Dear reader, do you mind if I am open and honest with you? I’m not perfect, nor have I ever claimed to be (although I have teased about it). I have struggles in life just like everyone else; however, I tend to focus on the good things God has done for me and ignore the negatives.
Against my better judgement, I found myself getting addicted to the news during this election cycle. My morning routine, in addition to whatever Bible reading I did, included a scroll through a couple different news sites and my electronic friends’ posts on various social media platforms.
I truly hoped Trump would win by a landslide, thereby vindicating him and the work he has done over the last four years. It didn’t happen as I would have liked.
Now, should Trump successfully challenge the election in court, many Americans will say he stole it, and we’ll hear, “He’s not my president.”
If Biden prevails, there will be Trump supporters claiming voter fraud.
It appears, no matter the outcome, we are to remain a divided nation. Which brings me to my question, why is love such a challenge?
I have friends and family on all sides of the political spectrum. I don’t necessarily understand my left-leaning friends, although admittedly I haven’t always tried.
But is understanding someone a prerequisite for loving them?
The Apostle John, also known as the disciple Jesus loved, gave us insight into God’s position on the subject: “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20 [NKJV])?
Years ago, I heard the evangelist David Roberson remark on this verse. He offered it was easier to love God because we can’t see Him. Maybe it would be easier to love our neighbor if we didn’t see them either. Full disclosure, he was making his point as a joke, which tickled him immensely.
And here we are, called to love those who seem to be trying to make themselves unlovable.
In this season, it’s been easy to retreat into our homes. Some medical and political officials encourage isolating, or social distancing. But didn’t the great commission call us to go into all the world (reference Mark 16:15). He didn’t say stay; He said go. Although it is easy to claim to love anybody and everybody from the comfort of my couch.
But love is more than a proclamation; it’s more than a feeling. It’s more than just a noun, it is a verb. And verbs require action.
Which brings me back to what’s challenging me: Loving those who have openly referred to me as a racist, bigot or homophobe.
In days past, when we didn’t agree on candidates, it was because we preferred differing governance styles or policies. Now, it seems much more personal.
“How could you vote for that fascist?” one side shouts, while the other candidate is called a socialist.
After all of this, we’re supposed to love each other?
Yet Jesus told us, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if you have love one for another” (John 13:35).
Love is the very basis of Christianity. The Bible doesn’t say God has love; it tells us God is love (reference 1 John 4:8). If we are going to emulate our Heavenly Father, then we have to allow His love to permeate our being and allow His love to flow in and through us to everyone around us.
“Brother Tim, but what if they don’t love me?”
That’s my challenge, as well. God didn’t call us to love only those who love us; we’re to love everyone.
“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same” (Matthew 5:44-46 [NKJV])?
Keep in mind, we’re not necessarily talking about feelings, we’re talking about how you act towards someone. You might not appreciate the things someone has said or done to you. You have no control over their words or deeds. But what you say or do is all your responsibility.
Let me share with you something I’ve learned (although I cannot give you a Biblical reference for this position): You can love someone without liking them. You can be kind to them, share the gospel with them, give them food, shelter, or clothing, but not particularly like them. You can’t necessarily help how you feel, but you can help how you act.
Should you find yourself having trouble controlling your tongue around certain people, maybe it’s time to put some space between you and them. And then start praying for them upon ever remembrance of them. It’s hard to hate someone for whom you are fervently praying.
I have shared my heart with you, dear reader. Love is challenging me. Challenging me to turn off the news. Challenging me to read my Bible more. Challenging me to love my neighbor as myself. Challenging me to think no evil, to be kind, to …
Actually, the Apostle Paul said it best, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 [NKJV]).
Tim Hughes is a lay minister and elder at Ascension Life Church in Athens. He can be reached at email@example.com