Sunday, July 11, 2010

Love Your Enemy, Pray for Those Who Persecute You
Part Two

Some questions and objections have arisen with respect to the prior post Love Your Enemy, Pray for Those Who Persecute You.

You're confusing me. How do you pray for someone like Hitchens?

That's what I mean, it's not as easy a question as it first looks.

Love means respecting the other person as a person, as one with free will, and not as an object, a thing that we can manipulate or ask God to manipulate.

Hitchens is a person, not a puppet, and we should not treat him like a puppet. And God is Love, and we should not pray that God act contrary to Himself.

The same Jesus that said “pray for your persecutors” also said “shake the dust from your feet.”

To pray for a gross violation of another person’s free will is NOT an act of love. It is an act of violence.

Love cannot be forced upon another and still be love. And we are called to love, not to force ourselves on others. That means respecting their free will.

God gave them free will. We should respect His will to give them their will.

By no means am I saying “screw him, I’m not praying for him, period.” No, we should pray. But what I am suggesting is that we should actually think about what we pray for. That we make our prayer an act of love, and not an act contrary to love.

Of course, EVERY prayer of ours should include the proviso — “if it be thy will.” Maybe that in itself solves the dillema?

I respectfully disagree that it is not an easy moral question. On the contrary, it is quite simple to pray for Christopher’s mercy and forgiveness. We should even pray that God forgive against Hitchens’ will. After all, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”

Jesus did not simply say, “forgive them,” and stop. He added “they know not what they do.” This additional aspect is important.

He previously taught on blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. The Church has understood this to mean that forgiveness is something that must be accepted in order to be accomplished, and consistent with the understanding that God is Love, and love cannot be forced upon someone, and that God gave us free will precisely for that reason, to freely choose to love Him or not to love Him, the Church has consistently taught that God will not, indeed, cannot forgive such person (Mt. 12:31-32).

Sure, pray that God forgive Hitchens — but NOT against his will. That is not love, that is the theological equivilent of rape. It is contrary to Love, it is contrary to Truth, the truth of God.

Rather, pray that God forgive Hitchens, but adding the proviso, if and when Hitchens accept it. Pray that God offer forgiveness, but do not pray that God act contrary to Himself and impose that love upon Hitchens. God cannot do so, being Love, He cannot act contrary to love, and it is important that we understand that.

Okay then – specifically – tell me how you would offer a prayer to God for him. And how does that differ from, say, someone who has left the church but maybe not left God?

One could simply pray that God be who He is — Love and Truth — and that He act accordingly. One could pray that God be there for him, that God, who is Divine Mercy, be merciful and loving and compassionate.

I would suppose He can be compassionate (from the Latin “to suffer with”) with or without Hitchens’ consent, but implicit in that prayer is our understanding that love and mercy, from the Latin miserere, meaning to allievate misery, cannot be imposed. Those who have chosen Hell over Him must be respected in that choice. Of course, it is still not yet a definitive choice for Hitchens, but it is his choice to make, not ours.

Or I suppose one could pray for whatever one wants to pray for, so long as there is the added provisos of “if it be Thy will Lord” and “if he is willing to accept it Lord . . .” That might accomplish the requisite need to respect the other’s free will.

I disagree that the other person’s feelings should be considered. Hitchens’ free will is not involved in this matter. Nobody is pointing a gun at him or conning him into anything.

If someone tells a non-believer that they don’t care what he thinks or wants, that they are going to “pray” for him even against his wishes and consent — does that sentiment cause him to want to draw closer to God? Or does it cause resentment and drive him away?

Respect for the other person -- which is a part of love -- requires that one consider his wishes. To be sure, "love" means seeking the good of the other, and not necessarily what makes him happy, but if going against his wishes leads him away from the good, then it obviously needs to be taken into account.

Consider the younger son who asked his father for his inheritence and then left home. What did the father do? He gave the son his interitence and let him go. He did not bind the son in chains, he did not lock him in his room. And the father did not go after him and drag him back home. Rather, the father respected his son's decision.

Had the older son implored their father to go after his brother and forcibly try to bring him home, it may have only served to set the younger son permanently against their father.

Sorry, I think you are over-thinking this one. We should not have to think twice about this one: pray for Hitchens, and trust God’s wisdom.

Ours is not an unthinking Faith. Rather, ours is a Faith that seeks understanding, that seeks to know the Logos.

Believer #1: “I’ll pray for you.”
Nonbeliever: “What does that mean?”
Believer #2: “Yeah, I’m curious too. What does that mean?”
Believer #1: "It means . . . um . . ."

“Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” 1 Pet. 3:15. Furthermore, we should be ready to give ourselves a reason for our hope, for our faith.

It is not enough to simply hear Jesus say, “love your enemy, pray for those who persecute you.”

We should ask “What does that mean?” Before praying, we should actually think about what it is we are praying for and why. We should think about what “love” is, what it means.

As set out in the prior post and above, I submit that “love” is not self-centered; it is not merely a matter of what we do. We MUST consider the other person. We cannot simply stop at (1) ourselves, we must also take into account (2) the other, in this case, the non-believing if not anti-believing Hitchens. But that brings into our consideration (3) as well — what to pray for and how and why.

Maybe the first prayer of petition we offer should be for ourselves, to ask for the grace to understand how best to love, how best to simultaneously offer up prayers on behalf of another and still respect them as a person, that is, respecting their freedom to reject us and our love expressed in prayer.

But we cannot, I further submit, not even bother to think about such things.


Anonymous said...

I'll pray he can come up with something when he has to give an an account for every idle word at judgement - If I have time that is. I have a long prayer list of people who want and appreciate prayers.

Jan said...

That's awfully harsh. If only those who deserved prayer were the ones who got them, a lot of us would be in sorry shape.

Pray for me.