Jesus said, ‘‘But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.’ (Luke 6:27-28)
When I lived in Cambridge, I decided to try out this business of ‘loving your enemy’, and the enemy in question happened to be my neighbour. We lived in the centre of town, and parking was at a premium. In our street, which was a private lane owned by one of the colleges, we were the only house without a garage, and we used to park in front of three disused garages belonging to a neighbour who didn’t own a car. Then one day a man moved in next door and asked this neighbour to lend him all three garages, and then told us, bad luck, we could no longer park where we’d been parking for the last ten years because he needed access to all three of ‘his’ garages at all times.
I tried the ‘pity me’ argument. I said, ‘I have five small sons and when I go shopping at the supermarket, where do you suggest I park to unload?’
He said, ‘That’s not my problem,’ and when I decided to park there anyway he would wake me up in the dead of night and tell me to move my car.
So filled with hatred for this man, such as I have never felt for anyone, I could barely sleep at night. And then I understood exactly what it was that I had to do.
How I managed to rise to the occasion, God alone knows, but as I walked to the man’s front door that morning I felt no malice towards him whatsoever.
When he opened the door, he scowled.
I said to him, ‘I need to tell you something extremely important.’
‘Yes?’ he said.
‘I’ve come to say, I love you, and I want this all to be behind us.’
When I heard myself speak, what I said felt true. For the first time I saw before me a person, a real live person that I had never noticed before.
‘What do you propose?’ he asked me.
‘If you don’t mind,’ I said, ‘I propose that we hug straight away.’
And we did hug. It was a hug for all time, lasting minutes. It was as heartfelt from him to me as it was from me to him. It was a hug between human beings, during which every iota of rage that we’d ever felt towards each other evaporated, as though it had only ever been as much hot air. And he told me the exact place I might park my car. For ever and ever.