These final chapters of Jeremiah contain the last of the prophet’s warnings of judgment against the nations as well as a record of the Jewish deportation into exile in Babylon. It is a somber ending indeed.
What would it have felt like to be one of those 4600 people taken into exile? How would you or I have felt toward the Babylonians in that situation? No doubt we would have at least been tempted to see our enemy as the embodiment of evil.
C. S. Lewis suggests, in one of his letters written to a friend during World War II, that this is just the sort of temptation we should be careful not to give into….
I don’t know what to think about the present state of the world. The sins on the side of the democracies are very great. I suppose they differ from those on the other side by being less deliberately blasphemous, fulfilling less the condition of a perfectly mortal sin. Anyway, the question “Who is in the right?” (in a given quarrel) is quite distinct from the question “Who is righteous?”—for the worse of two disputants may always be in the right on one particular issue. It is therefore not self righteous to claim that we are in the right now. But I am chary of doing what my emotions prompt me to do every hour; i.e. identifying the enemy with the forces of evil. Surely one of the things we learn from history is that God never allows a human conflict to become unambiguously one between simple good and simple evil? (From a letter to Dom Bede Griffiths OSB, April 16, 1940, Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume II)
How do we feel towards some of our enemies now, both those on the worldwide stage as well as those who may be our personal enemies closer to home? What would it take, or what would it look like, for us to begin to love our enemies as Jesus calls us to do? (Matthew 5:44)