does. For instance, Jesus loved the Pharisees but spoke against everything they stood for. As humans, we always seek truth and justice through love. And to many, myself included, love — or your will to love — can conquer anything.

To me, when Jesus said, “you shall love your enemies,” I really think the enemy is primarily ourselves. I don’t see Jesus as a moralist with high ethical claims to people. If he existed as described in the Bible, he was a wise man. And a wise man does not try to get his disciples to change the world — he tries to change them. Therefore, he actually said something like,”Do not resist against evil, thereby the evil destroys you.” He knew that when you oppose evil — in this case your enemies — then you are wasting your energy on evil. Evil cannot be neutralized with resistance. In fact, that evil can destroy you when you resist against it, just as it destroys you if you give into it. Whether you resist or give in, you are still tricked to play by the rules of “evil.”

I try to never waste my time and energy on evil, neither giving in nor resisting it. “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other,” Jesus said. What this means is: do not let him gain control, but hold on to your inner dignity and power. This helps keep the energy within yourself. It is through this energy that you will stop noticing the evil in the world around you — including in your enemies, and most of all, in yourself. Religious or not.

I didn’t grow up in a very religious family, and I used to believe in life as a daily religion, so I therefore don’t have a large amount of knowledge on these things. I do however believe we can freely choose what to think of religion and I hope I didn’t step on any toes with my interpretation.

I thank you very much for your lovely question, and hope you will be able to live freely very soon.

With love,

Jett Black


    Your words were very insightful and loving. I really enjoyed reading this article. It would really be interesting to hear other things that are in your mind. Thank you!

    Lisa
    July 4th, 2013 9:17 pm

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    July 5th, 2013 6:11 am

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