What does the Bible say about all this anger and division?
One reader asked me, “I feel really frustrated with all the hatred and division that we are seeing across political party lines. I’ve lost patience with people who have no tolerance of anyone who disagrees with their opinions and now it is making me an angry person whenever I read the news. Do you have any advice on how to deal with all of this, besides burying my head in the sand for the next 4-8 years?”
One time an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus. He asked, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you understand it?” The expert answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” But the expert, wanting to justify his own lack of love asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him up, and went off, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, but when he saw the injured man he passed by on the other side. So too a Levite (the priestly tribe in Israel), when he came up to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan who was traveling came to where the injured man was, and when he saw him, he felt compassion for him. He went up to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever else you spend, I will repay you when I come back this way.’ Which of these three do you think became a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” The expert in religious law said, “The one who showed mercy to him.” So Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.”
To understand the gravity of this story that Jesus told, you need to know about Samaritans. In the eyes of first century Jews, Samaritans were scum. They were half Jew and half something else - a mixed race resulting from the days of Babylonian imperialism. For Jews, who took great pride in their ethnicity, Samaritans were a religiously unclean. A common expression of the day was, paraphrasing, “Thank God I’m not a Samaritan!”
The twist in this story is that the one to behave decently, is one least expected by the religious expert. The Samaritan, who was assumed to respond with hatred, was the one who showed mercy.
He was willing to to be disrupted to help this man who, most likely, would not have done the same thing for him. Why did the Samaritan stop? Because he saw something deeper than this man’s ethnic heritage, politics, race, or religion. He saw a human being, a neighbor.
Do you know what is admirable? Someone who chooses to be show incredible, sacrificial, love towards another person who doesn’t deserve it and hasn’t earned it. That kind of love requires great cost.
Do you know what requires zero sacrifice and has zero impact on the greater good as well as the glory of God? Behaving the way we see so many behaving in the mainstream media. Being a jerk is easy. Love is difficult and costly. Too many choose to do what comes naturally rather than doing what is right.
Jesus speaks directly to our struggles. We say that we want to do the right thing, that we want to be right before God and men, but we want to do it on our terms. Jesus makes it clear - you don’t define the terms. The Law can be summarized by loving God with all of your being and loving your neighbor as yourself.
Without even talking about the impossibility of loving God with all of my being, just reflect for a moment on how little we love one another. Do the Republican leaders love the Democratic leaders as they love themselves? Do the Democratic leaders love the Republic leaders? Do those who are discriminated against love their discriminators as they love themselves? Clearly those doing the discriminating do not. We have such a meager understanding of love.
Jesus doesn’t just tell us to love, he demonstrates it. While we were still helpless, beat up along the side of the road, Christ came along, and loves us by dying for us. Rarely would any of us die for a stranger, let alone an enemy, but God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still in rebellion against him, Christ died for us.
Love isn’t cheap. Love is costly. Perhaps all of us, from our leaders down to the most humble person, need to stop doing what comes naturally and start choosing love. We need to come to a place in our country where we realize that you can disagree with someone and still treat them with dignity. Regardless of how much you may view a person as your enemy, the command is to love. Let’s start there.