As I was searching my brain for a new blog, (this one) the word love kept rolling around in my head, even as I tried to ignore it. Then one night I got a fortune cookie that read: “Your meaning of love is special. Why not share it.”
I have a Christian friend who thinks God speaks to her through fortune cookies, so I glanced heavenward and did what I sometimes do. Argue.
“I’m not in the mood for love, Father God! Not in this American meltdown we’re experiencing. Mostly, I feel like Humpty Dumpty teetering on the Berlin wall before it came crashing down. No! Won’t write it.”
Ever argue with the Almighty? Useless.
Let the record show, I started this grudgingly.”
Why grudgingly? I felt the non-love, even though I disliked both presidential candidates. Like many of you, I’d seen more random acts of pettiness, childishness, and political hyperbole, than I had random acts of kindness or love. So, love was not the emotion filtering through my heart.
The divisions amongst friends and families—holdover hostility I call it—and some of it unrelated to the election, is unchallenged in my lifetime. In the 1960’s, we were self-righteous, angry, we burned our bras and protested everything from women’s rights, to black rights, to the war in Vietnam. But people weren’t mean. Weren’t mad at each other. I didn’t think my dad was horrible because he was on the other side of the great divide. We were mad at the establishment, the “man,” the police, and many of our universities. In groups, we felt brave, but one on one . . . hey, we were pleasant. This election did not make me bitter, though I have reason to be. It’s made me sad.
And I suppose I could blow off this love assignment by throwing out the most famous piece of love advice ever spoken, and say, just do it! That would be Jesus’ command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Yet, I can’t blow it off. The message of love has never been more serious or more challenging, and as Christians we must do the hard work to search it out. People think “love your neighbor as yourself” is impossible. I’m suggesting if that’s true, it may not be for the reason we think.
Perhaps it’s because we can’t love ourselves.
I recently realized, not exactly for the first time, but perhaps in a different way, that without the aid of a mirror, I have no idea how I look. Yet because of that device, I daily see my reflection. Therefore, I judge my appearance—I pick at it, color my hair, trim my eyebrows, put on makeup, hide it, flaunt it, disguise it, all because my reflection is there for me and everyone else to see.
What if our soul reflected in the mirror? What if our soul looked back and exposed our thoughts and opinions?—Our judgmental tone. Our crass delight over causing someone pain we felt wronged us. Our piety at our rightness. The way we’ve belittled someone who has gotten our dander flying, just enough to set them down a notch or two, not maliciously mind you. What if, as surely as people see our nose and our eyes, they see our soul?
Is there makeup for that?
No erasure or spackle or cover-up can take away the stain of what crawls around inside us, but lucky for us, no one sees. Except for God.
He watches our soul pile up carcasses of crassness, maliciousness, self-righteousness. . . rusting and polluting our thinking, our heart, and our mind. We enjoy our enemies’ demise. We delight in our wins. We eschew the heart-searching tough choices that many must consider when those choices oppose our viewpoint.
“Take the telephone pole out of your own eye,” the Bible says, “so you can see the splinter in your neighbor’s eye.” Yes, please, for everyone’s sake. Take it out!
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Maybe Jesus was kidding.
Most of us believe the opposite of love is hate, but the late author and Nobel Laureate, Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, believed it was indifference. And I can’t help but wonder if it is our own indifference we despise as much as the people on the other side of the political spectrum or the loonies on the other side of the family. We want change, but we don’t want to do the hard work to help effect a change we believe in and think we deserve. Maybe it’s time for a little self-examination, introspection, reflection, whatever you want to call it.
The issues are myriad, and they are legitimate, and will never be resolved by name calling and nit-picking. In the past few years, I believe, changes evolved too quickly. We must consider our neighbors (over the mountain, around the lake, across the state line) wherever they are, and whether we like them or agree with them, or not. If we roll over them, it will only be a matter of time until they return the favor. We’re seeing that currently and I suspect if things don’t work out well with the present administration, we’ll be seeing another bulldozer barreling through Washington D.C. in four to eight years. This could go on forever and to some degree, it has.
Today, however, civility is sadly missing. Tolerance, kindness and thoughtfulness are gone from public discourse, and from amongst social media friends as well. Not only do we not ask “what would Jesus do?” we are more likely to witness what Lucifer has wrought. And, guess what? It’s seems to be okay. Many of us emulate the politicians we claim to distain, so therefore, we should well understand why things have ceased to work in Washington D.C. Since it has morphed down . . . or perhaps up. To us.
And like those D.C. hot shots, we are taking the so-called high road because there is only one course of action: ours! We must incite, disprove, refute, disavow, inflate! (Yes, it’s sarcasm.)
I’m not saying there aren’t avenues for causes we believe in, but when we distress others and don’t care about their feelings, our behavior mimics the very things most of us say we deplore and disavow in politicians and the media.
Can we just chill for a minute and realize there may be something else going on?
There’s an evil force at work in the world. It isn’t just in the form of Middle East beheadings of Christians, a nightclub exploding in Orlando, or a cartoonist bombing in Paris. It’s in the ongoing banter you and I witness daily. In the workplace. On Facebook. On Twitter. Around the supper table. On television. If you can’t feel it and if you haven’t seen it on both sides of the political divide, you aren’t paying attention. And guess who that evil is dancing with? Yep. We’re voodoo dancing. The WEE WEE ON YOU dance. The I AM RIGHT dance.
It’s time to quit dancing to the enemy’s tune. Slow it down, look at that person across the political divide and listen to them. No, stop. Listen. Quit using the sound bites unbefitting a child of God. Quit acting like one of those Neanderthal broadcasters. (Sorry) The Bible tells us the real enemy is sowing all this discord. And it’s not Fox News, CNBC, female marchers, political candidates, or even Muslim terrorists! Gulp.
Nope, for all those who oppose us and even for those who want us dead, the Bible says these are not our enemy. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood,” St. Paul writes in Ephesians, “but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” We cannot fight evil with our bad ass attitudes and willful mouths. Unless that mouth is uttering prayers. The enemy is spiritual and he and his minions are swarming. If we could see what’s happening around us, we’d be terrified. We’d spend more time on our knees asking God to heal our nation, our hearts, and our neighbors. To guide our President and our elected officials.
There is only one thing that overcomes evil and it has nothing to do with being right or winning. We have to start dancing to a different tune and praying like our country depends on our prayers. Depends on God.
We’ve proven we can’t come together without God’s help. Certainly, we’ve had time to get over the madness, the rudeness, yet it continues. We are all human beings and we are inter-related. Certainly, Christians believe this. What’s good for you may not always be good for me, but it’s a marriage of sorts. Waltz around the lake a few times, think about edifying your neighbor. No screaming adjectives. Think about how we must sound to God and to the rest of the world— like spoiled brats who must always get our way.
I’ll grant you, we haven’t had good role models in Washington D.C. or even in our communities. We must remember that the D.C. hot shots work for us and as their boss, maybe the role-modeling has to start with me and with you.
So, I guess, for all the reasons I’ve stated, I didn’t want to write about love. Because love is hard work. Love makes us search our hearts for self-hatred and spite that embitters us and keeps us from the dialogues we must have. Love means forgiving when these discussions go awry. Love puts the onus for restoration on you and on me. Not in the shouting matches of television fame, but in the quiet moments when friends and families discuss issues that are breaking their hearts. We must bring God into the discussion, pray, pray, pray, and listen with His heart instead of ours.
In Ephesians, St. Paul writes, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.”
Translation: Say nothing bad about your neighbor. Just build him or her up and make them shine before those around you, so much so that everyone is blessed. In today’s world that almost sounds funny. Yet, that’s God’s standard.
The next time I witness non-love on Facebook or elsewhere, I’m going to search for something kind that person has posted. Or try to remember something good that person has said. And I will say a prayer asking for God to replace their non-love with love. To keep the enemy away from them.
In First Corinthians, St. Paul writes: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels but have not love, I have become as sounding brass or as clanging cymbals.” As beautiful and as true as that passage is, and it’s one of my favorites, my thought is that St. Paul must’ve been a prophet. Two-thousand years later, clanging brass and cymbals are what we sound like.
So, what do you think? Is it possible we can love those we disagree with?
We’re Americans. And we come in every color, flavor, and stripe. Let’s show the world we can do this. Better still, let’s show the enemy we won’t let him win. Let’s be the people who really do love our neighbor as ourselves. It truly does just come down to that one commandment.
Jesus had it right all along. Imagine that.
Happy Love Month