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|Loving Our Enemies||01/15/2004|
After 9/11, a New York Times reporter asked me, "How do we respond to such blatant attacks?"
I replied that we would resist and overcome the enemy by fighting on two fronts: first with the strongest military in human history, both defensively and offensively. We would not allow the enemies of freedom to triumph over us.
On the second front, I explained that we should overcome forces of evil with the greatest release of love in human history. The reporter seemed confused. To her, these tactics seemed to be at odds with each other.
"It is not a contradiction," I explained. "We have an opportunity now, and we will have even more in the future. There are multitudes throughout the world, especially in developing countries, who need a friend -- someone to care. America must show that we are not interested in exploiting other people's resources, but to help develop the greatest resource: people. We must look for opportunities to extend our hands and open our hearts to help improve their lives. Our government, our businesses and our individual citizens must seek ways to demonstrate the goodness of America to the hurting people of the world."
Over the last few weeks, we have received numerous encouraging reports of this kind of proactive love following the devastating 6.3-magnitude earthquake that killed more than 30,000 Iranians the day after Christmas. Who would have imagined that Iran, referred to as part of the "axis of evil," would welcome a helping hand from America, often referred to as the "great satan!"
When considering the short list of America's enemy states, certainly Iran would rank in the top five, challenging North Korea for the top spot. But Jesus said, "Love your enemies," and America has chosen to demonstrate love for the people of a nation perceived as an enemy. The enormity of this gesture should not be underestimated. If ever there was a "right thing" to do, this is it.
As various relief organizations from the United States sent medical aid, shelter material and food supplies to the city of Bam, one of the first groups to reach the ruins came from Alabama.
Iranian helpers saw the words "Alabama Disaster Relief" stenciled on the side of supply crates and read it as "Ala," similar to their word for God, "Ba," their word for "with" and "ma," meaning "us." The Iranians translated "Alabama Disaster Relief" to mean "'God with us' Disaster Relief." The impression of Americans bringing God to their aid speaks louder than any speech, commentary or treaty. It is life and love undeniable.
America, as a whole and as individuals, should pursue these opportunities. Everywhere we see people suffering, we must strive to alleviate the pain. Throughout the last century, this has been one of the most powerful characteristics of our nation. Indeed, compassion could be the greatest weapon in our arsenal. It certainly encourages peace.
In the coming days and months, we will have many opportunities to love our enemies. While we can never embrace policies or actions that suppress the life and liberty of individuals, we can love those with whom we disagree, as we are doing in Iran. We can look for opportunities to "bless those who curse us," as the Bible instructs.
Compassion works. It does not always happen overnight, but ultimately love conquers all.