Jim Forest is an internationally renowned peacemaker and spiritual writer. His many books include All Is Grace: A Biography of Dorothy Day, Living with Wisdom: A Life of Thomas Merton, and Praying with Icons. He is profiled in S&P's Living Spiritual Teachers Project.
In this timely and important book the author reveals the difficulties we all have with loving our enemies. But for followers of Jesus, there is no getting away from it; Jesus preached it and walked his talk every day of his brief life. Catholic monk Thomas Merton gets at the core of this challenge when he writes:
"Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody's business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy."
Sadly enough, as Forest points out, the world is ruled by the Gospel of John Wayne where violence and revenge are seen as the best routes to safety and problem solving. Christ's basic message is that "we are saved not by weapons and the killing of adversaries but by conversion and love — a tough sentimental love that extends even to our enemies."
With great gusto and creative elan, Forest delineates and explains nine disciplines of active love from the New Testament that are aspects of personal and group response to enmity:
1. praying for enemies
2. doing good to enemies
3. turning the other cheek
5. breaking down the dividing wall of enmity
6. refusing to take an eye for an eye
7. seeking nonviolent alternatives
8. practicing holy disobedience
9. recognizing Jesus in others
The author contends that prayer is the essential first step without which love of enemies would be hardly possible. While many still believe that nonviolence is not an option in today's world, many saints and contemporary peacemakers have shown us the power of forgiveness to break down the walls of hatred which separate us from each other. We salute those courageous souls who have practiced reconciliation as an alternative to retaliation and revenge. Among them is Mother Maria Skobtsova who is profiled here. Her credo "Each person is the very icon of God incarnate in the world."