How the Heck Am I Supposed to Love Them?

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For the last four years I have carried a quote by Martin Luther King Jr. around with me wherever I have moved: Cartagena, Minneapolis, Denver, and now it is on my wall above my kitchen sink in Libertad.

mlk quote-edit

I love this idea of community and remembering that I am not on this earth living simply for myself, but rather my words, my actions, and my goals affect and depend on others’.

Living in Colombia, in a community directly affected by violence and illegal armed groups has given a new meaning to this idea.  John Paul Lederach, a scholar of international peacebuilding and conflict resolution, really made me think about what Martin Luther king Jr. said.  Lederach wrote:

“Breaking violence requires that people embrace a more fundamental truth: Who we have been, are and will be emerges and shapes itself in a context of relational interdependency… the quality of our life is dependent on the quality of life of others.  It recognizes that the well-being of our grandchildren is directly tied to the well-being of our enemy’s grandchildren.” John Paul Lederach (The Moral Imagination, 2005, p. 34-35)

Directly connected to the wellbeing of our enemy?  That means directly connected to the people who mistreated my friends in this community; directly connected to the people who sexually abused the women who are my neighbors; directly connected to the people who killed family members of people I love.  If it is difficult for me to think about how my wellbeing and my future is connected to people who have hurt the people of Libertad, how much more difficult must it be for the people here who lived through the violence and know the faces of the people who hurt them, to think about how they are interdependent?

Beautiful Libertad, my new community

Beautiful Libertad, my new community

But this idea of interconnectivity and interdependence is something that has been very present in my life these days:

While taking some time out in my morning to read a Bible passage, I read in Matthew 5:44-45:

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

In a meeting with the community council in Libertad discussing their role as community leaders, one of the members shared the idea of interdependence through the image of knitting:

“We are knitting together the community as one.”-a member of the community counsel of Libertad

I still find it incredibly difficult to think about the idea of caring for the wellbeing of people who have done such awful things to people I love, but the importance of this interconnectivity has been clearly shown to me in friendships, in religion, and in the community work I am realizing. 

Still, I ask myself, How the heck am I supposed to love them? Am I ready to accept the challenge of thinking about my life in connection to people who are working against the work that I do, and praying for those who have done incredible harm to people I love?

I am going to try.  Are you?

When thinking about the wellbeing of the community I find hope in the children of Libertad

When thinking about the wellbeing of the community I find hope in the children of Libertad

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4 thoughts on “How the Heck Am I Supposed to Love Them?

  1. Here are two biblical references that have helped me in this new way of thinking. Though I have never worked personally, like you are, with people affected by violence (where the ‘enemy’ can be named and known), I know who I am charged to love. Matthew 5:46 (continuation of the verse you cite),: “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” It’s common and easier for people to only love those who love them back. To look beyond the mutual relationship to the wider community takes a lot of maturity and trust! (I always feel bad for the tax collectors and gentiles who get pegged as the ‘bad guys’; who would we put in that role today? Terrorists? IRS?) Another verse that I like is: Romans 12:14- Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” I’ve always liked that Paul gave us a reason for doing this….we will heap burning coals on his head. I think of that as the incredible guilt that a person must feel when someone whom he has wronged continues to love and forgive him. Hopefully that guilt promotes change. I love you Lani; of course, you do make that very easy. 🙂 Thank you for reminding and challenging me to love those who can be very unlovable!!

    • Thank you for developing of this idea even more and sharing these verses. It is encouraging to be reminded that the idea of loving one’s enemy is not just a one time thing mentioned in the Bible, but a central idea – and not just in the Bible: in a conversation with Godswill, the SEEDer in Cali, he shared with me the idea of UBUNTU, a community concept meaning “I am because we are.” Repaying evil with evil does more harm to the community instead of building relationship and supports. While I don’t want to do harm to those who commit evil against those I love, I continue to struggle with the idea of going beyond simply not wishing them harm to actually loving them. I believe it is a struggle that will last a life time, but an important struggle to be actively aware of and to be held accountable for.

  2. That is a good thought provoking blog. I look at the faces of the three little boys and pray that they grow up to know a better world. Keep up the good work Lani.

    • Thank you Cathy! These boys are clever, loving, and fun. Whenever I get discouraged, I find them for a big hug or game of tag and a reminder to laugh. They give me the strength, courage, and motivation to continue and I have confidence in their ability to shape the future for the best as well! I appreciate your support and prayers!

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