Love your Neighbor...in the Comments Thread
Updated: Sep 9, 2020
If you’re not a believer, as you read this please understand the tone is a dinner table discussion among brothers and sisters in Christ, not some sort of indictment of the Christian faith. Christians are often viewed as a monolith by non-Christians when in reality we understand that individually we’re all flawed, don’t have all the answers, and are constantly growing and learning.
With that preamble out of the way, I feel like we’ve forgotten the mandate to love our neighbor in American Christianity, and it manifests itself in the way we engage in politics.
Mark Chapter 12, Verses 28-31
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"
"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'
The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."
The premise of my argument is this; how the average American Christian engages in politics and political conversation exposes a reluctance to love our neighbor as we are called to do. We are far less likely than we should be to take the time to interact empathically in political discussion.
Instead the aim of most political dialog is to ignore, crush and/or ridicule your opponent. Everyone does this, not just Christians, but Christians are called on to be different from everyone else, we’re not supposed to be of this world. Theoretically you should be able to scroll through a comments thread and spot the Christians, for good reasons.
Jesus directly addressed how we should interact with our rivals in the parable of the good Samaritan. The context of the parable is that Samaritans and Jews were economic, social, political and religious opponents. The two groups hated each other; they were Republicans vs. Democrats, Capitalists vs. Socialists, Buccaneers Fans vs. All Other Inferior Fans.
Luke Chapter 10, Verses 25-37
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
"What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?"
He answered, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"
"You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.
A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.
So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.
He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.
The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'
"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"
The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."
The injured Jewish man in this story was diametrically opposed to everything the Samaritan man stood for. He was his rival in every sense of the word, but he never lost sight of the other man as a human being. He did not have to agree with or adopt his ideology to understand his responsibility to care about him.
We are called to love our neighbor. It’s uncomfortable, and sometimes confusing, and sometimes ugly, and your friends are going to wonder why you’re wasting your time, and in the face of all of that, do it anyway.
How we as Christians engage in politics and political conversations should be shaped by this underlying foundation, love your neighbor. Speak with empathy, find out how the person you're talking with has been bloodied by life, what circumstances have shaped their worldview, and only then provide your perspective on how to treat the wounds.
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