Whether it is more Meritorious to Love an Enemy than to Love a Friend
We proceed to the seventh article thus:
1. It seems that it is more meritorious to love an enemy than to love a friend. For it is said in Matt.5:46: |if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye?| Thus love to a friend does not merit a reward. But love to an enemy does merit a reward, as the same passage shows. It is therefore more meritorious to love enemies than to love friends.
2. Again, an action is the more meritorious the greater is the charity from which it springs. Now Augustine says that it is the perfect sons of God who love their enemies (Enchirid.73), whereas even those whose charity is imperfect love their friends. It is therefore more meritorious to love enemies than to love friends.
3. Again, there would seem to be greater merit where there is greater effort for good, since it is said in I Cor.3:8: |every man shall receive his own reward, according to his labour.| Now it takes a greater effort to love an enemy than to love a friend, since it is more difficult. It seems, then, that it is more meritorious to love an enemy than to love a friend.
4. On the other hand: the better love is the more meritorious. Now to love a friend is the better, since it is better to love the better person, and a friend who loves one is better than an enemy who hates one. Hence it is more meritorious to love a friend than to love an enemy.
I answer: as we said in Q.25, Art.1, God is the reason why we love our neighbour in charity. Hence when it is asked whether it is better or more meritorious to love a friend or to love an enemy, we may compare the two either in respect of the neighbour who is loved, or in respect of the reason why he is loved. In respect of the neighbour who is loved, love to a friend is more eminent than love to an enemy. A friend is better than an enemy, and more closely united with oneself. He is thus the more fitting material for love, and the act of love which passes out to such material is consequently the better. The contrary act is also worse for the same reason. It is worse to hate a friend than to hate an enemy.
But love to an enemy is the more eminent in respect of the reason for it, on two grounds. First, we may love a friend for some reason other than God, whereas God is the sole reason for love to an enemy. Secondly, supposing that each of them is loved for God's sake, a man's love to God is shown to be the stronger if it extends his soul to what is farther removed from himself, that is, to the love of enemies; just as the power of a fire is shown to be greater if it extends its heat to objects more remote. For our love to God is shown to be so much the greater when we achieve harder things for the sake of it, just as the power of a fire is shown to be so much the stronger when it is able to consume less combustible material.
But charity nevertheless loves acquaintances more fervently than those who are distant, just as the same fire acts more strongly on nearer objects than on those which are more remote. Considered in itself, love to friends is in this respect more fervent, and better, than love to enemies.
On the first point: the word of our Lord must be understood through itself. Love to friends does not merit a reward in God's sight when they are loved only because they are friends, as would seem to be the case when we love them in a way in which we do not love our enemies. But love to friends is meritorious when they are loved for God's sake, and not merely because they are friends.
The replies to the other points are plain from what we have said. The second and third argue from the reason for love. The fourth argues from the person who is loved.