By the time most read this, we’ll have a new president. You may be angry or outraged. Or you may be happy about the outcome. Either way, we’re a divided, troubled, wounded country, on November 9th, and before the election.
I’ve been reading the book of 1John, challenged by the call to love one another. In fact during this ugly election season, I’ve been convicted to think more deeply about how we need to respond to those we disagree with, in general. In this time when our country faces neck-to-neck political divisions, when irreconcilable theological differences split churches in two, when hashtags such as #Blacklivesmatter even exist, when estrangement tears families apart, and when marriages face sad deaths, my highly sensitive self falls to my knees for answers. I long for peace in families, communities, neighborhooods, and in our nation and world.
Are differences so irreconcilable? Is there no balm in Gilead, no remedy for the relational turmoil throbbing behind closed doors and across borders?
Scripture blesses us with divinely inspired medicine for all that ails — the hate, division, hurt, betrayal, unforgiveness and bitterness invading our hearts. Scripture offers gems of wisdom when we meet head-to-head with those who make our blood boil.
“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 7:12
“Bless those who persecute you, bless and don’t curse.” – Romans 12:14
“Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great.” – Luke 6:5
Meditating on scripture gives us clean hearts and tames our tongues, helping us put on the brakes before responding with rash, serpent tongue responses when facing antagonists, enemies, cantankerous bullies and those who ruffle our feathers.
Would you rather respond with tirades, rants, lawsuits, guns.. or roses?
I choose roses. I choose roses because we’re called as the faithful to love those who harm us, those with different political beliefs, those who betray, and even the unforgivable. I choose roses, the full-bodied fragrant flower of love, because, it’s unlikely, like the lotus blooming from mud, that a flower with stems filled with thorns ends up beautiful.
A week before the election, I sat next to a man at a restaurant, striking up a conversation. Somehow he brought up his choice of the presidential candidate, not my choice. At that moment I forgot sound advice about avoiding discussions about politics and religion, stating my own point of view about why I disagreed with his choice. It seemed as if an army of red ants suddenly crawled beneath his buttocks as he shuffled and shifted in his chair, as the veins on his neck burst full bodied red, his face filling with a pint or two. A sudden invisible force made me lean back a few inches as I caught my breath that had stopped for several seconds, giving me a chance to breath in a long, deep breath of love, so my tongue could speak words of love.
I said, “it seems we have different opinions, on this issue, however, I do agree with one thing you said about the health insurance issue. Otherwise, I hope we can agree to disagree.” Tensed up shoulders relaxed from the base of his neck, the blood level in his face dropping to one on the Richter scale — thankfully, no volcanic eruptions. By the time we got up from the table to go our separate ways, we were buddies, he even gave me a great big teddy bear hug.
I learned a valuable lesson from this lovely man I disagreed with, who also told me he loves Jesus. The next time I meet someone with an oppositional view, a loud mouthed voter of everything I disagree with, a troublemaker in the family, or a random bully I meet on the street, at work, or on Twitter, I’ll send along a bouquet, a double dozen of words of love. Or I’ll turn the other cheek, give the cloak off my back, or at the very least, I’ll speak the truth in love. Even if my own Italian-Irish scorching hot blood starts a-boiling, I promise myself, I’ll do it anyway. With the grace of God.
“If we love one another, God lives in us.” – 1 John 4:11
“I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to them who hate you.” Luke 6:27
“Jesus cried out as dying on the cross, ‘Father forgive them, for they do not know what they do”. – Luke 23:24
One of us will have won on election day. We’ll wake on November 9th with a new president leading our troubled country. In one way, it doesn’t really matter, because the bottom line is that we’re called to love regardless who wins, and we’re called to put our hope in God.
When Matthew asked Jesus,
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment?”
Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. A second likewise is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
LOVE, LOVES. NOTHING LESS.
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