*I originally wrote this piece for the Fellowship of Reconciliation.
Forest, Jim. Loving Our Enemies: Reflections on the Hardest Commandment. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2014.
Lucifer got jealous of the boss. Haven’t we all made this kind of mistake before? God kicked his ass out of heaven and never let him come back. Ever since Lucifer got banished, he has been raging all over the earth. Every time God tries to get something good going, Lucifer tries to destroy it. Every time Lucifer tries to get something good going, God tries to destroy it. I have no question that the two are entrenched mortal enemies. So, where does God get off telling us to love our enemies? Jim Forest helped me engage this deep theological question.
Though all of Loving Our Enemies: Reflections on the Hardest Commandment is fabulous, I was most impressed with the nine disciplines of active love. When I started thinking about the toxic relationship between God and Lucifer, I realized that these nine disciplines could help.
First, Forest encourages us to pray for our enemies. Can you imagine God spending all of his celestial time praying for Lucifer? Every day, ruminating and meditating on how much he loves and misses his buddy. If God answers the most fervent prayer, maybe God isn’t praying hard enough for reconciliation with Lucifer. If Lucifer is the problem, perhaps God just needs to keep praying until Lucifer comes back. Prayer can change things.
Second, Forest encourages us to do good to our enemies. Though Lucifer did some bad things, it was not very nice to throw him out of heaven. While God can’t take back that failure at reconciliation, he can invite Lucifer back. What would it look like if God started acting as generously with Lucifer as we are expected to act with each other? Even if it is not reciprocated, one has to do good to their enemies in order to expect good to come about.
Third, Forest encourages us to turn the other cheek. While I guess God could destroy Lucifer if he wanted to, God should stop slapping Lucifer’s cheeks by leaving him outside the gates of heaven. Lucifer should also stop trying to destroy God and his people. Turn the other cheek folks!
Fourth, Forest encourages us to practice forgiveness. I wonder if God has really forgiven Lucifer? There must be real forgiveness in order for real reconciliation to happen. I know that God and Lucifer have it in their hearts to forgive each other. There is just going to have to be effort.
Fifth, Forest encourages us to break down the wall of enmity. If God won’t let Lucifer back into heaven, how is there supposed to be any movement forward? If God stays up there and Lucifer stays down here, how can they even talk? One has to leave their place of comfort and power in order to have true reconciliation.
Sixth, Forest encourages us to refuse to take an eye for an eye. God holds Lucifer accountable for every evil thing that happens in the world and punishes him accordingly. Maybe if God showed a little less law and more grace, Lucifer might prove that he is able to be reconciled.
Seventh, Forest encourages us to seek nonviolent alternatives. God keeps talking about throwing Lucifer into the lake of fire. Has there not been enough violence? God needs to figure out a good way to interact nonviolently with Lucifer.
Eighth, Forest encourages a posture of holy disobedience. God doesn’t have to approve of Lucifer’s actions in order to love him. Sometimes, the best way to love someone is to keep them from doing more harm. God’s responsibility is to love Lucifer regardless.
Ninth, Forest encourages a life of recognizing Jesus. I think of Jesus as the best that is possible. Sometimes, even God has to be reminded of his best self. In order to love Lucifer, God is going to have to utilize his best self to recognize Lucifer’s best self.
If my intuition is any indication, I believe that Jim Forest might just have set two mortal enemies on the track to reconciliation. Loving Our Enemies is a challenging book for living out a challenging commandment in a challenging time. In the midst of a world that is struggling with so much with hate, I endorse love and therefore, I endorse this book.
The Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood is a Baptist pastor, theologian and activist living and working in Texas. The author of six books, Dr. Hood serves on the National Council of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. With deep soul, Dr. Hood sprinkles mysticisms and prophesies at revjeffhood.com