Holy Habits: Love (Post-Election Edition)
*The following was originally published in The Llano News on November 11, 2020.
Dr. Matt Richard
First Baptist Church, Llano
I am tired of talking and hearing about the election. I am weary from the anger, accusations, bitterness, and cynicism. Maybe your candidate won. Maybe he did not. Maybe you think your candidate SHOULD have won. It is normal to have strong feelings about politics, and biblical for a Christian to allow his/her convictions to influence the way he/she votes. Interestingly, that has not meant that all Christians vote the same way, or have the same response over election results. If you are looking for Christian justification for either holy outrage at your candidate’s loss, or righteous indignation over your candidate’s victory, you will not find it in this article. What you will find is a Christian exhortation for how we should ALL respond going forward.
Loving without Fear
In 1 Timothy 2:2, Paul commands Timothy to encourage his congregation to pray for all people – specifically “for kings and all those in authority.” These authority figures would have been far from Christian. In fact, most scholars believe they were anti-Christian. Interestingly, Paul does NOT tell Timothy to oppose their leadership, or to support or raise up another that will cater to their hopes and desires. No, he tells him and his congregation to pray for them – likely echoing Jesus’ sentiments to love and pray for your enemies (Matthew 5:44). The Bible puts forth this way of loving as a general model for believers in all circumstances; yet, we often marvel when it is actually practiced, as if it is the exception to the norm.
Both sides of the political spectrum have used fear as a motivator. “I’m afraid of what will happen to our country if _____ is elected” has been a sentence I have hard uttered from constituents of both candidates. 1 John 4:18 says “there is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” Love is not a feeling or a simple disposition one can pick up or leave. It is the lifestyle of people that believe the Gospel and open themselves up to the love of God inside of them. I do not know how to explain to anyone how to love. It is not something you can check off as being completed, or define in detail for every situation. It is simply how people live who have received the Spirit of God, and rely on the love they received in him to transform the way they relate to others.
Loving at all Times
None of what has been said about love thus far should be news to Christians. We know we are supposed to love people uniquely, but perhaps we give ourselves a pass on this because we do not see it embodied in political figures. During the first presidential debate, my children were in the room at the beginning. Both are too young to understand the issues that were being discussed, but I was struck at my daughters straightforward, but honest question: “Daddy, why are they both so mad?” The anger and vitriol spewed by both candidates during this debate, and throughout the whole election process, was NOT loving or Christian in the slightest. We cannot depend on political figures to model this for us, nor should we excuse ourselves from embodying Christian love due to their behavior. While it saddens me that neither candidate can be a role model for my daughter, I CAN point her to Jesus as the model that she should follow, even (and especially) when our leaders fail to do so.
Instead of loving unconditionally, we are inclined to love in a way that fits within our agenda and sense of appropriateness. In other words, it is easy to be selectively loving. For most people, regardless of what church they may or may not affiliate with, this IS the standard. They might participate in food drives and give to charity during the holidays, or a special event, out of a sense of obligation; but when given a chance to love like Jesus, they refrain and retreat to their party and ideological loyalties.
Brennan Manning wrote “I am now convinced that on judgment day, the Lord Jesus is going to ask each of us one question, and only one question: ‘Did you believe that I loved you?’” What a powerful thought. Do you believe this? If so, how is it influencing the way you love others?