“You have heard, you shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:43).

These words sound like a call, even a command. But we fear the risk. So the miserable-go-round of the world continues – we have enemies, and we hate them, but we run from saying it is hate. We claim to be compassionate, at least towards non-combatant civilians, but our bombs do not discriminate.   Whatever our good intention, however serious our confession that Jesus is Lord, we end up arguing our deadly hating is just.

So the words are crucified, left to die lonely on the cross erected by a rejecting world. Practical people mock, bolstering their wisdom by pointing to the futility of the peacemaker child of God (Matt 5:9). As a command, these words break on the rocks of prudence.

But, at least as diagnosis of our condition, they still stand, a mirror showing us how and who we are; poor, sinning, evasive, self-corroding human beings. We make and keep the world bumping along by having enemies, fighting them, beating and being beaten, going down into dark nights, welcoming dawns of hope which crumble because we have not got free of having enemies – and hating them, that is, treating them as nothing but enemies. Our road is bumpy: in any peace-pause, we repair, while also preparing for still-possible war.

We cultivate love within circles of neighbours, knowing the joy and value of love. But beyond the borders which neighbour-groups define for themselves, we fearfully watch out for enemies. We may not fight them with deadly weapons, but we do not expect to take the ‘Samaritan step’ towards being neighbour. On the other side of the road, we avoid and sanction them. Are we not practical people? Does not hate have its place?

When we hear news about big hot spots like Russia-Ukraine, or Israel-Gaza, we can’t pretend all is well. Are culture wars negligible? In our humanity, we live on the edge of death. That is the diagnosis that the call of Jesus gives us. Our plight is not just that we have enemies, unhappy though that is, but that we manage to do so little to love them.

But through and beyond diagnosis, Jesus calls and commands: ‘take up your bed and walk”. Love will be practical, more than words, realistic not sentimental, building community bit by bit, not being discouraged by its own tentativeness. Love will think not only about what we will do to the enemy, but what can be ventured with the enemy, inviting, inciting and enabling them to live in love. What can we, individually and politically, contribute to ease the way for frail, faulted, alienated human beings to become real neighbours?

The light of Jesus, in word, action, in Galilee and global, is for all people.

It is not individual, elect, religious, church only or even primarily.

It is about human being, God’s creation and children.

By Haddon Willmer