“But now, for the first time, I see you are a man like me. I thought of your hand-grenades, of your bayonet, of your rifle; now I see your wife and your face and our fellowship. Forgive me, comrade. We always see it too late. Why do they never tell us that you are poor devils like us, that your mothers are just as anxious as ours, and that we have the same fear of death, and the same dying and the same agony–Forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy?”
~Erich Maria Remarque, from All Quiet on the Western Front
My father fought in World War II, earning combat medals he would never discuss. He loved his country, but he fought for his buddies and when the war was over he held no grudges against the men of enemy nations. In the rare moments he would speak of them he called them “those other boys.”
In his book All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque tells of a Paul, a young German soldier who gets separated from his company in the heat of battle. Hiding in a crater, he is startled by a young French solider who jumps in to hide. Paul reflexively attacks the man, mortally wounding him. Still pinned down by the battle, Paul is then forced to spend the night with the man in the crater, watching him die a slow painful death.
It changes his life.
When the young soldier dies, Paul goes through his belongings, learning his name and discovering that he has a wife and child back home. When morning comes, Paul is reunited with his company, but forever haunted by the event.
Picture yourself in that bomb crater, spending the night with someone you see as an enemy. Who do you envision? Think about that one person you struggle with the most. Who is in the trenches with you right now? Have you hardened your heart, or are you speaking words of life over the situation? Show love to the very person who has hurt you the most. Do good to the one who hates you. Pray for the one who spitefully uses you. Forgive. Bless. Love.
It’s truly the only way to face the morning light with a peaceful heart.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.