Love Your Enemies
In the gospel, Jesus commands his followers not only to forgive enemies, but also to love them: “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44) When asked, should we forgive even those who have committed atrocities, the Christian answer is yes. How can we do so is a more complex question for atrocities evoke justifiable anger and condemnation. However, Christianity calls for the forgiveness even by those who suffer at the hands of unjust aggressors. Forgiving an enemy who acts immorally (even horrifically so) means neither condoning the evil nor permitting it to continue, if there are reasonable means (a concept subject to much debate) to stop it. It does not mean no condemnation and no attempts to prevent it.
Clearly international policy makers do not use the gospel as a blueprint. Understandably, since this is a hard command, even for devout believers. It asks that followers of Jesus go beyond what emotion and a sense of justice suggest. It asks them to forgive even the most egregious sinner, even as God forgives. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission established after apartheid in South Africa asked wronged citizens to forgive those who persecuted them—not a small request—in order to rebuild a nation and a people. And, by and large, it succeeded. Harboring hatred and thoughts of revenge take a psychological toll. Moving beyond anger gives the possibility of moving on, even while not forgetting and resolving to prevent atrocities in the future.
The gospel calls on Christians to act in ways that the world may not understand and that seem contrary to our nature and interests. While its message is often comforting, it is also challenging asking us to live in ways that contradict self-interest. The prophetic side of Jesus message is not for the faint of heart.