The Big Sandy Mountaineer -

Patching Cracks


October 17, 2018

This morning, while scanning the morning’s headlines and checking my Twitter feed for anything of interest, I came across a tweet from a nationally known figure encouraging folks to shun any family members that support the opposing political party. I intentionally leave out the political affiliation, because this way of thinking isn’t foreign to any point of view right now.

Discourse in our country has become increasingly acidic, a fact both sides readily blame on the other party. The thing about the tweet that I read this morning is that it pushes an idea that I’m seeing more and more often: that folks who disagree with you are automatically your personal enemies.

Last year, I read that politics is increasingly being cited as a cause of divorce and news stories of politically motivated violence are becoming more common. We are living in an era where outrage is political power, and so a great deal of what we hear and read is oriented toward making us angry so we will take action, or vote, or give, or write emails, or whatever. Frankly, it’s exhausting to be angry all the time, and it changes who we are as a people. Resentment has a habit of leaking into every aspect of our lives. It doesn’t stay in our politics.

Nietzsche said: “Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster.” Reducing our relationships with family, friends, and neighbors to political allies and enemies is becoming the monster.

I prefer Paul’s version of this sentiment: If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” Paul’s point is that if we do great things or say great things or have great abilities, but we aren’t able to love our neighbor, then we are missing the point. Jesus taught his followers: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven… If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”

As a part of my job, I officiate funerals and sit with families after their loved ones pass away. One thing that often strikes me is that the thing folks remember most fondly is the loving behaviors, selfless investments of time, acts of service, and kind words.

Those are the sorts of things that really matter in this life, far more than which way someone voted or which sign they had in their yard last year. I’d suggest that rather than shunning folks or picking fights, it’s probably wiser to find ways to bless and serve them. This will make a greater impact on you, your neighbors, and your community over the long run than brawling over a political issue that we won’t remember in 5 years anyway.

I firmly believe this type of change begins with something Jesus said in the above quote: Praying for your enemies. There is something about praying for folks that changes our attitudes toward them. I have prayed for people who caused problems in my life and then found myself kind of happy when I saw God bless them. Prayer changes us.


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