What is in your heart when you see a woman shrouded in a black burka with nothing but a slit across her eyes with which to see or be seen? What is in your heart when you see a Middle Eastern man in a robe with a full beard? What’s in your heart when you see a roomful of men on their knees bowing in the same direction with their foreheads touching the ground? What’s in your heart when you see Hillary on TV? When you see Donald? Or President Obama? There should be only one thing in all of these cases … in every case … Love. If there is anything other than love in our hearts when we see anyone, we have some work to do. I can only speak for myself, but I can speak truthfully when I say that I do.
If we are going to manifest grace turned outward to the world, we have to start with what is inside ourselves.
When Jesus said to love our enemies, He meant to love them. This is not a platitude; it is a state of the heart and the way He wants us to live. He wasn’t talking about being nice to them while we grit our teeth. He wasn’t talking about seething quietly inside while we pray for God to rain down judgment on them. He was talking about loving them with a love that begins in the heart. When He was talking about praying for those who persecute you, He meant to pray for their welfare, to pray for their needs, to pray for their own souls — their own relationships with God.
To retaliate against someone who has attacked you is to stoop to their level. This is why Jesus asks us to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, and give someone your shirt if they take your coat. These reactions stop the cycle. They are revolutionary. Forgiving those who harm you instead of harboring hatred and resentment in your heart frees you, and frees them as well.
In cases of perpetual abuse, you love your abuser and yourself too much to stay in the relationship that perpetuates the unhealthy exchange. You leave, and if you can’t leave, you get help. But you are doing this out of love, not hate. Hate spins the unhealthy cycle; love stops it.
We represent a kingdom that is not of this world. If we’re going to follow Jesus, then we need to look like Jesus. Jesus hung on a cross and forgave those who put him there. That Roman soldier who was ripping open His flesh — He loved that man. He forgave him already because he didn’t know what he was doing. The cross Jesus was headed to was going to wipe that man’s sin away, and the very lashes he placed on Jesus were the stripes by which he himself would be healed.
We must realize that the kingdom of God operates on an entirely different level than the kingdoms of this world, and America and American politics operate as kingdoms of this world, which is the reason why we will never get God’s business done by aligning ourselves with them. You cannot vote the kingdom of God into office. You can only be the kingdom of God. And that is what Christ has asked us to do.
I had a chance to spend some time this weekend with The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power is Destroying the Church, by Gregory A. Boyd, and I am recommending this book to all those who want to represent the kingdom of God in the world. We have gotten this wrong for a long time, and many of the beliefs that are wrong run deep and are hard to unravel, but Dr. Boyd has done it. I can’t straighten this out in a Catch or two. Knowing there was something wrong with aligning ourselves politically, I’ve been trying to figure this out for years. This book does it as well as any I know, and I highly recommend it — indeed, require it — if you want to represent grace turned outward, especially now, in this election year.
I also want to turn you on to our very special guest tonight on BlogTalkRadio. Rob Stutzman is head of his own Public Relations firm in Sacramento and has been a political consultant to a number of candidates in various state and national campaigns. He is frequently called upon by the news media to comment on political matters. He also happens to be on our Board of Directors and has graciously agreed to be on BlogTalkRadio tonight amidst a very busy schedule, to discuss some of these issues. Set a reminder; you won’t want to miss this!