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Abstract: In this paper I tackle two difficult questions about enemy love, with C. S. Lewis as my guide. First, how do we forgive a person who has deeply injured us? Second, can the Christian command to “love thy enemy” be reconciled with the military task of killing one’s opponent in war? After defining “love”, “enemy”, and “enemy love”, I discuss these two questions in light of the things that most endanger enemy love: resentment and violence. According to Lewis, the virtue of forgiveness and the religious habit of prayer play a crucial role in overcoming resentment. As for violence, particularly lethal violence, I disagree with perceptive Christian political ethicists – such as Nigel Biggar, Marc LiVecche, and even C. S. Lewis – insofar as they argue that the killing of one’s enemy can be “an expression of love” towards them. Such language obscures its moral ambiguity and is strictly speaking false. We may perhaps love our enemies despite killing them, not by killing them. Lewis’s distinction between “absolute” and “relative” love helps to untangle the knotty nature and limits of enemy love.


Copyright © The Author, 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Religion and Politics Section of the American Political Science Association in Politics and Religion (2022), 1–17