We just wrapped up a highly contentious election season here in the United States. Mud – and other sorts of muck – was flung freely between all of the political parties and their supporters. It wasn’t pretty. I suppose that much of that behavior was to be expected in the secular arena (which is a sad commentary on our culture); but, it was (and still is) particularly disconcerting to witness that behavior being demonstrated by Christians – clergy and parishioners alike.
I get it. We are passionate people. Our faith does not require that we give up having an opinion (or two or three) about things going on in the political realm. In fact, our faith often informs our politics. But I struggle to remember that part of our faith that encourages us to throw insults at others. I have not been able to identify that part of our faith that teaches us to mock people for having opinions and beliefs that are different from our own. Unfortunately, during this past election season – and even in this post-election season – there’s been a lot of “love the ones who vote the same way as you” and not a lot of “love the ones who vote for other people”.
One of my favorite hymns is “They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love”. In it, we sing of how we will walk with each other, and we will work with each other. Most importantly, perhaps, is the bold declaration in the first verse that “we are one in the Spirit” and “we are one in the Lord”. Indeed, as members of the Body of Christ (the Church), we are made one in Christ Jesus. And, as members of the one Body of Christ, we are called to love – to love God, and to love our neighbors.
In John 13:34-35, Jesus gives us the foundation for the well-known hymn. He says to his disciples: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” It is by our showing love for one another that everyone will be able to tell that we are Christ-followers. It isn’t because of the crosses we wear around our necks. It isn’t because of the bumper stickers we have on our cars. It isn’t even because people see us walking into a church building from time to time. Plain and simple – from Jesus’ own lips – it is by our love that people will know that we are Christians.
Hurtful words and actions do not answer God’s call for us to love one another. They don’t bring about the Kingdom. They don’t let people see clearly that we are Christ-followers. In this post-election season – as some cheer for those who have won, and others grieve for those who have lost – I am left wondering: when does love win? When will we challenge ourselves to love the ones who don’t agree with us just as much as we love the ones who do? When will we dare to walk with each other, hand in hand? When will we put our differences aside and work with each other, side by side?
Ultimately, the answer to these questions is up to us. Like it or not, we aren’t always going to agree on how things should be done. We aren’t likely to agree on who should (or shouldn’t) get the credit for things that happen in the world. And God knows that we aren’t all going to agree on which people to vote for or which news channels to watch. But I pray that maybe — just maybe — we who call ourselves Christian might agree on the importance of showing respect to one another — even when (and maybe, most importantly) we disagree so passionately about other things. If we can refrain from the temptations of finger-pointing and name-calling, then maybe love can finally win. Maybe then, we can all live out the words of the hymn, and “they will know we are Christians by our love.”