Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Love Enemies in Our Hateful Culture

If you haven’t noticed, our culture is very polarized these days. The level of hateful anger is alarmingly high. Historians tell us this is not the worst it’s ever been in U.S. history. For example, back in 1968 our nation was almost ripped apart, with an unpopular war in Vietnam, racial strife, assassinations, and riots in the streets. And of course, many, many years ago, in the 1860s, the nation was truly ripped apart by the Civil War, with hundreds of thousands of deaths and entire American cities destroyed.

So, I guess it’s reassuring to know things have been worse in the past. Well, actually, no, it’s not all that reassuring, since it feels like another civil war could begin at any moment.

Nowadays, one of the most severe accusations you can level at someone is to call him or her a “hater.” But ironically, the people who most often fire out this accusation are themselves consumed with hate. The attitude used to be, “You don’t think the way I do, so I disagree with you.” Now the attitude is, “You don’t think the way I do, so I hate you!” There’s just way too much hate in today’s culture.

The recent obsession with anti-social media makes things worse. Yes, I know it’s called social media. When Internet platforms such as Facebook and Twitter were first invented, they were indeed social—for about nine minutes. But then people realized these high-tech communication networks could be used to spew venom toward large groups of people at once, and ever since they’ve really been mostly anti-social media.

In times such as these, when hatred and polarization are spiraling out of control, there is only one person to turn to for advice. (No, I don’t mean the Tweeter-in-Chief, who is high on the list of notable venom-spewers.) The person I have in mind is Jesus Christ.

Now, it’s true that social media was a bit more primitive in 33 A.D. For example, the apostles often had to go days at a time without a decent wifi signal.

During His amazing Sermon on the Mount, Jesus offered this important teaching: “I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44).

On first glance, you might think that this is very hard to do. And then on second glace, you might think this is absolutely impossible to do. We’re supposed to love our enemies?! We’re supposed to pray for those who persecute us?! OK, I guess we can pray that our enemies get struck by lightning or hit by a bus. That would be following Jesus’ command, right? No, not right. When you want something bad to happen to someone, that’s not praying for them; that’s cursing them.

There is really only one way we can follow Jesus’ command and truly love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. We must focus on the fact that every single person on earth was created by God in His image, and is very much loved by God.

That’s right, even that annoying person who posts all those hateful and infuriating comments on Facebook was created in God’s image and is loved by God. Most likely God is not thrilled with his behavior these days, but God still loves him. And we need to love him, too.

Obviously, loving someone whose behavior is rather unlovable is not an easy thing to do. But whenever someone says or does something that raises our blood pressure, instead of formulating a witty and nasty reply—which only inflames the situation—we must remember that God loves that person. Is it smart to hate a person who God loves?

There are two other things we need to do. First, be ready to invoke another of Jesus’ famous sayings: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Empathetic tenderness is always a whole lot better than seething hatred.

Here’s the second thing that must be done: delete your Facebook account. No, really. Do it today! It may be the best thing that ever happened to your soul.

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