Choosing to love even those whose words and actions are filled with hate and division does not mean accepting their behaviour or tolerating injustice.
Published on January 16, 2017 Last modified on January 17, 2017 -United Church of Canada
We all have known times where words fail us—either because we don’t know what to say or because we can’t bring ourselves to say what needs to be said.
This week is one of those times for me. As the President-elect of the United States prepares for his inauguration on Friday I need to say, “I love Donald Trump.”
Those words are very hard for me to say, but I am striving to genuinely feel them in my heart. Although I have serious misgivings about his policies and pronouncements, he is a child of God, just like me, so I must treat him with dignity, respect, and love.
I know that some of you reading this do not share my reservations about Donald Trump, while others do. Our political diversity is gift to celebrate. But regardless of our political differences, as Christians, we share a common commitment to live out the gospel values of love and justice.
Many people in both Canada and the United States are experiencing extreme levels of fear and anxiety right now, sparked in large part by the rhetoric and behaviour of the President-elect as well as the political records of some of his recent appointees. Members of vulnerable minority communities are worried that their rights and safety are in jeopardy. This affects all of us, for the health of any society is measured by how it treats its most vulnerable members.
History shows that political and social movements in the United States have a significant impact on attitudes and behaviours in Canada. We have already seen a spike in acts of violence and discrimination toward minorities in this country. In a single week, immediately following the US election, five incidents of hate crimes targeting Jews, Muslims, and people of colour were reported in our nation’s capital.
Here is where we must lay aside our partisan politics and recognize that we need each other’s strength, wisdom, and friendship if we are going to stop the rising tide of hate that threatens to wash over us.
We need to be alert to all efforts on the part of any of our leaders to use fear as a tool to divide and control people. Whenever fear becomes the dominant force in our lives, it inevitably leads either to hatred and exclusion or to despair and apathy. We cannot afford to go in either of these directions. So let us draw on the deepest resources of our faith to choose instead an alternative that is stronger than fear, hate, or despair—love.
On a rock that stands at the entrance to the Tent of Nations just outside Bethlehem in the West Bank are painted the following words in Arabic, English, and German:
We refuse to be enemies
I believe these words express the profound spiritual challenge that is before us if we are to be faithful disciples in our time.
It is urgent that all people of faith and goodwill unite and muster our collective spiritual resources to resist the growing fear and division that are spreading among us. Let us stand together to protect the vulnerable and challenge hate wherever we encounter it—including in ourselves. Yes, we will forcefully resist any efforts to strip people of their dignity and rights—but the force we will use is love.
Choosing to love even those whose words and actions are filled with hate and division does not mean accepting their behaviour or tolerating injustice. Love does not turn a blind eye to injustice or a deaf ear to the cries of the oppressed. The love that we are called to embody as followers of Christ demands that we defend the dignity and worth, the well-being and integrity of everyone—including the oppressors.
The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States exemplified this unwavering commitment to justice rooted in love in a recent statement, which begins with these words:
As our nation prepares for the Presidential Inauguration, we do so with the lasting residue of a divisive election season and an even more fractured past. Our faith teaches us to be ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:11-21). That is why we urge President-Elect Donald Trump, who has said he shares our Christian faith, to take seriously his responsibility to bring our nation together and to heed the oath he will take to preserve, protect and defend America.
The question I am asking myself today is “How can I be a minister of reconciliation in these fractured times?” It’s a question that I challenge you to think about as well.