Discourse 75 - Must Christians love their enemies?




Prayers in the official churches. / e-mail to Hanspeter Gasser 00, 2005-01-23

Must Christians love their enemies? / Reply Hanspeter Gasser 00, 2005-01-24

Love of our neighbor.

Love of our enemies.

Is the Samaritan just a fellow human being?/ Commentary Peter Buschauer 00, 2005-05-19

What is the essential message in the parable of the Good Samaritan?/ Reply Dr. Monika von Sury 00, 2005-10-02

Must Christians love their enemies? - Part 2: The Catholic view of the matter. / Reply Dr. John Waterfield 00, 2006-01-28


Prayers in the official churches / e-mail to Hanspeter Gasser.

Here I would like once again to say a few words about the contents of prayer. In the official churches you get a lot of prayers for ‘the Third World’, ‘the poor’, ‘the victims of the flood disaster’ etc. In my understanding of the matter, this is overweening, and it betrays an absolutely inflated idea of ourselves to suppose that we might be able in any way to sort out entire countries, continents or even the whole human race as the result of a prayer.

It seems to me that a certain desire to optimize the situation is creeping in here - in that we want to have the biggest possible success resulting from a minimum investment. And of course it sounds so nice, doesn’t it, when we pray for ‘the whole world’. In doing so, we have no idea for how many blasphemers, deniers of God and idolaters we may be beseeching God’s blessing. The fact that in the past centuries and right up to the present day these ‘prayers’ have never had the slightest effect seems to have failed hitherto to penetrate the awareness of the church dignitaries and their congregations.

If we really want to pray for people, then we should be acquainted with the people we pray for, and we should have a pretty accurate idea of what they need. So it is not a matter of presenting God with an ‘all-inclusive’ prayer, where we don’t have to do anything more about it and where we need not make any contribution to it ourselves - rather we should seek out people who are accessible to us, people whom we encounter every day perhaps, and whose problems we are acquainted with. Then we can look into the question whether we may be able to help them directly, and in what areas - not having the necessary resources or abilities at our command - we really do need to call on God for help. In such a case we can also continue to follow the matter up, so that we can see whether God has helped the person, or whether a further problem has in the mean time emerged which we will also have to take into account, either through personal intervention or in our prayers.

When it comes to people in the Third World or elsewhere, God will find Christians there who are able to pray for them - and they will be better able to undertake this task, seeing that it has to do with people of their own country.

When you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret.

Mt 6,5 "When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6,6 "But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. 6,7 "And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. 6,8 "So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Mt 6, 5- 8;



(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(Must Christians love their enemies? / Reply HPG 00, 2005-01-24)

It is basically clear to me, of course, that there are a great many opportunistic doings in the national church - as the official church is called in Switzerland - just because it is the done thing, and what churchgoers expect. But here I do not think it is overweening, or in any way evidence of an inflated idea of our own importance, if we believe and hope that God will hear prayers offered by the congregation at a church service and so will help the people who are affected. We do not have to sort the matter out, nor are we able to, but to ask God to be with these people - I firmly believe that this is right. What, after all, are we supposed to pray for? Egotistically just for ourselves, or when it comes to the point, perhaps for a few acquaintances, friends and family as well - ?!

Excuse my openness here. Plainly I am the victim of a completely incorrect understanding of our faith if I think that it is our job to pray that even blasphemers may be redeemed by Jesus Christ. But I think your view of the matter is incorrect when you say that in praying we are asking the blessing of the Lord for such people, as if it were a legalization of their improper conduct. On the other hand we are obliged to pray for God’s blessing so that they may be enabled to carry out their work as God wants them to do.

Didn’t Jesus himself say that we should pray for our enemies (Mt 5.44)? But I think that must also mean that we have an obligation to pray - on the basis of intercession - for blasphemers, deniers of God and idolaters. If I remember correctly, we have been given the job of increasing our talents. And we will only be able to do that, after all, by going to the lost sheep..

Hanspeter Gasser gasser.hanspeter@bluewin.ch



Before we embark on the actual topic of this discourse, I would just like to engage with a few other things that Hanspeter Gasser says in the reply quoted above.

You write in one of your e-mails that you have spent 35 years seeking God. Seeing that you are so well acquainted with your national church, I presume you have also tried to find God there in the past. So how is it that you still haven’t found God there, after all these 35 years? Isn’t that a comment on this church? Your other remarks on what God does and what he does not do surprise me somewhat, when I reflect that you have yourself stated that you are just trying to get to know God - which means that you do not know God yet.

In answer to your question “What, after all, are we supposed to pray for?” - don’t you think that we all have got quite enough praying to do if we are to bring our entire family, and everyone with whom we are acquainted, to faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ? Or are all the people with whom you have immediate personal contact already "born-again" Christians? Then they might have been able to help you get to know God better. What is more, we are constantly making new acquaintances and forming new friendships, and all these contacts may, in case of need, have to be taken up and channeled into our prayers. And I can tell you, on the basis of my own experience, if you really take the matter seriously you will find that you can easily spend one or two hours a day praying, interceding and giving thanks for all these people in relation to their individual situation. And even in the course of the day you will repeatedly find yourself thinking about the problems of this person or that, so that you won’t have any time left over to concern yourself with faceless people in some unknown corner of the earth - people you don’t know personally, nor do you know where they live or what their real problems are. But I am increasingly getting the impression that for you prayer is not a dialog with God, but just a matter of an Our Father. And of course that is something you can rattle off in a matter of minutes.

It is very easy to pronounce high-sounding prayers for people who are a long way off, whom we do not know and have never seen, and to be almost completely unconcerned subsequently about how things are really going for them and the things they really need. The person next door is the true object of our Christian concern. But that means hard work and constant commitment, because these people are with us day in and day out. To brand this as egotistical betrays a different kind of egotism - namely that of wanting to avoid confrontation with human beings and their problems as far as possible.

And then we must also clear up what appears to be a misunderstanding in the views of Mr Gasser quoted above. When he writes, in his reply,

“Plainly I am the victim of a completely incorrect understanding of our faith if I think that it is our job to pray that even blasphemers may be redeemed by Jesus Christ”

we must acknowledge that he is quite right. The real job of the Christian believer is not to pray for blasphemers rather, it is described by the Lord specifically in the following passage (Mk 16,15-16):

Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.

Mk 16,15 And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16,16 "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. Mk 16,15-16;


So it is not through prayers that people - including even blasphemers - will be redeemed, but through faith in the gospel and their deciding for Jesus Christ. And to give them the chance of believing in the gospel, it must first have been proclaimed to them - by us. But of course this takes rather more commitment on our part than to sit in church (the Catholic church) on a Sunday and gabble off three Our Fathers and six Hail Maries - and then suppose that we have done something for the redemption of blasphemers.

After this Mr Gasser writes:

“But I think your view of the matter is incorrect when you say that in praying we are beseeching the blessing of the Lord for such people, as if it were a legalization of their improper conduct. On the other hand we are obliged to pray for God’s blessing so that they may be enabled to carry out their work as God wants them to do.” “

In this context I always think of the blessings of soldiers and military weapons carried out by regimental padres and priests in the field, who in wars of the past centuries, and even up to the present day, have besought God’s blessing to enable these people to do their work effectively and defeat the enemy. That this implied the death of hundreds of thousands, or even millions of people, is a matter that these churches have hardly really registered, let alone expressed any regret for it. This too was and is an inflated conception of our own importance as human beings - or I would even say a blasphemy, in that it involves the presumption that God will on our say-so give his blessing to the murder of entire nations.

And this brings us now to another point made by Mr Gasser. As this is one of topical importance, and is also associated with questions and mistaken interpretations that crop up all the time, it would be worth going into it in more detail at this point.

“Didn’t Jesus himself say that we should pray for our enemies (Mt 5.44)? But I think that must also mean that we have an obligation to pray - on the basis of intercession - for blasphemers, deniers of God and idolaters. If I remember correctly, we have been given the job of increasing our talents. And we will only be able to do that, after all, by going to the lost sheep.”

The scriptural passage referred to above forms part of the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount. Before commenting on this, we would like to place the passage in its context.

But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Mt 5,38 "You have heard that it was said, ‘an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ 5,39 "But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 5,40 "If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. 5,41 "Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 5,42 "Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. 5,43 "You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 5,44"But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 5,45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 5,46 "For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 5,47 "If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 5m,48 "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.. Mt 5,38-48;


Love of our neighbor

Before engaging with the question of love of our enemies, let us take a quick look, for purposes of comparison, at yet another of the Lord’s statements that has been misinterpreted on frequent occasions. In the above passage (Mt 5,43) the Lord says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor’ ...”, referring here to that commandment which, as Mt 22,39 tells us, is like to the highest and greatest commandment - that of the love of God - and which he has explained to the lawyer in Mt 22,35-40..

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Mt 22,35 One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 22,36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" 22,37 And He said to him, "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ (Deut 6.5) 22,38 "This is the great and foremost commandment. 22,39 "The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’(Lev 19,18) 22,40 "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets." Mt 22,35-40;


Even in the lifetime of Jesus this commandment of loving one’s neighbor gave rise to difficulties of interpretation. These the Lord tried to clarify with his parable of the Good Samaritan.

The good Samaritan.

Lk 10,25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" 10,26 He said to him, "What is written in the law? How do you read?" 10,27 And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." 10,28 And he said to him, "You have answered right; do this, and you will live." 10,29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" 10,30 Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 10,31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 10,32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 10,33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, 10,34 and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 10,35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 10,36 Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" 10,37 He said, "The one who showed mercy on him." And Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." Lk 10,25-37;


This parable is probably the one which - on account of a superficial way of looking at things - has been misunderstood more than any other passage of the Bible all over the world. The crucial point of this misunderstanding - in order to anticipate it right at the beginning - is not the exhortation to be merciful and helpful. This is correct and important and follows quite clearly from the message of the Lord at the end of the parable, in verse Lk 10,37.

The misunderstanding is rather based on the fact that the answer to the question of the lawyer is misinterpreted. And also some exegetes make the same mistake and get entangled in the text of the parable and give a very detailed answer to the question why the priest and the Levite - in contrast to the Samaritan - did not help the man who had been assaulted, without paying the necessary attention to the intrinsic question of this parable "Who is my neighbor?" and "Whom do I have to love as myself?".

The common opinion - which is taken up and propagated by all kinds of social institutions, which is quite understandable - is that we are here exhorted by God to love all the poor and persons in need in the world the same way we love ourselves and to give them out of this love of ours an appropriate help and support. But when we now take a closer look at the text, we will see a somewhat different intrinsic meaning. For, there it says in the final question of the Lord to the lawyer,

“Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers' hands?”

So, he is asked who the neighbor is - to be more precise, the neighbor to the man who fell into the robber’s hands. The following should then be the answer to his question from verse Lk 10,29 "Who is my neighbor?“ At the same time this is, however, also the concretization of the person of the "neighbor" of the Second Commandment - after the Commandment of the love to God - and signifies for us Christians those people whom we shall love the same way we love ourselves. And here we realize in the above-mentioned question of the Lord - and in the answer of the lawyer - a difference compared with the usual interpretation.

The Lord asked who had become the neighbor to the man who had fallen among robbers. And the lawyer answered, "The one who showed mercy toward him". Therefore, it is not the person in need, who was the neighbor to the Samaritan, but it is the other way round: Because of his help, the Samaritan proved to be the neighbor to the man who had been assaulted.

Hence follows the conclusion, however, that here the "Samaritans" - that is to say the helpers - are not commanded "to love the poor and the persons in need the same way they love themselves". Of course, they shall be merciful to them and help them. Thereby, they ultimately prove that they, too, love those persons in need. But it is those persons in need, who have been helped by them, who - according to this Commandment of God - are exhorted to love their helpers "the same way they love themselves".

And here we also become aware of the difference compared with the customary interpretation. Whereas the generally accepted interpretation tries - by inverting the lexical meaning - to give the impression that in this parable the man who had been assaulted is the neighbor to the Samaritan and postulates that the poor of the whole world are the "neighbors" to the more well-to-do people, the Lord means here on the one hand the strictly personal help in our immediate vicinity and on the other hand he commands those who have been helped to love their helpers "the way they love themselves".

So, according to the words of the Lord in this parable, the law of loving our neighbor is: Love the people who have helped you and show them your love the same way they have shown their love to you by having helped you.

Therefore, loving our neighbor is not a category of pity, but a category of gratitude..


And it appears plainly from this that this law does not only apply to the poor and to persons in need. It applies equally to us, who are not in need. For we too should be personally grateful to all those who have helped us in our lives - parents, brothers and sisters, relatives, acquaintances, friends, and also strangers who stood by us when we were in a state of distress, and we should love them the way we love ourselves. All of them are our neighbors.

But of course this commandment does not apply to ungodly persons, deniers of God or idolaters in the Third World. They do not have to be grateful for the love which Christians from the USA, Europe or other countries have shown by offering them financial or other kinds of help - nor are they, in most cases. And it is even worse, as we learn from recent press reports, when charitable donations intended as aid for the tsunami victims in India are embezzled by a top Indian official, to the amount of 3.2 million euros - especially when this man has been hailed as the “hero of Asia” for his commitment to tsunami relief.

And here we are compelled to ask the question how it comes about that states like India and Pakistan, which have had the financial resources since 1974 and 1998 respectively to construct increasing numbers of atom bombs, and which have - in the case of India - used their own rockets to put more than 40 satellites into orbit around the planet, should need to ask the West for financial assistance when their own citizens are hit by catastrophe. Still more so, when studies by the World Bank have shown that of every dollar of development aid at least 90 cents reappears, by legal or illegal means, in the rich countries - whether in the anonymous Swiss bank accounts of various Third World dictators, or in contributions to aid organizations and companies in remuneration for their “logistics costs”, so that these funds never get anywhere near to the people who need them.

This is also confirmed by Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2005.

“Corruption is an important reason for the poverty in many developing countries, as well as an obstacle to its being overcome,” says the founder and Managing Director of Transparency International, Peter Eigen. “Corruption and poverty are interlocking factors, and condemn people in the countries affected to a vicious circle of misery. The theme of corruption must be intensively addressed, if charitable funds are to have any perceptible effect in liberating people from poverty.

(See also the Corruption Perception Index - CPI 2005 by Transparency International)

Finally, in connection with our theme of love of our neighbor, we might put the further question what it is supposed to mean “to love your neighbor as yourself.” But it shouldn’t really be too difficult to answer this question. Anything that I allow myself - from the material things that I can afford, through to the faults which I tolerate - I must also allow to my neighbor, in material or ideal form. And this at the same time gives us an answer to the question of proportionality: If there is something I cannot afford or do not want to allow myself, then based on the same definition I do not have to accept it in my neighbor either.

With the concluding advice given above in Lk 10,37 (“Go and do likewise”) the Lord at the same time indicates to the lawyer that he has phrased the question in the wrong way. Not “Who is my neighbor?”, but “To whom should I be a neighbor?” - that is the way it should have been put.

As we can see, this law is the commandment to Christians to love people in their immediate environment. First of all by helping the needy, and so showing ourselves a neighbor to those in need; and then, too, when we have been helped by others, by loving this compassionate person for the very reason that he has helped us. And neither of these - least of all the second variant - can be realized at a distance or on the basis of the garden sprinkler approach.


Love of our neighbor.

Like the incorrect interpretation of the "least of my brothers" in Mat 25,40, the complete reversal of the biblical concept of "love of our neighbor" by churches, preachers and aid organizations is one of the biggest deceptions, practiced with a view to stimulating compassion in credulous contemporaries and accumulating funds from donations with minimum effort.

Based on the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in the parable of the Good Samaritan, the commandment to love one␁s neighbor does not amount to loving and supporting persons in need (as the hypocritical Catholic church keeps trying to persuade us), but means - on the contrary - showing love toward those people who have helped us.

In this biblical passage the Lord is asked by a listener who this "neighbor" is whom we are enjoined to love. And the Lord tells him this parable, in which a man is attacked and robbed and left lying injured on the road. Two Jewish clerics went past without paying him any attention, and only a man from Samaria, who was the third to come along, gave him help.

And from this parable the Lord now derives (in Luc 10,36-37) the answer to the question who is a person␁s neighbor:

"Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?" And he said, "The one who showed mercy toward him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do the same."

The Samaritan, then, is the "neighbor" of the injured man. And so, too, this injured man must love the Samaritan – his neighbor (Mat 22,39) – because the latter has helped and looked after him. Consequently the commandment that we should love our neighbors means – Love those people who have helped you, and show them your love, in just the same way as they have shown their love to you in their helping you.

Love of our neighbor, then, is not a category of compassion but rather one of gratitude.

So that is what this parable of the Lord Jesus tells us. And it also says – if some one comes to you personally or you meet them personally and they ask you personally for your help or you see that they are personally in need of help, then, as a correctly believing Christian, you should personally help them. And they should then love you (based on Mt 22,39) personally out of gratitude, in the same way as they love themselves.

Anyone who doesn’t take this to heart is supporting the godless, idol worshipers, criminals and terrorists!
(Lk 7:60)

Now this is something quite different from those charity campaigns for refugees whom we never get to know, and who do not have any idea who has helped them. And in this context most of the money is not spent on the refugees themselves, but goes to the salaries, logistical operations and other expenses of these "aid organizations".

In the past the Catholic church set itself up as a big helper of humanity, using third party funds (donations) for the purpose, and people accepted the idolatrous Catholic faith (cf."Mary" and the cult of the dead "saints") out of gratitude.

In future the Moslem refugees – and their numerous progeny! – will be more likely to do the opposite. Rather in the same way as the Catholic church in South America forced the indios to accept the Catholic faith on pain of death, having become the democratically legitimated majority in parliaments Moslems may well compel Catholics by law to convert to Islam.

But this trend is already making itself evident at the present day, when godless "do‒gooders" and politically correct persons try to force Christians by law to remove the symbol of Christianity - the cross - from their public environment.




Love of our enemies

There are interesting parallels, now, between what the Lord says about our “neighbor” in the above passages (Lk 10,25-37 and Mt 5,43) and his immediately following commandment in Mt 5,44 to “love your enemies”. In the same way as biblical commentators for centuries, in complete contrast with the statement made by the Lord, have understood the “neighbor” not as being the Samaritan, the helper that is, but rather as the victim of the assault - so treacherously accommodating the poor and the needy of the whole world under the “umbrella” of this commandment - here too when it comes to love of our enemies, people have preferred to simplify the situation rather than analyzing it, and so have extended this Christian commandment to all the cheats, thieves and murderers of the entire world, with the result that the injunction was finally dismissed as utopian on the grounds that it could not possibly be fulfilled.

If we now try to get a view of the correct background for this statement of the Lord’s, we hit upon further parallels to love of our neighbor. Just as the latter relates not to the poor of the entire world, but only to those people who have personally stood by us and helped us in our lives, so love of our enemies likewise relates not to the whole world’s criminals but only to those people in our immediate environment who are hostile to us. And just as with love of our neighbor, so with love of our enemies too it follows of necessity that we must have a personal connection with the people in question. Only on this basis can we actually fulfill our obligation of loving them. And this also offers us a line of approach that enables us to understand the meaning of the Lord’s statement in Mt 5,44:

But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.


Just as with other related commandments of the Lord, so this injunction to love our enemies has been read superficially on repeated occasions, and there has hardly been any attempt to get to the bottom of it. It seems that there are very few people who want to know what is actually stated and intended here - most prefer to launch off into symbolic interpretations on the lines of “spiritual targets”, “government manifesto for the Kingdom of God” and the like. So let us take a look at these commandments one at a time, and analyze them in detail:


Mt 5,39 "But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.. Mt 5,39;

Somebody who slaps me on the right cheek plainly cannot be someone at a distance from me, out there in the wide world. As a fact of experience, he has to be standing right next to me, or he would not be in a position to slap me at all.


Mt 5,40 "If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also.” Mt 5,40;

Even if someone takes me to court or actually wants to have the shirt off my back, he must have personal contact with me and know me - and vice versa.


Mt 5,41 "Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.” Mt 5,41;

>Still more so if someone wants to force me to go a mile with him - now that can hardly be possible, if he is situated at the other end of the earth.


Mt 5,42 "Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you”. Mt 5,42;

Likewise when someone asks something of me or wants to borrow money from me - based on the spirit of these texts, he must know me personally. With most of the letters of appeal of which there is such an abundance today, the greater part of the charitable donation does not go to those who need it but is hived off for organizational and management purposes, for logistics costs and the salaries of the organization’s employees. What is left over for the benefit of the poor is such a minute amount that it is no wonder if we are asked to donate yet again, and even more next time round. A Christian whose faith is based on the Bible who supports a Christian preacher, evangelist or missionary whom he knows personally and whose faith he has examined along with the associated “fruits”, so that he has come to the conviction that this person is working in the name of God and promulgating the truth of the Bible - he himself is likewise carrying out God’s commission in supporting this preacher’s activities. But many Christians act quite differently. They abandon responsibility and hand over their money to unbelievers and hypocritical cheats, who as a result are able to enrich themselves, live in luxurious villas and drive classy cars (as do many preachers in the United States).


Mt 5,44 "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”, Mt 5,43;

If I am to be able to love my enemy - a person, that is to say, who does not love me - it follows that I must know him personally, and vice versa. How can I be expected to know who is out there in Africa, India, Asia or other parts of the globe who has something against me? And I must be personally acquainted with those who persecute me, otherwise I couldn’t pray for them.


It is easy to see that all these commandments are based on the indispensable precondition that the persons involved should be personally known to me, and preferably close to me in geographical terms. The argument that we are living in the age of globalization today, so that geographical distances lose their meaning, no doubt has its points when it comes to trade, the money markets and communications generally. But it remains the case that we are best in a position to assess the spiritual and material poverty and neediness of our fellow human beings, and take steps to remedy it, if we know the people involved in person and are able to judge their problems and wants. But of course this is a much lengthier business, and a lot less impressive, than it is to spend five minutes in the publicity limelight praying for “the world”.

The question voiced in the title of this Discourse - “Must Christians love their enemies?” - can therefore be answered with an absolutely definite affirmative. At the same time, there must be a pronounced emphasis on the “their”, as a critical factor. We do not find anything in the Bible to tell us that we should love the enemies of others, let alone people the world over. And even with some of our actual enemies, Scripture tells us to keep our distance from them and to have nothing to do with their activities.

Do not be bound together with unbelievers.

2Cor 6,14 Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 6,15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? 2Cor 6,14-15;

A brother who is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater - not even eat with such a one.

1Cor 5,9 I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people;5,10 I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. 5,11 But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler-not even to eat with such a one. 5,12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? 5,13 But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves. 1Cor 5, 9-13;

A brother who sins and does not listen, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Mt 18,15 "If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 18,16 "But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 18,17 "If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Mt 18,15-17;

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?

1Cor 6,9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 6,10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 1Cor 6, 9-10;

Therefore do not be partakers with them.

Eph 5,5 For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 5,6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 5,7 Therefore do not be partakers with them; Eph 5, 5- 7;

Do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds..

2Jn 1,8 Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. 1,9 Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. 1,10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; 1,11 for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds. 2Jn 1,8-11;

Their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone.

Rev 21,8 "But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." Rev 21, 8;



The Sermon on the Mount

If the commandment of Jesus “Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two” (Mt 5:41) were to apply not just among correctly believing Christians but to all people in the entire world, then every Christian, when compelled by another person to rob a bank, would be obliged to help him rob two banks.

If somebody compels him to rape a woman, he would have join in raping two women; and if someone compels him to kill a Christian, then he would have to help him to kill two.

If a Catholic pastor forces you to let him rape your little son, then you have to give him your little daughter to rape her.

As we can see, this is the devilish distortion of the sayings of our Lord which turns Christians in their actions into Islamists and makes superficial preachers the henchmen of Satan.

If these commandments of the Lord were valid not only in the circle of the Christian community, but for all the people of this world, then the Sermon on the Mount would be a plagiarism of the devil and not a commandment of our Lord. If it be argued that there is nothing in the Sermon on the Mount to say that these commandments should only apply to our brethren in Christ, we must counter this by pointing out that there is nothing in the Sermon on the Mount, either, to the effect that the correctly believing Christian is not permitted to commit robbery, rape or murder.

So if the latter is undoubtedly implied by the text, there is no reason why the same should not be the case with the former. The more so in that we have a superlative demonstration of the way in which the Lord himself viewed these non-Christians, with whom we Christians are apparently supposed to make common cause: 

Jn 3,19This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil (Jn 8:43-44; Mt 3:7; Mt 12:34-35; Mt 23:32-33). 3,20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 3,21 But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God. Jn 3:19-21;

So should we turn away from the light to enter the darkness? It is the godless people of this world and the idol worshipers of the Catholic Church who want to persuade us that. They would like us to come to them in the darkness.

How little understanding must those preachers have who try to tell us that we should go "two miles" with all persons without distinction – with those, that is to say, who are in darkness?



The Jewish spiritual authorities at the time of Jesus were also denounced for their hypocrisy and deceit by the Lord, who described them as the offspring of the devil. And right now in America we have just seen the conclusion of two court cases. In one of these, in the Californian diocese of Santa Rosa, the Roman Catholic church was compelled to pay out 3.3 million dollars (2.5 million euros) in indemnification for a priest’s having sexually abused a 14-year-old girl. In the other, in the diocese of Covington in the American state of Kentucky, the court found for several hundred victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and slapped the Catholic church with the biggest ever indemnification sum to date, amounting to 120 million dollars or 92 million euros. When we consider that in the Northern Californian dioceses there are another 150 suits still pending, and that the Roman Catholic diocese of Boston last year had to pay out 85 million dollars (around 65 million euros) to victims of sexual abuse by priests, the application of these statements to the present day is inescapable.

You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father.

Jn 8,43 "Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. 8,44 "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Jn 8,43-44;

You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

Mt 3,7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Mt 3, 7;

You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good?

Mt 12,34 You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. 12,35 "The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. Mt 12,34-35;

You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?

Mt 23,32 "Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. 23,33 "You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell? Mt 23,32-33;

As wax melts before the fire, So let the wicked perish before God.

Ps 68,1 <<For the choir director. A Psalm of David. A Song.>> Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered, And let those who hate Him flee before Him. 68,2 As smoke is driven away, so drive them away; As wax melts before the fire, So let the wicked perish before God. 68,3 But let the righteous be glad; let them exult before God; Yes, let them rejoice with gladness. Ps 68, 1- 3;

God will shatter the head of His enemies.

Ps 68,21 Surely God will shatter the head of His enemies, The hairy crown of him who goes on in his guilty deeds. Ps 68,22;


So anyone who thinks that we should be expected to love

-  unbelievers, idolaters, the dissolute, the impure, covetous and blasphemous persons,

-  drunkards, gangsters, adulterers, toy-boys, pederasts and thieves,

-  cowards (in professing their faith in Jesus Christ), the abominably corrupt, murderers and sorcerers

is joining himself to these idolaters and has not even begun to see what the true implications of this must be. As with love of our neighbors, here we find a commandment that was given with reference to personal relationships - and only these - which is now applied free of charge to the whole of the human race, whether murderers, thieves, pederasts or gangsters. And anyone who criticizes this point of view will be stigmatized as an intolerant fundamentalist. The Catholic cardinal Josef Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, quite rightly referred, in a similar context, to the “overweening arrogance of political correctness”.

To conclude the topic of love of our enemies, let us point here to yet another parallel with love of our neighbor. We cannot approve of love of our neighbor, and then just forget the help we have received from our neighbor - from people that is, who have supported and stood by us in our lives - as if it had never been. We must prove our love and gratitude to them in word and deed, in just the same way as they have shown their love in the support they provided for us.

Love of our enemies, likewise, is not going to be accomplished if we think it is enough just to throw in an aside in the midst of our prayers to the effect that “I love all my enemies”, as if that were going to be sufficient. This would be rather analogous to the way in which Americans say “I love you” at every second sentence. This has become just decoration, nobody takes it seriously. And in the same way, some Christians do not seem to take it seriously that they are expected to love their enemies. How else could someone get the idea that he is supposed to love all his enemies worldwide, when he is not even acquainted with the enemies who surround him daily? No - it just is not that simple. Our prayers must be made in all seriousness, and must be presented to God in the spirit of truth. And our love of our enemies should not just be an empty flourish - it is something we have to prove in our daily lives.

(See also Discourse 18: “Forgiveness: God's and the Christian's business?”“)

The first step here might be to consider who actually our enemies are. And then perhaps we will realize that some of them are not our enemies at all - it is rather the case that we are theirs. If we change our attitude accordingly this may perhaps be sorted out, and so we have one enemy less. And then too, conversely, it may prove to be the case that some of our friends are actually not friends but rather enemies. And here again an open discussion with the person in question may clarify the issue. But it must be quite clear however that all those people mentioned in Scripture as being people with whom we should have nothing to do - that is to say, thieves, drunkards, gangsters, adulterers, sexual abusers and pedophiles, toy-boys and homosexuals, covetous and dissolute persons, idolaters and blasphemers, whether they are friends or enemies, cannot expect to receive our approval. To the extent that such people have made it clear that - in spite of our entering into dialog with them and admonishing them accordingly - they are not going to abandon their ways, they can no longer expect us to countenance them in any way whatever.

For the sake of completeness, let me refer here to a circumstance which stands out, specifically in connection with this incorrect interpretation of love of our neighbor and love of our enemies that has been current for centuries. The question poses itself whether this misunderstanding is to be attributed to the incompetence of biblical commentators, or whether it is purely and simply a matter - at least in the case of love of our neighbor - of deliberate falsification. But why should anyone want to do such a thing? The answer to a question of this kind generally comes into view when we try to determine who is likely to benefit from such a course (the principle of cui bono?).

Whereas the biblical commandment enjoining love of our neighbor obliges Christians to be grateful to those who help them, in the definition current today the injunction to gratitude is no longer present at all, and instead - in a complete inversion of the meaning - we find an obligation on the helpers to help the poor of the whole world. This means that the beneficiaries of this falsification of Scripture are all poor people worldwide.

When we now reflect that the helpers today are chiefly to be found in the Christian “First” World - i.e. Europe and the USA - while the poor, on the other hand, are in the “Third” World of South America, Africa and Asia, it becomes rapidly plain that the distortion of this command makes it incumbent on Christians to support these cultures that are poor in material terms, but culturally complete foreign to us - involving prayer to spirits and idols (South America), invocation of the dead, assassination sects and the cult of human sacrifice (India), shamanism (Africa) and so on.

But when we analyze the situation more closely, we find that there is yet another party that benefits from this distorted interpretation. For centuries the Roman Catholic church has been missionizing many of these peoples, and with some of them it has been successful in converting the greater part of the population to the Catholic faith - even if the Catholic Spanish and Portuguese practically exterminated half a million American Indians in the name of the Catholic church in Southern and Central America in the sixteenth century. Nonetheless Brazil, for instance, is 93% Catholic today, although these so-called “Christians” do not have any kind of problem, after Mass on a Sunday morning, about praying to the spirits of the earth and the forest - who have now been promoted to Catholic saints - in the afternoon, and sacrificing to them in hope of a good harvest. In Africa we find comparable practices involving shamanism and voodoo cults. This is Catholicism as it really exists in these countries.

These people were not converted to Christianity - rather they robbed of all their goods and made into Catholics in order to increase the wealth and the power of the Catholic church and the Catholic hidalgo families in Europe of the time. The following statement by the Kazike Hatuey, a Cuban Indian chieftain still famous to this day, has come down to us from that period. Before being burned at the stake he was asked by the conquistadors’ Franciscan friar if he would not be converted, in order to go to heaven.

“The Kazike thought about it for a moment, and then asked the friar if the Spanish Christians would also be going to heaven. Certainly, said the friar, all good Christians go to heaven, including the Spaniards! The Kazike answered immediately and without any further thought that he would rather not go there then - he would prefer to go to hell, to get away from the company of such very cruel people.”

This arrogant and completely unjustified view of its own role on the part of the Catholic church has been maintained right up to the present day. So we find Cardinal Ratzinger, as Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, asserting in the manifesto “Dominus Jesus” that “the Catholic church is the only church that can give salvation”, while denying that any other Christian church is able to do so. This was also presumably intended to document the “primacy” of the Catholic church over all other Christian churches. And although the Catholic church has accumulated enormous wealth over the centuries, while it pays out its millions in indemnification for the sexual misconduct of its priests when compelled to do so by a court order, when it comes to catastrophes in the countries of the Third World, on the other hand, its representatives invariably issue a modest call for charitable campaigns in the name of “admonitory conscience”, and again in reliance on this same distorted understanding of the injunction to love our neighbor. Major donations by the Vatican in such cases are a thing unheard of. So there are reasons to suspect that the Roman Catholic church is not unhappy about this mistaken interpretation of the commandment of neighborly love, and so has done nothing to correct the mistake. In the end, this means that many pious Christians from Europe and the USA lend their financial support to all the idolatrous religions that the Catholic church has absorbed.

(See also Discourse 32: “Commentary on the manifesto ‘Dominus Jesus’ of the Catholic Congregation of Faith.”)

And this also fits in perfectly with the plan that has been propagated with increasing openness by insiders of this church in recent years - namely, a “world ecumenism of all religions under the umbrella of the Catholic church.” Never mind whether we have to do with assassins, shamans, voodoo sorcerers or worshipers of spirits - in the Catholic church they can all be combined into a single ecumenical world religion. The extension of the command to love our enemies to all the ungodly and criminal elements of the whole world is of course also extremely useful in this connection. And so it is without any sense of surprise that we find Josef Ratzinger, in his sermon on accession to the papacy as Pope Benedict XVI, pronouncing the following invitation:

“I greet all people of our time, both believers and unbelievers. We should do everything we can to tread the path of unity that the Lord has promised us.”“

So let them all come - those who believe in this one Almighty God, and also all the rest, the ungodly, the deniers of God and the blasphemers, and even those who believe in other gods, idols or spirits! Faith is no longer the relevant criterion, nor, most assuredly, is it the confession of faith in Jesus Christ. The aim is mass unity: all are welcome in the bosom of the one, vast Catholic church - which now numbers more than a billion adherents (not a billion Christians!) - to create a world ecumenical combine of all religions. But this certainly is not the unity that Our Lord Jesus Christ promised us. And seeing that the whole strategy has been so brilliantly coordinated, we are regrettably unable to avoid confronting the question to what extent these “dispensations” are really of human origin, or whether there is not a different and much more far-seeing power at work here.

(See also the Discourse 78: ”The doctrine of the Catholic church and the Bible - a debate.”)


Whistle-blowing on such monstrous and threatening developments in the faith of Christendom has drawn frequent criticism from some quarters, seeing that people prefer to hide all unpleasant issues under the covering cloak of “love and tolerance” - though only so as to be able to throw them into the discussion again as arguments as soon as opportunity offers.

Wilfried Plock, in his book “Gott ist nicht pragmatisch [“God is not a pragmatist”], makes the following important statement:

The negative side is not passed over in silence by the Bible either

“»Do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.« (1Thess 5,20-22) After I had ventured a critical remark in public with reference to a different notion of congregational development, I received a communication from a young theologian. He argued that Paul was only urging the Thessalonians to examine everything carefully and to hold fast to the good: he did not insist on their mentioning the negative side. This point of view seems to me symptomatic of our day. The philosophy of tolerance would like to leave everything as it is, and avoid any kind of fundamental criticism if at all possible. Above all it would prefer to avoid drawing lines of demarcation. By contrast with this, anyone who reads the New Testament with attention will find that both Jesus Christ and the apostles frequently resorted to criticism and the drawing of definite lines (Mt 16,11-12; Mt 23; 1Cor 15,12; 2Cor 11,1-4; 3Jn 9-10; etc.). Paul actually rebuked Peter in public, when »the truth of the gospel« was at issue (Gal 2,14).”


And in the following passage (Mt 10,11-15) the Lord Jesus himself speaks of those who are unwilling to receive the gospel and hear the words of the apostles.

Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, go out of that house or that city.

Mt 10,11 "And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city. 10,12 "As you enter the house, give it your greeting. 10,13 "If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace. 10,14 "Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. 10,15 "Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city. Mt 10,11-15;


He does not tell us to open our arms to these people who refuse to be converted, or to become one with them, as the Pope would like us to do - on the contrary, we are to turn our backs on them and leave them to their godlessness and their idolatry. And as the Lord says, on the Day of Judgment Sodom and Gomorrah will have an easier time of it than will these idolaters and deniers of God.



(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(Is the Samaritan just a fellow human being? / Commentary PB 00, 2005-05-19)

On 6 January 2005 I sent NGÜ Bibelübersetzung [NGU Bible Translation: Neue Genfer Übersetzung der Genfer Bibelgesellschaft / New Geneva Translation of the Geneva Bible Society] an e-mail with reference to Luke 10,36, of which I give the content below:


“When reading the Bible in the NGU translation, I was struck by what in my view appears to be a misinterpretation or mistranslation. In the Elberfeld translation the passage is given as follows:

‘Was meinst du, wer von diesen dreien der Nächste dessen gewesen ist, der unter die Räuber gefallen war?’ [‘Which of these three do you think proved to be the neighbor of the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?’]

You translate it as

‘Wer von den dreien hat an dem, der den Wegelagerern in die Hände fiel, als Mitmensch gehandelt?’ [‘Which of the three acted as a fellow human being to the man who fell into the hands of the brigands?’]

This has quite different implications from the Eberfeld version (which I refer to here just as an example of a translation that is closer to the original text). In order to explain in more detail what I mean, I have copied a discussion of this question from www.Immanuel.at’s web pages, taking it from the discussion forum, Discourse number 18, on “Forgiveness: God's and the Christian's business?”


Today [19. 5. 2005] I received an e-mail in response, but cannot say that I am wholly in agreement with the answer. In section (f) it struck me that Mr Andreas Symank is writing about New Testament ethics. When reading this section, however, I come to the conclusion that the Lord Jesus is here explaining the second commandment to a lawyer learned in the Old Testament scriptures, based on the ethics of the Old Testament. I think there could not have been a better opportunity for making it clear to a Jewish lawyer that it may be the will of God for him to love a despised Samaritan, because he has become his neighbor. I think if we are talking of Christian ethics there is a considerable danger of confusing ethics with humanism. I reproduce below the e-mail from NGÜ. I think you might find this interesting, seeing that I made use of an extract from your Discourse 18 in support of my argument.

Peter Buschauer buschauermusik@vol.at / http://members.vol.at/buschauermusik/



In his letter quoted above to the Geneva Bible Society, Peter Buschauer - a visitor to Immanuel.at - refers to the interpretation of the term “neighbor” in Lk 10,36, as it has been discussed in several Discourses (the present one, as well as Discourse 18) on this website. His letter elicited a reply from Andreas Symank, one of the translators of the NGÜ project, whose arguments will be reproduced and commented on in here below.


“Dear Mr Buschauer, Some time ago you sent a query relating to Luke 10,36 to the Geneva Bible Society. Your e-mail was passed on to me, as one of the translators of the NGÜ project. I am sorry that I have only now gotten around to replying. First of all, many thanks for your interest in our work, and for your careful reading of the texts of extant translations! In response to your observations, here are a few notes. (a) It does indeed catch the attention that in his answer Jesus does not actually pick up on the lawyer’s question (“Who is my neighbor?”) in a literally exact way, but turns it so to speak back to front (“Who seems to you to have acted as the neighbor of the man who... ?”) ”

Here Jesus has not “turned around” anything whatever - rather, at the end of the parable, he tests whether the lawyer is now able himself to answer his own question “Who is my neighbor?” on the basis of the grounds for judgment that the parable provides, so as to recognize that it is not those who are in need of help, but the helpers who are to be seen as neighbors.


“(b) But at the same time it is clear that the concluding injunction (“Go and do the same”) cannot refer to anything other than the action of the Samaritan. The priest and the Levite are negative examples, and no positive actions on the part of the man who was set upon are reported. Jesus can only have meant “Do the same as the Samaritan”, in other words - Help him who has need of it; he is your neighbor (or more pointedly formulated: You are a neighbor to him).”

Based on this statement -

“…him who has need of it; he is your neighbor (or more pointedly formulated: You are a neighbor to him)”

we have to ask ourselves (and the author) who is actually the neighbor in question: the Samaritan, or the man in need of help - or both? In this exchange the lawyer puts a perfectly clear question, and the Lord answers this question, without any shadow of doubt, in a perfectly concrete and unambiguous way. The above statement from the NGÜ translator - to the effect that both the man in need of help and the Samaritan are “neighbors” - quite simply ignores and reverses the sense of this answer. We see here that evidently either the capacity or the will are lacking to understand the background to this situation and the clear statements made by Our Lord.


“(c) In this ‘turning around’ that I spoke of (not “Who is my neighbor?” but “To whom am I the neighbor?”), Jesus relied on the fact that “neighbor” is a reciprocal term. If I am someone’s neighbor, then conversely this other person is my neighbor as well. If A is the brother of B, then B is the brother of A. And in just the same way, if I can say of a person, He is my neighbor, then the converse is also true - I am his neighbor, I am a neighbor to him.”

The biblical term “neighbor” does not describe a close local or genetic relationship between two persons, but rather designates (or better, distinguishes) a spiritual attitude of compassion and willingness to help in one - and just one - specific person. This is equally true both in the parable and in daily life.


“(d) So Jesus introduces a change of perspective. As long as I ask, “Who is my neighbor?”, my gaze is fixed on the object (and there I could spend my whole time looking for a suitable object of my charitable acts!). But as soon as I ask instead, “To whom am I a neighbor?”, my gaze falls on the subject, that is on myself, and I am compelled to ask myself the question, Am I prepared to be a neighbor to the other person? Am I prepared to help him? The problem, as Jesus shows, is not the other person. I am the problem myself - the question is, whether I am prepared to be a brother to my brother in need. Or to put it in a different way - in the relationship of neighbor to neighbor, the question is not whether there is anywhere a neighbor in need of help (of course there are always such people!), but rather whether there is a neighbor who is willing to help (and this is where we come in - as Jesus showed us by his own example).”

This section, now, is exactly in keeping with the conclusion of the parable - until we come to the last sentence. Here a “relationship of neighbor to neighbor” is brought into the argument, and this just is not to be found in the parable. It is not a matter of a relationship between two “neighbors”, but of the definition and characterization of the one and only person in the story who can be designated as a neighbor. And that is the Samaritan - not the man who fell among thieves!


“(e) What Jesus here likewise makes clear is that the practical love that we are enjoined to show to others should not be made dependent on the object. I should not treat a nice sick person any better than one who is disagreeable. (The Samaritan looked after the Jew just as carefully as he would have done if he had been a compatriot). The scope and quality of love is not based on my opposite number, but is subject to my own control. I am called on to measure my own love against the love of God - and God is not partisan, but gives to all with universal generosity and in superabundant measure.”

With this statement, now, we can agree, without any kind of reservation. These are the character traits of the person whom the Lord designates as the “neighbor”, that is to say the Samaritan - and so also of all people who are compassionate and ready to help.


“(f) In the NGÜ version, in my view, all these points have been correctly and transparently taken into account. The interpretation that you quote from the Internet, on the other hand, is patently erroneous. This turns the final conclusion on its head, in that the lawyer is no longer enjoined to act like the Samaritan, but to act like the victim of the assault (of whose active doing good the parable says nothing whatsoever!). “Show your love to the person who has helped you,” expounds the Internet commentator. The logical consequence of this would be, “... but do not show it to the person who refuses you help” (in other words, do good to the Samaritan, but not to the priest or the Levite). At this point surely, if not before, it must have become clear that we have abandoned any basis in New Testament ethics. Jesus taught and commanded the exact opposite of this (cf. Matth. 5,43-38).”

Now first of all, in this parable the principal issue is the lawyer’s question “Who is my neighbor?” And that for just one reason - with a view to understanding how God’s commandment in Lev 19,28, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”, is to be fulfilled. The Lord answers this question by indicating that it is not the person in need of help who is the neighbor here: rather the reverse is true - it is the helper, the Samaritan, who is the neighbor of the victim because he gave him help, and who therefore, in accordance with the second commandment (Mt 22,39), should be loved by the man who fell among thieves as the latter loves himself. The semantics and the implications of this saying of the Lord’s in Lk 10,36, “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?”, and the correct answer of the lawyer in the following verse - “The one who showed mercy to him” - are understandably not altogether obvious to less experienced students of the Bible. But anyone who is capable of understanding the German language on the basis of his professional qualifications should have no difficulty in realizing the meaning of these two sentences.

So it is rather an erroneous interpretation on the part of this translator when he tries to turn these facts back to front, so as to make the man who fell among robbers the neighbor of the Samaritan. Whereas the Lord uses this parable to express the fact that all those who have been helped should love their helpers - their neighbors, that is - as they love themselves, and should thank them for their compassion and willingness to help, the translator postulates the exact opposite - namely, that the helper is to thank the man he has helped and to love him as himself, and the man in need of help should love those who have left him lying helplessly in the ditch. If this were really to be understood in this sense, the Lord would hardly have called the Jewish lawyers of his own time “serpents” and “brood of vipers” in passages quoted earlier (Mt 3,7, 12,34 and 23,32) or characterized them as sons of the devil in Jn 8,44.

In his final comment, the translator then suggests that the victim of the assault in this parable should thank and show his love to the priest and the Levite who have passed him by without sparing him a thought, when he lay helpless on the road. This finally shows a complete want of biblical understanding, and the entirely unrealistic nature of such a point of view is equally plain. Anyone who calls this “New Testament ethics” must be fundamentally lacking in any understanding either of ethics or of the New Testament.


Here, finally, let us again shine a spotlight on Peter Buschauer’s above-quoted and highly pertinent comments on the NGÜ translator’s position:


In section (f) it struck me that Mr Andreas Symank is writing about New Testament ethics. When reading this section, however, I come to the conclusion that the Lord Jesus is here explaining the second commandment to a lawyer learned in the Old Testament scriptures, based on the ethics of the Old Testament. I think there could not have been a better opportunity for making it clear to a Jewish lawyer that it may be the will of God for him to love a despised Samaritan, because he has become his neighbor. I think if we are talking of Christian ethics there is a considerable danger of confusing ethics with humanism.

Peter Buschauer buschauermusik@vol.at / http://members.vol.at/buschauermusik/



This comment of Mr Buschauer’s scores a direct hit. The lawyer presumed that “neighbor” was a reference to those close to him, whom he was to love as he loved himself. The exchange between him and the Lord makes it plain that this question “Who is my neighbor?” was not new at the time, and it was not the first time that Israel’s lawyers had discussed it. People wondered how this commandment was to be understood - whether the “neighbor” was to be seen as a family member or the person next door (though possibly Lev 19,17 introduces a distinction here), or were all Israelites as such to be seen as their neighbors (Lev 19,18)? If we now extend this to embrace the people of the entire world, we have the very same diluted interpretation that is associated with this Christian term today.

And this is just the point at which Our Lord engages with the issue, by making it plain through this parable that we do not have to spend a lot of time searching around and wondering who our neighbor is - the neighbor we are supposed to love as ourselves - because this neighbor gives us direct evidence of his identity through his compassion and willingness to help us. So the Lord did not answer this question just for the benefit of the lawyers of Israel of his own time - the answer is equally relevant to us today. If we want to recognize our neighbors, we must look among the people who have shown us love and compassion. These then we should love in return - and love them as we love ourselves. This is what the Lord says, and it is also the most obvious thing in the world and taken by all reasonable persons as such. How is it then that some people see this view as incorrect?



(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(What is the essential message in the parable of the Good Samaritan? / Reply MvS00, 2005-10-02)

I do think that the “hostile relationship” between the helper (the Samaritan) and the person helped (a Jew) is the decisive point in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. In my view love of our neighbor has something to do with Mat 5:44 and 46. If my father helps me, for example, it is relatively easy to love him as I love myself. On the other hand, if I am helped by a person who raped my child a few years ago, that is quite a different matter.

Dr. Monika von Sury - Royal Line info@royalline.ch / http://www.royalline.ch/d/traduction.asp



I entirely share Dr. von Sury’s view that the ostracism of the Samaritans by the Jews at the time - just as much as the attitude of the priest and the Levite - is a real and very significant factor in the background to this parable of Our Lord’s. But if we are to draw the correct conclusions, we must always consider the question why it is that the Lord tells a particular parable. And this parable is without a shadow of doubt the Lord’s specific answer to the question posed by the lawyer earlier on, “Who is my neighbor?”. The other question - Why did the priest and the Levite not help the man, and how as it that the Samaritan did? - may well find an implicit answer in these words. But in my opinion this is not the essential message. The essential message is the answer to the question “Who is my neighbor?”

To give us a better overview of the matter, here once more is the text of the parable:

The good Samaritan

Lk 10,25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" 10,26 He said to him, "What is written in the law? How do you read?" 10,27 And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." 10,28 And he said to him, "You have answered right; do this, and you will live." 10,29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" 10,30 Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 10,31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 10,32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 10,33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, 10,34 and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 10,35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 10,36 Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" 10,37 He said, "The one who showed mercy on him." And Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." Lk 10,25-37;


Now you write in your above comment:

“If my father helps me, for example, it is relatively easy to love him as I love myself. On the other hand, if I am helped by a person who raped my child a few years ago, that is quite a different matter.”

And here again, of course, you are completely right. Incidentally, your example illustrates a circumstance which I repeatedly point out in this connection, and which I also advance below - namely that we must be personally acquainted both with our neighbors and with our enemies, and not let ourselves be persuaded that we have a whole bunch of “neighbors” and “enemies” in the world out there. And for you personally it may be quite obvious that you can love your father as you love yourself. I know families on the other hand where this would not only not be taken for granted, but in view of various incidents that have occurred in the past it would be downright unthinkable.

But this is just the point, after all, that the Lord’s answer is aimed at: it is completely unimportant who the person was or is who helps us. Whether it happens to be our father or a sex offender or whoever. The important thing is that this person, here and now, has helped us. This makes him my neighbor. Not the fact that we are related, or that we belong to the same class or nationality.

Now I know that it is relatively easy for me, being uninvolved, to pass judgment in such a case. But on the basis of my life experience I can say that I have never yet met a persistently bad person who has suddenly helped me in any kind of way. To do so would be against such a person’s nature. If this has appeared to be the case on occasion, it has always turned out that the person had changed and wanted to make restitution for his error.

To turn, now, to your scriptural references:

Mt 5,44 "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 5,45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 5,46 "For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 5,47 "If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 5,48 "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Mt 5,44-48;


In your Bible quote above it says:

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?


By implication, this statement of the Lord means:

o  Among the brothers in Christ, we must also love those who do not love us.

o  Among all people we must also greet those who are not our brothers in Christ.

But what the godless and the Catholic idol worshipers want to convince us that we should love all people, the Lord didn’t say anything here.

This saying of Our Lord’s in Mt 5,44-48 is quoted in an undifferentiated manner with regrettable frequency. People then purport to derive from it that we should love all the peoples of the Third World, and even the whole of the human race. That this is not the case is revealed just by the logical consequence that I must know my enemy personally in order to love him in a biblical sense. That form of “love” which the world here inserts is without any kind of biblical foundation. And those who persecute me, as well, must be personally known to me, otherwise of course I cannot pray for them. - Always assuming that we are talking here about real prayer to Our Lord in the Spirit, and not just a babbling of meaningless phrases and stereotypical formulas.

So what the official churches propagate in this connection, with the charitable organizations jumping on the bandwaggon with alacrity, is a complete dilution of Our Lord’s commandment. Since in most countries of the West the Christians are the people who are better off and have more financial clout, they are to be persuaded that they should see themselves as debtors to the entire world - this with a view to getting their financial support for every kind of project, feasible or not, and of course too, most importantly, for the salaries of those working in this sector.

So we need to be somewhat more discriminating in this respect. First of all, the injunction to love our enemies does not apply to the whole human race - either of the First World or of the Third World - but rather to those people who are our enemies in a fully personal sense, people we know and have contact with. And then it applies equally to those people who persecute us personally - for whatever reason. These, too, must be personally known to us, not just some kind of phantom that is presumed to be persecuting us out there in the world somewhere.

But we must also distinguish between our own personal enemies. Not all who are our enemies come under the heading of this commandment. Here the Lord himself gave us two good illustrations. When the Roman soldiers were crucifying him, he asked the Father to forgive them, because they did not know what they were doing.

Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.

Lk 23,33 When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. 23,34 But Jesus was saying, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves. Lk 23,33-34;

As anyone who knows the biblical background of the story is aware, the Romans were not the real enemies of Our Lord. The real enemies were the Jewish lawyers who had handed him over to the Romans and delivered him to death on the cross. And when it comes to these, his true enemies, to whom he has proclaimed the gospel and proved his identity as the Son of God through his miracles, and who in spite of this (or for this very reason) have persecuted and taken him captive and condemned him, and who therefore were thoroughly aware of what they were doing - when it comes to them, the Lord shows himself considerably less gracious, as we can see from the following scriptural passages.

You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

Mt 3,7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Mt 3, 7;

You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good?

Mt 12,34 "You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. Mt 12,34;

You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?

Mt 23,33 "You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell? Mt 23,33;

You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father.

Jn 8,44 "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Jn 8,44;


If we take these utterances of Our Lord’s -

-“who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”

- “How will you escape the sentence of hell?”

- “You are of your father the devil.”

with the best will in the world we can hardly infer from them that he would have loved these people.

These scriptural passages first of all confirm the view that we must be personally acquainted with our enemies in order to be able to form a correct judgment of their behavior in our regard. And we can furthermore see from these examples that, based on what Our Lord tells us, our real enemies are not those who inflict material or physical damage on us - even, if it comes to that, to the point of death - but rather all those people who deny God and Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God who was made man, and who combat our faith. Not only should we not love such people, we are actually forbidden to love them, because in doing so we would become guilty along with them.

Seeing that in the world today the greater part of humanity consists of unbelievers in the biblical sense, this distinction is of the utmost importance. Still more so when these people adduce incorrectly interpreted scriptural passages in order to lead believers astray. At the same time, we have to point to the counterbalancing fact here that although in Christian thinking this love of our enemies has always been confirmed and insisted on, in practice there are hardly any people who have seriously engaged with this issue and still fewer, if any at all, who have realized the full implications of it in terms of their own lives.



To sum up:

It is a sad fact that we live in a time in which we are faced with more and more cheats - and they have more and more sophisticated tricks, and succeed more and more frequently in enriching themselves from the hard-earned money of their credulous and incautious contemporaries, all in the name of this erroneous “love of our neighbor”. This includes the young, non-crippled beggar on the street, who tells us that back home he has to look after a wife and five children, when in fact he is on his own and without a family and just prefers not to work.

Under the same heading we meet with a good few begging letters from aid organizations working in the Third World. In view of the fact that the authors of such letters are rarely employed in an honorary capacity and without remuneration, any money donated to them is going to involve first of all the payment of their not inconsiderable salaries, not to speak of payments for logistics costs - office rent, shipment costs, tax and such-like items. Media reports have given us evidence, on repeated occasions, of what is really going on in these Third World countries. There are so few checks placed on the funds that reach these developing countries that dishonest administrators fill their pockets, and corrupt politicians top up their Swiss bank accounts as a result.

In view of Our Lord’s indications in the parable of the Good Samaritan and in the Sermon on the Mount, it follows that we should provide help - whether financial help, or of any other kind - only on the basis of the following preconditions:


Help the person who is in need, whom you meet on your way, and whose neediness you have examined and do not turn the person away who comes to you in his need.





Must Christians love their enemies? - Part 2: The Catholic view of the matter. / Reply Dr. John Waterfield 00, 2006-01-28