So we had an election, and opinions on just what happened are strong and vary greatly. Now this isn’t strange. I have participated in elections for a while now and the day after euphoria and depression is predictable and regular. But this cycle, this election, was an exaggerated version of what has happened before. They have never been pleasant things, but they also haven’t been like this one.
For the first time in surveys dating to 1992, majorities in both parties express not just unfavorable but very unfavorable views of the other party. And today, sizable shares of both Democrats and Republicans say the other party stirs feelings of not just frustration, but fear and anger.
More than half of Democrats (55%) say the Republican Party makes them “afraid,” while 49% of Republicans say the same about the Democratic Party. Among those highly engaged in politics – those who say they vote regularly and either volunteer for or donate to campaigns – fully 70% of Democrats and 62% of Republicans say they are afraid of the other party.
~Pew Research Center
We are extremely divided as a country and are seemingly growing more so.
Several times a week, our staff team gets together to pray and this morning was one of those times. As we were talking about the election and what is the role of our church today, one of our new staff, Curtis reminded us of some powerful words by Jesus in John 13. 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
The love that Jesus was talking about is the rugged and powerful kind. Keep in mind the context of his words were immediately following Judas leaving the group to sell Jesus out to the Pharisees, and Jesus knew what he was doing. This kind of love isn’t based on what is best for us, or what is easiest either.
For those of us who follow Jesus, we have this thing that we know. We know, not just are technically aware of, but KNOW that the Spirit of God is in us and with us. That God the Father is lovingly aware of us and will give us the strength that we need to walk through this life in all its highs and lows. We know this.
That knowledge releases us to be the kind of people that truly get after the task of loving those around us. We love our brothers and sisters in Christ who just handled their vote in a way that we could never imagine handling ours. We love our brothers and sisters in Christ who think things and support things that we are against, that we believe God is against. We love our brothers and sisters in Christ who say things that we would never say; we love them.
But we don’t just love them.
Jesus was just as clear that we are to love everyone we are around as we love ourselves. So, not just our brothers and sisters in Christ, but everyone. We love everyone.
Out of our foundation of God’s love and power that is at work in us, we extend ourselves towards others. Regardless of how they voted, what they support, and even regardless of whether they love or tolerate us back. This is who we are.
It doesn’t mean that we agree with everyone, it doesn’t mean that we don’t believe some ideas are simply wrong. It doesn’t mean we don’t talk about the things we disagree with and it doesn’t even mean that we don’t work in opposition to those things. It simply means that we look at everyone our eyes meet as someone made in the image and through the love of God, whether they have responded to that love or not. It means that we turn away from the cultural narrative that the last several generations have been writing (ours included) that tells us that what people think, what jobs they have, what they look like, who they voted for, or what they can do for us determines their value.
We turn away from that. It is off the table.
The value of people comes from the one in who’s image they are made. We simply cannot say we love God and not get very serious about the task of loving those He made; 1 John chapter four makes that very clear.
So here is what I suggest love should look like over the next few days and weeks…
To those who voted for Donald Trump (or wanted to)
You are allowed to be excited for your candidate to have won. But please consider the ways your words come across to those who didn’t vote the way you did. I have already heard a couple of people say, “I can say whatever I want because you know that if Clinton had won, they would.” But is that the point? We follow a messiah who didn’t do what was fair, who didn’t respond based on what we deserved. Do we welcome that kind of grace and not return it to those we are around?
To those who voted for Hillary Clinton (or wanted to)
You are allowed to be sad, even angry. But also, please consider your words and actions. Anger isn’t a wrong thing to feel, but the scriptures make it clear that it can cause us to do things that don’t honor God and that can lead us away from Him. We aren’t told to never get angry, but James tells us to get there more slowly than we usually do. Anger can lead us to despair, violence, and fear.
To those who feel afraid based on the election results
As the church we should be on the lookout for those whose way may be more difficult as a result of this election. We may not agree on any number of things, but the church is called to be a voice and a refuge for those who don’t feel like they have either. The church needs to stand against violence towards any group of people and those aren’t just words, if we see it we will step to your aid. We will not laugh when we see someone is being mocked, we will engage. We will not pass by if we see someone is being harassed, we will engage. We will seek to live out of our foundational awareness of God’s love and presence with us to be a support to who need it. You are people. You are just as valuable as anyone; you are not less than anyone. Even when we disagree, your value to God and to us remains unchanged. We won’t do it perfectly, but we will do it.