February 4, 1906 - April 9, 1945
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies.” (Luke 6:28)
Jesus speaks of enemies, that is, of those who will remain our enemies, unmoved by our love; those who do not forgive us anything when we have forgiven them everything; those who hate us when we love them; those who insult us all the more, the more we serve them. “In return for my love they accuse me, even the more we serve them” (Ps. 109:4). But love must not ask if it is being returned. Instead, it seeks those who need it. But who needs love more than they who live in hate without any love? Who, therefore, is more worthy of my love than my foe? Where is love praised more splendidly than amidst love’s enemies?
This love knows no difference among diverse kinds of enemies, except that the more animosity the enemy has, the more my love is required. No matter whether it is a political or religious enemy, they can all expect only undivided love from Jesus’ followers. This love recognizes no inner conflict within myself, even between my being a private person and my being an officeholder. In both cases I can be only one who follows Jesus, or I am no follower of Jesus at all. I am asked, how does this love act? Jesus says: bless them do good to them, pray for them without condition, without regard for who they are.
“Love your enemies."*
*Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001) p. 139
Dietrich Bonhoeffer on a weekend getaway
with confirmands of Zion's Church congregation (1932)