by Sarah Borden (Wheaton Alumni Magazine, Autumn 2003)
Today’s a high alert day in New York. I have been spending a few days in the Bronx with friends, and last night came back on the commuter train after dinner down in Manhattan. At a quarter before midnight, Grand Central Station was filled with National Guard men and women, dressed in camouflage and carrying large machine guns. I have certainly seen guards with guns stoically surveying a crowd, but, previously, they were in other countries and at the borders of other lands. Now they stand in our train stations, at our borders and airports.
Headed home that night, I realize that I increasingly find myself asking what it means to love our enemies. How, concretely, are we to be a neighbor to those who hate us? Jesus clearly asks us to pray for our enemies, and surely this includes asking God to convert the hearts and save the souls of Osama bin Laden and the members of Al Qaeda. But are we called to even more?
Consider the language that we use in describing our enemies. I admire President Bush’s concern for what is moral; he has strong and courageous convictions regarding good and evil.
But there is also a danger in calling any particular person evil. In calling someone “evil,” we run the risk of painting her as fully irrational, without reason or cause for her actions, as “other” than us. In so doing, we too easily allow ourselves the luxury of not asking why our enemy hates us, whether we have done something to wrong another, or whether we ourselves have also sinned. In calling the other “evil,” it becomes easy to presume that we are the innocent ones and are not therefore required to engage in self-examination, confession, and genuine repentance.
Our country and the American church certainly should be concerned about safety and protection. The guards, soldiers, police, and firefighters who have risked and given their lives for greater security for the rest of us are to be admired and thanked. But even as we are grateful for their great sacrifices, we should also take up the difficult and ongoing task of loving our enemies–praying not only for the salvation of our enemies’ souls, but also praying for our own souls and the full sanctification of all members of Christ’s church, that we may be presented to Him as a Bride without spot or blemish.
The following statement was included at the time of publication:
Sarah Borden ’95 is an assistant professor of philosophy at Wheaton. She holds master’s (1998) and doctoral degrees (2001) in philosophy from Fordham University in the Bronx. She has recently completed a book on Edith Stein for the Outstanding Christian Thinkers series and is a great, great grandchild of Hermann Fischer, Sr. (class of 1870) and a great, great, great grandchild of Jonathan Blanchard, Wheaton’s first president.