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After Trump, I want to love my enemies
I told this story on Sunday at our meeting. It was a stormy day, not unlike this one, and I was working at Hersheypark’s Coal Cracker. The ride was shut down because of the weather and some guests were taking refuge under the gazebo. I’ll never forget the conversation I had with a woman that day. She looked at me—sideburns two-inches too long and shorts too-inches too short—and remarked simply: “You don’t belong here.”
I certainly didn’t belong in Central PA and it was a confirmation that Philadelphia would be a good place for me to love. But she was right on a deeper level: my home is in Jesus, he abides in me and I in him. While watching last night’s improbable results pour in, I was reflecting on that idea and I did find some hope in it.
Many of my friends are in despair today. I am sad too. But I have to confess to you that part of my sadness is rooted in idolatry of which I need to repent. I know, from an intellectual point of view, that my hope isn’t in the government and its power. I know that to be true, but my feelings today are indicative that I did put much of my hope in our elected officials. I’m feeling further convicted though to keep rooting myself in Jesus and his hope. Furthermore, I’m feeling moved to love my enemy.
As I was calling some friends this morning and debriefing the results from last night, I was reminded of a few things. The whole country is in despair and in fear, one way or another. Donald Trump based his whole campaign on the fact that something was wrong with the country and he offered his own version of hope. And enough people believed it to elect him. When I think back to my time in Lebanon Country (one of the final counties in Pennsylvania to report back in and help give the Presidency to Trump), I can empathize with the largely white, working-class people that put their hope in Trump. The government has failed them. Our endless laws and everything they touch has complicated their lives and not provided them services (Obamacare is a great case-in-point: impossible, nearly, to get through and at the end more expensive premiums than last year). They are fearful. They want security. They want to keep their jobs. And Washington’s elite has left them disappointed. Clinton is a qualified policy wonk, but that just doesn’t speak to the people that voted for Trump. And apparently it doesn’t speak enough to the people who were “supposed” to vote for her.
I hope, for a moment, we can empathize with the people that disagree with us. Listening, understanding, relating is important to reconciliation and the hope that Jesus brings. I want to help people get “from here to there,” so I am interested in movement and not just complacency. But I do want to understand and relate to people that are different than I am. Painting them as one way or the other is just not accurate, and too hateful. I don’t want to breed more hate. Hating those who hate me just won’t work. I can’t repay evil-for-evil, anger-for-anger, insult-for-insult. And it’s not because it isn’t tempting. It just makes things worse.
There are plenty of places to channel my anger. The whole world needs to change and be transformed. And I know just the Person to do it. This isn’t a concession or a resignation. Jesus is Lord. And we can do something about that. Empowering a leader who controls the guns is just tiny. Resistance and restoration are the calls of declaring Jesus is Lord!
But for today, I just want to love and understand. Jesus is with us and he suffers with us—and does so for our opponents and enemies. And for his opponents and enemies, too. Enemy-love is at the heart of the Gospel, so if that’s how you feel about the Trump voters, I want to offer them love for now. It’s good for my soul. There’s more to say, but I want Love to be the final world. It’s where I am placing my hope.