‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Jesus in Matthew 5:43-44
I was in seminary when a would-be assassin severely wounded President Reagan. One of my classmates – a second-career student with a young child – was not a fan of Reagan, but she was staggered by a conversation with her daughter that night. At the dinner table, the daughter said with all seriousness, “Mommy, we’re glad that Reagan got shot, right?“
My friend dropped her fork and said, “Oh honey, no. We don’t agree with him, but we never want him to be hurt.” My friend was mortified and it was a good reminder for her to be clear in teaching her child that even when we disagree with people, we don’t wish them harm.
I fear that this sensibility has changed especially in the 21st Century Church.
From David Brooks’ opinion piece in The New York Times yesterday:
“Over the last 72 hours, I have received multiple death threats and thousands upon thousands of emails from Christians saying the nastiest and most vulgar things I have ever heard toward my family and ministry. I have been labeled a coward, sellout, a traitor to the Holy Spirit, and cussed out at least 500 times.”
This was written on social media by Charlotte Pastor Jeremiah Johnson after he shared this letter with his congregation in which he criticized the President. Among other things, Pastor Johnson wrote that there is “potential great danger and trouble ahead for America if he is re-elected.” It clearly didn’t go well with his followers.
Jeremiah Johnson got death threats. Death. Threats.
It’s not enough to disagree politically with someone these days. Now Christians are threatening other Christians with death threats. Or better stated, some Christians who do not consider others to be Christian enough are threatening each other.
Our nation is consumed with this kind of enmity. Not only are we not praying for our enemies. Some of us are threatening to kill them.
Political speeches past: “The President was my opponent and not my enemy.” Bob Dole (1996)
Political speeches present: “He’s going to do things you wouldn’t think are even possible because he’s following the radical left agenda. Take away your guns, destroy your Second Amendment. No religion. No anything. Hurt the Bible. Hurt God. He’s against God. He’s against guns. He’s against energy, our kind of energy.” Donald Trump (2020)
So, here’s my question, Christians:
- What are we doing to give our children and our neighbors the idea that physically hurting people with whom we disagree politically, theologically, culturally is okay? Do we casually blurt out things like, “Nancy Pelosi should be strung up” or “Somebody should punch Ivanka Trump in the face.“? If you feel that way, try the decaf. If you say such things, watch your tongue.
- What are we doing to curb the meanness in the world? Do we laugh off friends and family who make violent statements? Do we claim to have “no enemies” but we make it clear that we “hate” everyone on the other side of the political divide?
We are supposed to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth. We are called to pray for our enemies and those who persecute us. This never means that Jesus wants us to wield a weapon while wearing a John 3:16 shirt.
It’s up to us to speak the truth in love.
Nothing looked like love on January 6th, 2021 in Our Nation’s Capitol but it’s not enough to point fingers and be shocked. We need to clean up our own acts and our own words. We need to open our Bibles and get on our knees.