If your neighbor sins, you who count yourself chosen have sinned as well. For if you kept yourself as the Word demands, your neighbor would be so ashamed by your example that he himself would not sin.
Clement of Alexandria
Yesterday I ran across this piece of news in which the New York Times refused to run an advertisement that encourages Muslims to quit Islam. The advertisement mimics one recently published by the same paper that was directed at “liberal and nominal Catholics”, urging them to leave the Church. While I find it appalling that the New York Times would agree to publish an advertisement attacking the Catholic Church (all in the name of free speech, of course), I am equally disturbed that someone would have created another ad which attacks Islam. While I understand the point those who submitted this ad are attempting to make, it seems to me as a Christian that this is not an appropriate response. Both of these ads should have been rejected by the newspaper out of simple respect for people’s religious beliefs.
Christians have been given a clear way as to how we are to respond to sin. The proper response is the cross. The proper response is self sacrificial love. It is not an easy way to respond.
C. S. Lewis describes well what loving one’s neighbor ought to look like.
A good many people imagine that forgiving your enemies means making out that they are really not such bad fellows after all, when it is quite plain that they are. Go a step further. In my most clear-sighted moments not only do I think myself not a nice man, but I know that I am a very nasty one. I can look at some of the things I have done with loathing and horror. So apparently I am allowed to loath and hate some of the things my enemies do. Now that I come to think of it, I remember Christian teachers telling me long ago that I must hate a bad man’s actions, but not hate the bad man: or, as they would say, hate the sin, but not the sinner.
For a long time I used to think this a silly, straw-splitting distinction: how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man? But years later it occurred to me that there was one man whom I had been doing this all my life, namely myself. However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself. There had never been the slightest difficulty about it. In fact, the very reason why I hated the things was that I loved the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things. Consequently, Christianity does not want to reduce by one atom the hatred we feel for cruelty and treachery. We ought to hate them. Not one word of what we have said about them needs to be unsaid. But it does want us to hate them in the same way in which we hate things in ourselves: being sorry that the man should have done such things, and hoping, if it is anyway possible, that somehow, sometime, somewhere, he can be cured and made human again. (from Mere Christianity)
My prayer today is that our unified Catholic response to those who wish to attack us, is to continue to pray for those who persecute us and to show them what we believe through our actions. This is more difficult than returning fire, but it is what we have been taught by our Lord. I trust that we can believe Him.