We really have one simple choice – to love or to hate. Few can be indifferent.
We can argue the emotional spectrum is far from black or white, love or hate; that God made us humans as complex beings capable of a broad range of emotions. Love and hate are just two complex emotions that fall opposite of each other on that spectrum.
So, how about a test? I will mention a few items and you tell me if your primary response is love, hate, indifference or some lesser emotional response. Ready? Go!
Hitler... a puppy... chocolate ice cream... taxes... baby feet... Thanksgiving dinner with family... Jesus's death on the cross... Jesus's resurrection... Donald Trump... Maxine Waters.
I acquiesce, not all choices are as simple as black and white, right or wrong. But some are. Some are as simple as not spewing vitriol from the pulpit of the church. Some are as simple as not sowing hate and discord in a building dedicated to God's love. Some are as simple as not being a money changer in the temple.
Conservative and Right-leaning news organizations from FOX News to Black Christian News Network and The Christian Post have reported on a recent sermon Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) gave to the congregation of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in LA. According to all reports, Rep. Waters claimed to be on a mission from God to stop President Trump: That mission apparently includes political speeches in God's house and calls to "absolutely harass" Trump staffers when they are in public places.
Setting aside the validity of Rep. Waters' claims for immigration reform and civility from the Presidency, I take exception with her tactics. Are we Christians to believe that the same God who angrily tossed money changers out of the temple for thievery now supports sowing discord from the temple?
"Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 'It is written,' he said to them, 'My house will be called a house of prayer,' but you are making it 'a den of robbers.'" (Matt 21:12-13, NIV)
My blog is called God Provides where Hate Divides. It is so titled because many hateful acts are occurring in today's society, hateful acts for which God is the healer of all our wounds, the mender of all our sorrows. Rep. Waters claims President Trump is divisive. To counter his divisive nature, she uses her own divisive rhetoric. Rep. Waters falls on the extreme left of a Democratic party that will not, cannot, give an ounce of credit for any good coming from the Executive Branch. Counter that by an extreme right leaning element of the Republican party and that, ladies and gentlemen, is a house divided. But in this case if we Christians are to believe Rep. Waters' tactics of absolute harassment, then we are to reject God's message of "love thy neighbor."
"So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: 'How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. In fact, no one can enter a strong man's house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man's house.'" (Mark 3:23-27, NIV)
So how do we as Christians resolve the rhetoric on the left and the rhetoric on the right? I will give you one guess and a couple of hints: It starts with the letter, "L" and happens to be one of my most oft-quoted scriptures in addition to one of the five words in the title of my blog.
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these.'" (Mark 12:30-31, NIV)
As followers of God's precepts, we are required to love our neighbor, even if that neighbor lives in a big white house and tweets in capital letters during the middle of the night or preaches a decidedly non-Christian sermon from the pulpit of God's house. I dare say not a single person involved in the Government of these United States today is a shining example of Christian leadership. I dare say neither is the writer of this blog, so there is some perspective for you.
But how do we love that unlovable neighbor? One thing we can do is avoid the divisive messages that Satan so proudly and easily sets in front of us, and choose a better path, a brighter path, a Christian path.
First, listen with love. Listen for a real message, a message on which God truly wants Christians to act. Go beyond the Hollywood drama. Discover what all the fuss is about in the first place. If it is not just another hollow political speech intent on stirring up division (John 8:44) then there will be a message we can grab onto. In this case, it is immigration reform.
Second, test everything(1 Thes. 5:20-21) and reject the division and strife injected by the Deceiver. If it does not pass the Jesus sniff test to "Love your neighbor as yourself" then it isn't real, regardless of whether it comes from a pastor or an elected official. Rep. Waters may have a mission. Read your own Bible and pray God reveals the truth of that calling to you.
Third, use your brain. God made us in His image, male and female (Gen 1:27), with a brain, good sense, and the desire to be closer to Him in our thoughts and actions. The more you study God's word and pray the more aligned your thoughts become with His will. So draw closer and you may find the line between hate and love becomes much cleaner, much finer, much more defined.
And until we unite in service to our King, God will provide where hate divides.
– Mark Klages is an influential contributor, a former US Marine and a lifelong teacher who focuses on applying a Christian worldview to everyday events. Mark blogs at https://maklagesl3.wixsite.com/website under the title "God Provides where Hate Divides," with a heart to heal social, political, relational, and intellectual wounds through God's divine love and grace. Mark can also be found on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mark-klages-04b42511/.