Next Tuesday is election day and, for the first time in a long time, I must say I’m concerned, even fearful. I’m not fearful about the results (I’m dreading the results, but not fearful of them). Instead, I’m afraid of how our country might respond. Unlike any election I’ve seen, it seems that the U.S. is in a lose-lose situation and the emotions resulting from election day could cause anarchy.
If Donald Trump wins, I’ve imagined streets burning and protests. If Hillary Clinton wins, I’ve imagined white supremacists burning crosses and communities growing further apart. I’ve had to exercise self-control not to allow my mind to stay in these dark places. But I think what concerns me most is the potential for finger-pointing and deep divide within the Church.
If Clinton wins, will those who voted for Trump blame the Christians who simply could not go against their conscience to elect a leader of the free world who talked about engaging in sexual violence. And if Trump wins, will those Christians who did not vote for him feel betrayed? The answer to these questions seem quite clear to me: yes. Yes, the divide and disgust for what’s already been an incredibly tumultuous year will potentially grow. So I’ve wondered, what are we going to do about it? Not so much: what are the solutions for the evangelical church at large or the universal church? (My boss, Dr. Russell Moore, has addressed this so well. You can listen to one of his talks here) But, instead, what will we do to love our neighbor, our church member, and the people who are in our lives? How will we continue to live together?
Loving Your Neighbor
I don’t know what the solution is, but I know that God has clearly given us a commandment to love. God commands us to live a radical love for others. So radical it includes loving our enemies and persecutors (Matt. 5: 43-48) and loving without expectation of receiving love in return (Luke 6: 27-36). But the most challenging call to love in all of Scripture, in my opinion, would be the great commandment: to love God with all of our heart and love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt. 22: 34-40).
Love starts with God and ends with God because God is love. We see this in 1 John 4: 7-8 when John wrote: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” Everything God does is out of His love. He can’t separate his actions from this part of who He is.
And love isn’t something that is derived from within us. It is radical. It is supernatural. The kind of love that God calls us to–love that loves our neighbor as much as we love ourselves–must come from Him. We cannot love like that without first being born of God. God’s common grace allows for all men made in His image to love, but there is a love that is set apart for the Christian. And it is also God’s enabling Spirit that allows us to love God. We love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
This should cause us to pause. If we are enabled by His Spirit to love and if this love is set apart, we should seek to express it and know it. Our love for each other has great implications. Jesus says that, “by this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another,” (John 13:35). There’s a missional call to our love of others, especially to those who are sitting next to us at church. The world will know we are followers of Christ by our love for one another.
Preaching a sermon in 1995, Pastor John Piper recognized that overwhelming commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves:
I say it is overwhelming because it seems to demand that I tear the skin off my body and wrap it around another person so that I feel that I am that other person; and all the longings that I have for my own safety and health and success and happiness I now feel for that other person as though he were me.
It is an absolutely staggering commandment. If this is what it means, then something unbelievably powerful and earthshaking and reconstructing and overturning and upending will have to happen in our souls. Something supernatural. Something well beyond what self-preserving, self-enhancing, self-exalting, self-esteeming, self-advancing human beings like John Piper can do on their own.
We can’t live out this kind of love on our own. But, with God, we can love radically “for the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor. 5:14-15).
Motivated by a love for God, I want to actively pursue loving others both in practical ways and through expression. Practically it looks like putting others above myself – my needs and my wants. That may look different for everyone, so I won’t create a ‘must do’ list. But we will know if we are sacrificially loving others because it might be a little painful. What I mean is there may be a loss. The loss may be time, sleep, money…whatever it is, we may feel it. And in the case of the 2016 election—the loss may be a fight. Yes, a fight. It might be laying down a fight in order to love your neighbor. I don’t mean laying down a conversation—that’s different. I’m saying, lay down bitterness, anger, strife, and the desire to win an argument. This will be tough. It will be painful. Again, and to be totally clear, love does not mean silence. I am not saying that in order for us to show love to our neighbor then we must not disagree.
I, as I assume you do as well, have a conviction to love people and to make sure they know that they are loved. You and I will fail miserably at this if we try to love in our own strength. I don’t always want to love, but I can choose to. November 9 and beyond will be a series of choices for us to act in love or act in anger. To act out of our fear or act out of our faith. And by the grace of God, we will grow in loving others. God calls me to a sweet and binding romantic love towards my husband, but He also calls me – and all of his followers – to a radical love for others.