Jesus said, “I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
In 2004-2005, I worked for the U. S. Delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Inspired by their history, impartial and neutral mandate, and work in areas of war and conflict, I had wanted to work in the field as a media delegate. I was invited in for an informational interview, where I was told that it would be next to impossible to place an American (without dual citizenship) like me, given the anti-American sentiment rife at that time. A few weeks later, however, I was offered a job as the Special Assistant to the Head of Delegation and found myself immersed in the complex world of detainee affairs and policy. I was the only American in the office when I started.
In the wake of 9/11, our government officials were very clear about who the “enemy” was. Or could be. And Jesus is very clear that we are commanded to forgive them. Over the course of my time there, I confronted large issues and at times felt conflicted. Who was right? Who was wrong? Was neutrality always possible? I encountered individuals, both in our government and the ICRC, whose commitment to their work far surpassed themselves. Each felt they were on the right side of history. I thought a great deal about human dignity, morality, humanity, law and justice during this time.
I maintained confidentiality and respected the mandate of the organization for which I was working. I came to understand that acting with neutrality and impartiality required a personal commitment. I held fast to my own, personal ideals and values I believed in and felt enduring, and I tried to strike that same balance later while working for the United Nations. I often reflect on these experiences and environments as invaluable in shaping who I am today.
This brings me back to the reading above. I can add only this: I believe forgiving our enemies is a process, slow at times, and one that always requires prayer. Perhaps first we can strive for a kind of neutrality. Then when we are better able to set our “selves” aside, can we arrive at forgiveness.
Audrey M. Wood
Appointed readings for today: Daniel 9:3-10, Psalm 79:1-9, Luke 6:27-38