In Paris, do we have to love our enemies? Bishop Whalon statement

By Pierre Whalon
Posted Nov 14, 2015

[Episcopal News Service] Bishop Pierre Whalon of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe has issued the following statement in the aftermath of the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris.

November 14, 2015

How can we pray this prayer of all prayers, here in Paris, the day after?

O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth: deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, p. 818.)

Yes, Jesus did command us: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” “Love your enemies and do good to those who hate you.” (Matt. 5:44; Luke 6:27). Really? Yesterday several terrorists killed at least 128 people in 6 separate but coordinated attacks here in Paris. According to the Islamic State group, Da’ech, this was planned in advance and ordered from their base in Syria, in retaliation for the French involvement there.

The French president, François Hollande, has promised to reply in kind: “We will be merciless.” Meanwhile, hundreds of families are mourning their dead and wounded, attacked simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Charlie Hebdo and Hypercacher attacks in January were targeted specifically; these six attacks were against “targets of opportunity,” as the military says.

“Love your enemies and do good to those who hate you.” Doesn’t that just “enable” them?

Here is where our baptismal promise to “follow and obey Jesus as Lord” cuts into our lives. We should do good to those who hate us, because Jesus has told us to. So how can we?

First, I think we need to see that loving the enemy who can do such things to us is not just vapid idealism. The whole point of the Christian story is summed up thus: “While we were yet his enemies, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5: 6-10) In other words, God shows love for us precisely by putting off the divine power that we crave. The day after this heinous attack, we may wish for God to come down and wipe out our enemies. Instead, Christ on the cross, completely powerless at the last, shows us that it is only love that can overcome hatred, evil and even death.

Jesus asks us to follow his way, as love is the only power in this world that can literally and figuratively save us. He certainly did not “enable” his enemies. In the short term, we need the police and the military, and we should be grateful that Parisians have such courageous and professional forces. They and the firefighters and emergency medical teams need our prayers and deserve our support. Not to mention the wounded and dead, and their families and friends.

But the question of their assassins concerns not only us here and now, but the whole human race. What word do we have for these people? Our first instincts are to demonize them. . . to label them as “Islamic fundamentalists” or some such, and cheer as the Rafale bombers carry out a massive campaign in retaliation. But this is too simple. It is not what Jesus would have us do. What he wants is harder.

When we baptize or confirm people, Episcopalians always repeat the promise to “strive for justice and peace among all people”… We need therefore to chart a way to make peace. Peace, not appeasement or total war. In order to be able to do that, we first need to turn back to Jesus and ask for help.

Like this:

O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth: deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you, through Jesus Christ our Lord.


On Nov. 17, the Rt. Rev. Pierre Whalon will host a meeting of the L’Union mondiale des experts de l’Islam pour la paix et contre la violence (World Union of Experts of Islam for Peace and against Violence). The meeting is part of the project Islam et Vivre ensemble, a schedule of meetings and events tied to the International Day of Tolerance (Nov. 16). From Nov. 10-20, a delegation of Imams from the Union Mondiale are making their voices heard in Paris and in Brussels. In addition to the Imams’ presentations to be made at the Nov. 17 meeting, to be held at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, Paris, scheduled events include participation in various conferences and high-level meetings at the European Parliament, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (France), the Assemblée Nationale and the Senate (France) and UNESCO.

About World Union of Experts for Peace and against Violence
The organization, created in June 2015, is a group of 9 renown Imams from eight countries and three continents (Australia, France, Serbia, Lebanon, Spain, Palestine, the United States, and Egypt). In light of the atrocities committed by extremists in the name of Islam, the organization exists to spread a message of peace between people and religions through books, preaching, newspapers, media, internet; to promote the reform of traditions and heritage, both oral and written.

Meetings for the World Union were organized with support from the Franco-Egyptian Organization for Human Rights. OFEDH is a French-based organization that promotes peaceful co-existence between religions and respect for human rights. OFEDH organizes meetings, seminars, conferences and rallies, mainly in Paris and Cairo.

Comments (28)

  1. Thomas Hofer says:

    Bishop Whalon addressed this matter eloquently, and I fully support him!

  2. The Rt. Rev. David Bane says:

    This is truly where the rubber hits the road for us followers of Jesus Christ. It surely does not feel good or satisfy our human need for vengeance, but as my deal friend Pierre points out, our Lord does not give us that choice.

    1. mary rosendahl says:

      O Lord hear our prayer…..

  3. cynthia wicox says:

    i do not dislike muslims. i dislike the radicals whole heartedly. why? because i know if any one of us showed mercy to, say one of their family members, maybe a child of theirs, they would not hesitate to kill us on the spot, post the event.
    perhaps i am not a Christian after all.
    perhaps not.

  4. Ed Lane says:

    I would bge interested to hear all of your thoughts if a muslim had a knife to the throat of your wife or daughter. Once again as at the start of WWII The Episcopal Church might be too heavenly minded to be of any Earthly good.

    1. The Rev. Molly Elizabeth Haws says:

      Mr Lane,
      If a Muslim had knife to the throat of my wife or daughter, I imagine that I would be out of my mind with terror and rage. I have no doubt that, like Peter at the arrest of Jesus, I would draw my sword, and that I would draw it with intent to kill. That is the brokenness of my humanity. Christ went to the cross to rescue us from that brokenness.
      Jesus said to Peter, “Put away your sword.” When will we, who claim to be his followers, finally listen to him?

      1. Ed Lane says:

        The Jews tried to reason with the Nazis didn’t they. The muslims were declared Aryan by Hitler and even had their own Waffen SS formation. When we listen to that?

      2. Fanny Belanger says:

        Jesus was NOT letting other people be hurt, only him. He didn’t lead his disciples to slaughter, and was always protective of them when the Pharisees tried to put them down. Jesus took responsibility for himself and set an example. I think all his life shows us he didn’t think it was okay to let evil prevail in the world. Loving your enemies and praying for them is not about not stopping them from hurting others!!

  5. Jack Zamboni says:

    Thank you, +Pierre.

  6. Ron Davin says:

    Have you considering updating General Patton’ s Prayer as written by Msg O’ Neil and considered the quick response it received ?

    1. Paul Garrett says:

      Ron you might read Mark Twain’s prayer before you pray Patton’s.

  7. Leon Schoeman says:

    Being a Christian means to follow Christ when He says: “Love your enemy.” It is rather simple, in spite myself, when I complicate it otherwise. Bishop Whalon provides clear spiritual direction – a path of peace. Any call to violence, which there will be, is original from the evil in all of us which we are to resist. If we don’t, we partake in exactly the original evil we despise….

  8. Vicki Gray says:

    This is indeed a time for prayer and Bishops Curry and Whalon have struck just the right tone. It is also a time, not for the fear and purple rage the terrorists seek to incite in us, but for reflection…a time perhaps to ask the question we avoided after 9/11 – Why do they hate us? To the extent we can find the answers to that question, then maybe we can shape an effective, hopefully reconciling strategy to counter the evil of ISIS and restore a degree of peace and hope to the people of the Middle East and, in doing so, to the people of Europe and America.

  9. Kirk Hollingsworth says:

    Thank you so much for this, Pierre.

  10. Anne Hodges-Copple says:

    Thank you, +Pierre. This is our prayer and this is is our call. You are right, Bishop Whalon: overcoming evil by waging relentless acts of love for our neighbors is harder work than revenge. God help us all.

  11. Katherine Johnson says:

    Thanks, Bishop Pierre, and I second Bishop Anne’so comment.

  12. Bruce Bogin says:

    I do not see anything contradictory between loving your enemies and preventing them from doing harm to you or your loved ones or your country. If someone tries to harm me or members of my family or my neighbor, I am going to try to stop him with all means at my command including killing him if necessary. I don’t hate him. I simply want to prevent him from doing harm. It is the same with wars which I consider necessary such as WWII. It would have been unthinkable to permit Hitler and Nazi Germany to control most of the world. It was a cruel and evil empire. No one had to hate them and their evil dees, but we did have to stop them. You can love ISIS all you like, but that does not say that we should not try to stop and turn back this type of evil.

    1. Ed Lane says:

      Got that right. Why is it that all these highly educated clergy have no common sense and would rather commit suicide and let their families be killed rather than stand on their hind legs and defend themselves.

  13. Gordon Odell says:

    Is it a sin to harm your enemy to protect your loved ones, not to mention your self? I think not. Bruce Bogin said it well. While there’s a theological position of “turning the other cheek,” I don’t faith requires that we martyr ourselves or our loved ones.

  14. Nadya Lawson says:

    As I read some of the above comments I cannot help but think of the United States during the Jim Crow era – the lynchings and beatings and reign of terror that blacks in the South lived under, the extraordinary Gospel-informed restraint shown by civil rights protesters. I think of India and Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent resistance. “Turn the other cheek” was put into mighty powerful action in these instances — not pie in the sky, not unrealistic and devoid of real life consequences. Or does staying true to one’s faith when under threat only matter if those being killed and terrorized are black and brown?

    1. Ed Lane says:

      I’m sorry but you are a very foolish person. Hopefully you will never have to face evil, if you do I hope that you remember by your thinking that you must lay down and allow yourself to be murdered. Liberal psyco-babble viewpoint will not protect you.

      1. Nadya Lawson says:

        Indeed? I suppose you prefer Nat Turner to Martin Luther King? Black people in the Jim Crow South should have sought out the KKK and slaughtered them? Maybe you think that the people killed in that South Carolina Church died because they were too liberal to be armed? Maybe I should arm myself so that the next time a racist cop stops me or my son or anyone else I love for no reason at all I can respond in the appropriate human way and not in the way my FAITH tells me to. Why is it easier to call me foolish, without knowing anything of any evil I might have faced, than to think about how to meet the challenge of what Jesus calls us to do and why? I know it’s hard and that I might fail — but I also know that Christians are called to wholeness with others and with God. If our actions don’t reflect our beliefs what is the point?

        1. Ed Lane says:

          We are not talking about black people in the Jim Crow era, stick to the point.

          1. Kit Carlson says:

            Actually she WAS talking about the Jim Crow era. As well as choices people have in how to deal with violence and oppression.

  15. Lyn Rundberg says:

    I think some words written here are sincere, but I wonder if some are written because they are words that “should” be written.

    Today, I don’t think I’d pass the “Christian” test….maybe by Sunday.

  16. Margot Shields says:

    Bishop Whalon is, as usual, both eloquent and pastoral. Praying for our enemies is a bitter pill to swallow. For me this is an even more diffìcult prayer than “Thy will be done.” But we are told that discipleship demands no less. Thank you +Pierre for your gentle but powerful reminder where our hearts should be turned. Nous sommes tous Parisiens.

  17. Naj Kutait-Faulkner says:

    I’m tired of hearing the debates. My husband and I have two bedrooms upstairs. We anticipate our diocese helping with placement of refugees in the future.

  18. Amy Gay+ says:

    Ed Lane is the only voice of sanity and reason here.

Comments are closed.