“The entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” -Galatians 5:14, 15
It seems like everyone is talking about the unprecendented level of vitriolic rhetoric spewing from the presidential campaign this time around. It is awful. But that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about how Christians might react to this sad state of affairs.
Tonight we will watch the debate. It’s tempting to watch it like a football game, cheering for our side when she or he makes a stunning point to knock the other down. This makes for good television but for stunted growth in following Jesus.
Here’s what Scripture says Christians should be listening for and doing in response to the debate.
1. How do the candidates treat one another?
Do they bite and devour each other, or do they respectfully exchange ideas? Galatians warns us about this. As Jesus’ followers, we must reject rhetoric from the candidates that could cause us to see someone with opposing ideas as anything less than someone we are to love. Telling the truth can be done without name calling, threats, or any other form of dehumanization. But we aren’t just to not harm, we are to love. Crossing the deep chasms of polarization in our country only begins if people actually care about each other and refuse to write each other off simply because we belong to the “other” side. Christians ought to be leading the way in cutting through damaging rhetoric with compassion; certainly at the very least we should not be adding to it! To cut through political polarization try this: Step 1: Ask, “What has happened in your life that led you to this position?” Step 2: Listen. (See an example of this here: http://urbanconfessional.org/blog/howtodisagree).
2. How do the candidates propose that we care for our neighbors?
Whether it’s climate change, bank regulation, or border security, the issues boil down to how we do or do not take care of each other in this country and around the world. Again and again, the New Testament states that the supreme law Christians are to follow, above all else, is caring for our neighbor. Listen for how the candidates promote caring for people or not. Are they aware of the desperate plight of refugees? Of the poor here at home? Do they see issues from different sides, understanding how and why people’s perspectives differ? How do they see their role in promoting peace in the world? Christians throughout American history have been prophets calling our nation to care for one another and our world. From Roger Williams to Martin Luther King to Simone Campbell, we have a legacy to keep by maintaining “love your neighbor” as our only lobbying agenda.
3. Listen for what you are doing about it.
We are never called to wait for a politician to love our neighbors for us. As a Jesus follower, ask yourself, what should I, or my family, or my church, be doing about this particular issue? If you’re worried about climate change but your household doesn’t recycle, there’s your start. If you are concerned about our troops being spread too thin, maybe it’s time for you to write your congressperson and send care packages overseas. If your town doesn’t have adequate housing for the homeless, have you been to a city council meeting? The presidential election can make us feel like it’s all out of our hands and some grand poobah is pulling all the strings. And while voting matters, and our president is important, change happens one person and one community at a time. So when the debate is over, take heart, pray up, and get busy loving your neighbor.