I want to start off with a simple truth: I don’t know everything.
It sounds pretty obvious, right? I’m only twenty-two; I’ve never owned a home or raised a child or even worked in a big girl job. But somehow, the lie that I am the all-knowing, wisest person in every room sneaks up on me and subtly takes root. Maybe it’s because of my lifelong reputation as the smart kid, maybe it’s because of my high grades and test scores, but maybe it’s more than that. Maybe we all need to wake up in the morning, look in the mirror, and repeat to ourselves: I don’t know everything. Maybe then we can go into the world as the learners we’re meant to be, instead of the know-it-all’s we pretend to be.
So I approach this post as someone whose knowledge is imperfect, whose understanding is incomplete. I’m speaking (well, writing) now, but I’m also listening and learning. I will make mistakes and say wrong things, because I don’t know everything. I guess I just hope that maybe someone can learn from me, maybe I can learn from them, and maybe we can all learn from each other.
Election week was a doozy; I think that’s true for just about everyone in the U.S., no matter where you fall on the political spectrum. It was weird (and honestly, kind of nice) to watch it all go down from Lebanon. I’m grateful that I was able to vote from here, and that I was able to stay informed about what was happening without being sucked into a whole lot of drama.
My unique vantage point from Lebanon, my October journey through 31 Days of Power by Ruth Myers, and my experiences working with people who are different from me over the past four months here, have made me reflect on this election in new ways. And I just have to say: we have forgotten who the enemy is.
Conservatives and Republicans: liberals, Democrats, immigrants, Muslims, social justice warriors, gay people, and people of color are not the enemy.
Liberals and Democrats: conservatives, Republicans, President Trump, rich people, white people, evangelical Christians, and gun-owners are not the enemy.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.Ephesians 6:12
Our enemy is the devil himself, the ruler of all evil—not each other. We blame and accuse people who vote differently, instead of owning our own slice of the responsibility pie for this mess we’re in. This isn’t to say that some people or groups don’t have bigger slices of the responsibility pie, believing and doing some pretty evil stuff. But each and every person, including those we disagree with—each white supremacist, each woman getting an abortion, each Muslim going to Friday prayer, each vehement denier of climate change, each immigrant locked up at the U.S./Mexico border—they all have their own experiences, relationships, values, beliefs, and emotions that have led them to where they are today. And each of them is someone for whom Jesus died. How deeply sad Christ must be, looking down from the throne at God’s right hand, to see us treating other people like the enemy, when He was thinking of them on the cross, too.
God does have a heart for justice and peace, and I think some political movements and decisions advance that agenda more than others. But the best way to find this path to a brighter future is together, fighting for each other, not against. Again, some people may have a bigger slice of the responsibility pie than others for the many messes of the United States. News flash: force-feeding them their pie will not create accountability, responsibility, better decisions, or a perfect country.
I have never changed my mind because someone yelled at me, repeatedly told me how wrong I am, refused to listen, or wrote me off as the enemy. I have, however, changed my mind in the context of loving relationships with people who think, look, and vote differently from me. I’ve changed my mind in response to kind communication, education, thoughtfully created pieces of media, and compassionate conversations. I’m not talking “right” and “wrong” here; I’m talking about effectiveness.
We cannot love by hating people we deem evil. The only enemy of love is the devil himself. We can hate and oppose evil thoughts, words, and actions that the devil causes and manifests in other people. But if we lose our empathy for those who are thinking, saying, and doing those evil things, then we’re just trying to fix something with broken tools. It’s not going to work. And we must carefully remember that we don’t know everything; the people we’re quick to characterize as enemies may prove to be our greatest teachers.
I’m speaking from personal experience here. I’ve opened my mouth too much to share my opinion too loudly, in real life and on this blog, and not listened enough to different perspectives—and I’m sorry for that. I get so frustrated when people don’t see things the way I do. But I’m learning that, while my anger may be justified, it will not ultimately create peace and justice. Anger and fear are great weapons if your enemy is other people, but if you’re fighting against evil itself, they’ll fail you every time. Love is a much sharper sword.
We must carefully walk this path of compassion. Some things are just evil, and we can’t let ourselves be tricked into thinking they could maybe, possibly, under just the right set of circumstances, be acceptable. But in reality, there’s a lot more gray area than black and white. The world is messy, and we can meet others in the mess with clean washcloths and open hearts, or we can make the mess bigger. It’s possible to use sound judgment without being mega-judgy.
Burning down others’ opinions doesn’t make us right. It makes us arsonists.Bob Goff, Everybody Always
We were not made to be arsonists; we were made to be love. We cannot hate some people in the name of loving others. Love doesn’t work that way. Love extends to everyone, everywhere, all the time, even and especially when it’s difficult. In this election, your candidate might win, but you don’t, as long as you view the other side as the enemy. Love only has one enemy, and his defeat has already been written. Let’s start working together to create the collective victory that Jesus died and rose for. Let’s love each other, y’all. Let’s just love and then see where we go from there.
Now… how do we do this?
The short answer is: I don’t know. One of the reasons why I’m writing this post is that I really struggle with these things myself. Plus, the next steps will be very different for every person. I don’t know where you’re coming from or what you need to do to put love in action. But I’m pretty sure you have at least one person in your life whom you strongly disagree with politically. Chances are, it’s probably more like several people whom you dread being stuck in an elevator with, because if they use the phrase “illegal immigrant” or “pro-choice” one more time you just might punch them in the throat.
Right now, write down their names. (Yes, now. Right now.) Then, for the next few moments, ask yourself: How can I love them? And I’m not talking a random bouquet of flowers, or a sweet note with a coffeeshop gift card, or a day trip to the zoo. Small acts of kindness are wonderful, but I’m talking about deep kindness here, the sort that makes you ridiculously uncomfortable. For me and my people, I think I need to listen more. Just listen to their point of view, even and especially when I disagree about important political and social topics. Just listen, without arguing, or pushing back, or rolling my eyes. Listening to understand, not to prove them wrong. Because I love them, and love listens.
Who is hardest for you to love? And how can you love them so hard it maybe hurts a little? Write it down, right now, and then do it, as soon as possible. We are not each other’s enemies; we’re each other’s only chance at finding light and spreading goodness in a world of darkness and evil. Let’s start living like it. Let’s love like it.