Loving Our Political Neighbors & Enemies

“Anyone who votes for *insert party / candidate name* is a _______.”

Raise your hand if you’ve heard someone say this in the past few months. Now, keep them raised if it’s a Christian who has told you these words!

If you were to ask Bible-believing Christians if Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors and love our enemies, almost every single one of them would say yes. Scripture is clear — Jesus did indeed say that (Mark 12:31 & Matthew 5:44).

But why is it that so many of us, who identify as Christians, struggle with loving our political neighbors and enemies? Why is it that the most difficult neighbors and enemies to love are often the ones who disagree with us politically?

Far from knowing how to love our political enemies (people who we’re convinced are out to persecute us), many of us as Christians are absolutely clueless on even loving our political neighbors (people in our lives who disagree with us politically).

A few months ago, I tuned in to watch the 2020 National Prayer Breakfast. The speaker, conservative think tank leader, Arthur Brooks, gave a moving keynote speech on applying Jesus’ teachings on loving our enemies to the public square — especially when it comes to members of the opposing political party. Next up to speak at the National Prayer Breakfast? President Trump.

“Arthur, I don’t know if I agree with you. But I don’t know if Arthur is going to like what I’m going to say”, President Trump quipped as he launched into his remarks — labeling his political opponents as “some very dishonest and corrupt people”.

The irony wasn’t lost on me. Here was the “leader of the free world” (one who won around 80% of the evangelical vote in both of his Presidential campaigns), openly stating and unabashedly displaying that he disagreed with a core teaching of Jesus Christ & the Christian faith…at a nationally televised Christian Prayer Breakfast!

To be fair, Progressive Christians are not blameless when it comes to neglecting this core teaching of Christ’s too. One only needs to log on to Facebook or Twitter (or even Instagram or TikTok these days) to see Christians on both sides of the aisle openly judging the motives and hearts of people who vote differently from them.

So how can we all do a better job of loving our political neighbors & enemies?

I’d like to propose three steps:

1) Listen: So many of us (myself included) are so eager to share our opinions and be heard that we often forget the art of shutting up & listening. Truth be told — we cannot love our political neighbors & enemies without listening to them. Listening well allows us to understand where they’re are coming from. Understanding well allows us to build empathy. And empathy allows us to be more graceful and charitable in our political disagreements.

Case in point — If you’re a white conservative who listens well to your black and brown neighbors who believe in the existence of systemic racism, you’ll understand that the vast majority of these neighbors don’t believe in systemic racism because they’re Marxist, or believers of Critical Race Theory (CRT), or want to give President Joe Biden four more years; they believe in systemic racism because of their own personal, lived experiences being discriminated against by majority white-led government and corporate systems.

Similarly, if you’re a liberal person of color who listens well to your white, conservative neighbor who voted for Trump, you might discover that your neighbor didn’t vote for Trump because they hate black and brown people; they probably voted for Trump because they care a lot about the unborn or lower taxes or protectionist trade policies.

Listening well in both cases allows us to know our political neighbor better, which in turn allows us to nuance our understanding of them, which in turn allows us to extend them more grace and charity in voting differently — even if we fundamentally disagree with them.

2) Refuse to make assumptions: Making assumptions about our political neighbors and enemies will almost certainly make it impossible to love them. When I worked in Republican politics, I believed that every Christian who voted for Democrats was pro-abortion and anti-life. But then I left Republican politics and started to work with liberal, card-carrying Democrats who loved Jesus. And I learned that these folks were more ‘pro-life’ than I was — especially in their love for all people (especially the poor, the immigrant & the oppressed) in all stages of life — from the womb to the tomb. I was wrong to make assumptions about my political neighbors and have benefitted so much by listening & learning from their unique perspectives. Do I agree with them on everything? Of course not. But that’s okay — I don’t have to always agree with them! I just need to love them every day.

3) Diversify your relationships: Most of us don’t know how to love our political neighbors because we only hang out with people who look, think, act and vote like us.

Ask yourself these questions: How many of my close friends are from a different race or ethnicity? How many people at my church are from a different racial or socio-economic background?

Race, ethnicity and socio-economic backgrounds play a huge role in influencing political behavior so if you’re engaging in authentic, diverse social relationships, you will start to understand your political neighbors (and enemies) better. And understanding them better will allow you to love them better!

But who is my (political) neighbor?

In Luke 10:25–37, we see Jesus being asked an intriguing question by an expert in the law — “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus takes up the question by sharing the parable of the Good Samaritan — a compassionate neighbor who moves towards the urgent, physical needs of a neighbor from an enemy ethnic group on the other side of town. Towards the end, Jesus gets his questioner to begrudgingly acknowledge that the Samaritan was the most proven neighbor. He then tells his questioner, “Go and do the same!” Or in other words — go and prove yourself to be a neighbor!

2000 years later, many of us in the Church are still asking Jesus (and his Body, the Church) the same asked & answered question — “Who is my neighbor?”

Believe it or not — God has called us to be loving neighbors to our neighbors who vote differently from us.

So go and be a neighbor by having compassion on your political neighbor, going over to them, bandaging their wounds, pouring grace on them, sharing your most precious resources and extravagantly lavishing them with the same love that the Father has first lavished on us through his Son, Jesus Christ. May we go and do the same!

--

--

--

Mobilizing the Church to Seek Justice | Public Theologian | Views Mine

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

Democratic Donors: Stop Setting Your Money on Fire

Why I Don’t Vote … and Maybe You Shouldn’t, Either

A Moment for Opioid Policy

Texas Mirrors Trump with SB6 “Bathroom Bill” & Religious Freedom Laws are Next!

How to Be Happy Lesson #13: Move to…

Erie Transit System; In Need of Work

A Kingdom Where Nobody Dies

Throwing Bricks Through Windows Hurts America More Than it Hurts President Trump

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Joash Thomas

Joash Thomas

Mobilizing the Church to Seek Justice | Public Theologian | Views Mine

More from Medium

You are one-sided

The Case for Historical Bullshit

Loving — The Basest Love

It’s all about vibrations, man!