On Neighbors

Last week’s election held a lot of meaning for a lot of people – on that much, I think we can all agree.

To some, it was a referendum on our sitting president; to others, a fight to keep the person in power who they feel, unlike any previous executive, has represented them best.

I heard people call this a battle for the soul of the nation; and a campaign to keep America great.

And no matter what side this language was coming from, the implication about the “other” was always the same: they’re wrong. They’re dangerous. Stupid, selfish, hypocritical, homophobic…you name it.

Our side is right, and we have to win…or else.

It was hard to swallow, and it still is. No matter the results of the election, whether they turn out to confirm President-elect Biden or to re-elect President Trump, the fact remains: we are a deeply divided nation.

And these divisions don’t merely have an impact on the church, they exist just as deeply inside of the church. Our faith doesn’t seem to give us all clarity on who to vote for or how to vote, but the same scriptures have led us to diametrically opposed positions, held tightly.

Disagreement is ok, but demonization is not. And that’s what I worry about most these days. That we’ve lost sight of the command of scripture: to love God and our neighbor. To love God through loving our neighbor.

Through loving the Democrat, or the Republican; through loving the conservative or the liberal; through loving the white and the black, the rich and the poor, the young and the old.

Barbara Brown Taylor reminded me this morning of the words of the disciple John, who said “those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.”

That’s a hard line, for those of us disagreeing vehemently with our neighbors these days. But it is clear, and firm, and echoed throughout scripture. Love of God and love of neighbor are wrapped up together, part and parcel. We can’t truly love God without loving our neighbor, even the neighbor who is most unlike us, whom we disagree with on almost everything, whom we don’t even like. We have to love them, too.

We can talk about how it is that we love our neighbors; what it means to love them. How can love call us to hard conversations about issues we disagree on? How can love guide us through conflict? How can love reconcile us to each other?

That’s worth thinking on, today and in the days to come. We need each other, on both sides of the aisle, on both sides of the issue – whatever it is. We were made, in the image of God, for community with one another. Community is complicated, and messy, and uncomfortable sometimes, but it is necessary.

Let’s not forget that, today, or tomorrow, or ever.

-Pastor Jen

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