Girl with Balloon,
Stencilled by Banksy (born 1974),
spray paint and acrylic on canvas, mounted on board,
Executed in 2006
© Sotheby's London, 5 October 2018 sale, lot 67

Girl with Balloon,
Stencilled by Banksy (born 1974),
spray paint and acrylic on canvas, mounted on board,
Executed in 2006
© Sotheby's London, 5 October 2018 sale, lot 67

Gospel of 12 September 2019

Love your enemies

Luke 6: 27-38

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I say this to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly. To the man who slaps you on one cheek, present the other cheek too; to the man who takes your cloak from you, do not refuse your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your property back from the man who robs you. Treat others as you would like them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what thanks can you expect? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what thanks can you expect? For even sinners do that much. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what thanks can you expect? Even sinners lend to sinners to get back the same amount. Instead, love your enemies and do good, and lend without any hope of return. You will have a great reward, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

‘Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.’

Reflection on the Painting

Jesus said to His disciples today: Love your enemies. What better image to look at than this Banksy Girl with Red Balloon, where we see a young girl with hair blowing in the wind, reaching out or releasing a heart shaped balloon. The red balloon is the only area of colour in this work, accentuating the love-aspect in this work. A balloon always evokes a sense of fragility: balloons fly, makes us dream, hope and love but yet a balloon can get easily punctured and destroyed… This image has become one of Banksy’s most iconic works. On 5 October 2018, a 2006 framed copy of the artwork was auctioned at Sotheby's selling for £1 million, a record high for the artist. Moments after the closing bid, the artwork began to self-destruct by means of a hidden mechanical paper shredder that Banksy had built into the frame bottom. You can see a video of this happening here ( https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-45770028 ). This widely covered event in the press, further enhanced the myth surrounding Banksy and made this image of the girl with the red balloon even more well known.

The heart shaped balloon is symbolic for our 21st century interpretation of ‘love’ on an emotional level, where we associate it more with affection, intimacy, being in love, etc. But Jesus is talking about a different ‘love’. He is not telling us to be in love with our enemies or to emotionally even like them, NO, he is telling us that love is willing the good of the other. We have to have an attitude of positive regard towards other people, even towards people we don’t necessarily like, by which we wish for their well-being. We need to hold a one-sided love towards them, without expecting it is returned or reciprocated. The best example of this is when Jesus was being nailed on the cross…He prayed for the people who put him there and forgave them…

In this sense, loving our enemies seems altogether reasonable… hard, but not impossible… We have it in us to love all our fellow human beings, let the worse parts of us fly away like balloons….and see how far we can rise…

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