What about when the Creed of Nicea was violently enforced by Constantine and his Roman successors, through the surrogacy of the Roman Catholic Church? What about when Roman Catholic thugs burnt at the stake those who did not accept their interpretation of the gospels? What about when entire libraries and their owners were burnt down? How about when the Donatists - who rejected the authority of the Roman Catholic Church - were persecuted for "heresy?"
How about the Christian missionaries who sailed around the world and participated in burning down villages and killing natives of various regions - calling them "heathens"?
What about the Inquisitions of the 12th-century (Inquisitio Haereticae Pravitatis) wherein thousands of "heretics" were imprisoned and tortured, and sometimes executed for their beliefs?
And what about the Crusades, during which millions of people were attacked and killed by so-called Christian knights because their victims did not believe in the Church's interpretations and the supremacy of the pope?
Through the centuries, these so-called Christian institutions and their followers have waged a campaign of intolerance and terror among those who did not agree with their philosophy. Yet they have claimed to be followers of Jesus.
Did they even read this instruction by Jesus?
They obviously ignored it, because it has been included in the Biblical canon and translated into so many languages over the centuries, including Latin.
What Jesus is communicating to his followers is not only tolerance for others, but love for others. And this love is independent of whether they believe the way we do or whether they hate us or even persecute us. How can a person attain this type of love for others?
This type of love is only possible when one has focused their lives upon the Supreme Being. Why is that?
Jesus is affirming this love is connected to ones relationship to God as he says, "pray for those who mistreat you."
Who might a person be praying to, and why?
Jesus illustrated this type of prayer as he was being tortured and executed when he prayed:
"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)Yes, this is what Jesus said about those who were crucifying him. He was advocating for them. His concern was not the excruciating pain that he was experiencing, after being nailed up onto a cross. His focus was on the welfare of those who were executing them. He wanted the Supreme Being to forgive them.
This is love. Jesus practiced what he preached. He was not concerned for his welfare, but for the welfare of others. That is real love.
Where does this kind of love come from? It comes from the intimate relationship Jesus had with the Supreme Being.
Jesus wanted to please the Supreme Being. His heart was focused upon doing the will of his beloved Supreme Being. This is clarified as Jesus prayed during his final hours:
"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but Yours be done." (Luke 22:42)
This is love for God.
Jesus was not God as so many sectarian teachers have taught and violently persecuted others over through the centuries. Jesus was the perfect lover of the Supreme Being.
Jesus' activities also illustrated that when one loves the Supreme Being, he will naturally love others. He also stated this clearly:
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Matthew 22:37-39)Here the phrase "like it" is derived from the Greek word ὅμοιος (homoios), which means not only "like" but "similar" and "resembling." The same word was also used as Jesus spoke in parables: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed..." and so on. The word ὅμοιος (homoios) indicates something reflective. One reflects the other.
In this case, love for others reflects ones love for the Supreme Being.
Love requires understanding
Love for God can only take place as a person comes to know the Supreme Being. We cannot love someone we do not know. But when we come to know God, we see His unconditional love for all His children. As we see this nature and participate in a relationship with Him, we begin to reflect this love.
Our love for God reflects onto others as we see the unconditional love that God has for each of us - and how we are each intimately related to God (a fact most of us have forgotten).
This also relates to understanding who we each are. We are not these temporary physical bodies and their temporary identities. This physical body is meant to last no more than a few decades. Then it dies and decomposes. Each of us is an eternal spiritual being - and we leave the body at the time of death.
Jesus confirmed this as he told the man next to him as their bodies were dying on the cross:
"I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43)Who is the "you" Jesus was speaking to? Was it the physical body of the man - that physical body that was soon to become lifeless and decomposing? No. It was the spiritual person - the person who animated that body. Jesus was explaining that both of them will be returning to the spiritual realm after they left their physical bodies.
Knowing our identity and knowing the Supreme Being is the only way a person can truly love someone who might temporarily be in the position of being an enemy of our physical body or subtle physical mind. We must come to know our true identity as spiritual, and come to know and love the Supreme Being. Underneath this temporary body, beneath our self-centeredness and envy, each of us is one of the Supreme Being's spiritual caregivers.
Only a person who understands this can truly love their enemy.