Should praying for political foes really be this hard?

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 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.

 Matthew 5:44-45

Recently, in my Twitter feed I saw some very disturbing comments directed at President Trump, while he was recovering from Covid-19. Terrible messages like; I hope he dies.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, insinuated in her comments, that the president was reckless in his behavior and that is why he contracted Covid-19. Some like Elizabeth Warren, vaguely wished President Trump well, and then rebuked his leadership. Taking full advantage of President Trump’s illness to issue a political statement.

The twitter comments have been particularly vile, with many expressing joy over Trump’s illness. One person expressing joy at seeing his diagnosis. Others have even wished he would die. Amazingly insensitive remarks have proliferated the social media world.

While it is true, President Trump can be extraordinarily polarizing, he is still two things; our President and our neighbor. Sure he has says bombastic things and sure he is in stark disagreement with the policies of the left. But neither of these warrants this significant reduction in our Christian values.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes a very profound statement, love our enemies! This is the way of Jesus, to never let our disagreements override our need to be civil to each other. As well, to always remember that all people are children of God. And that we don’t get to pick who our neighbor is, Jesus has already chosen our neighbor, humankind. Later in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus further states, If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? We all know it is harder to love those that don’t love you, but Jesus is asking us to take this step. Jesus is right and is giving us good advice. Life is simpler when we care for all people, regardless of our disagreements.

We will all have our differences and different communication styles, because we all have different life experiences. But these differences shouldn’t reduce our ability to comply with our Christian values. It takes our full commitment to our Christian values to be fully inclusive. To do otherwise isn’t a Christian value and certainly not approved by Jesus.

In our past we have good examples of our political leaders putting aside their differences and following their Christian beliefs. President Reagan and Speaker Tip O’Neil in the eighties, held vastly different political beliefs. From nine to five they sparred frequently.

After President Reagan’s assignation attempt, Tip O’Neil was one of the first people Reagan wanted to see. When O’Neil walked into the President Reagan’s room, he said, God Bless you. Then, holding President Reagan’s hand, O’Neil got down on his knees and recited Psalm 23. Two political rivals, putting aside their earthly differences to pray.

This is what is missing today. The Left, who claim to be the champions of inclusivity, really aren’t. Pelosi, who vehemently claims to be a devout Catholic, repels and yells at reporters when they question her faith. While the President faces a serious health crisis, many on the left, act at best, with I told you so attitude. To claim to be fully inclusive and Christian, there must be respect even for those with whom you disagree. No group or person is exempt.

We see this selective compassion and thin commitment to Jesus today through the violent protests in many of our major cities. Many that protest are okay with destroying buildings, businesses and lives. At the same time abandoning the group they are protesting on behalf. Left alone are the youth from the South side of Chicago. Unprotected are the citizens of New York, who have seen a one hundred percent increase in homicide. This group is singularly focused on anarchy, they are destroying lives and abandoning the weak and poor. They have left their Christian values at home.

If they were truly interested in Justice, they would go to the South side of Chicago and help. They would help fund inner city after school enrichment programs that help urban youth escape generational poverty. But you won’t see them there, too dangerous and not on their selective agenda. As Christians, this is where we should be; helping and praying, not looting and denigrating.

It seems that we as a country must return to our Christian behavior that was evident in the Reagan/O’Neil days. Both men stood on different sides of the political wall. Reagan believe in small government and self-reliance. O’Neil believed in bigger government and using the government as a safety net. More and most importantly, both had strong Christian values and loved each other.

Praying for and loving our political foes, is not only right, it is part of Jesus’s requirement for us who follow.

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Dr. Bruce L Hartman

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