“Loving Your [Political] Enemies”Categories: M. W. Bassford, Sermons
It’s no secret to anyone who pays attention that year by year, the political climate in our country grows more and more toxic. Political dialogue is dominated by extremist voices on both sides who openly describe people on the other side as their enemies. Believing the best about one’s opponents is unheard of. Civility is nonexistent. Rumors are flying of civil disorder if the wrong side wins, and sometimes even if the wrong side loses.
All of this says that the upcoming election is a very important one for Christians, though maybe not the way that you think. The truly meaningful choice before us is not whether we vote Republican or Democrat. It is whether, however we vote, we allow ourselves to be dragged down into the mud with the world, or whether we glorify Christ in what we do, say, and think. Some will say that the fate of the nation is at stake in November, but our souls are at stake right now.
In particular, let’s evaluate ourselves according to the standard of Matthew 5:43-44. Here, our Lord tells us that we are to love not only our neighbor, but even those who hate and persecute us. These were challenging words when He first said them, and they remain challenging today. With this in mind, let’s consider loving our political enemies.
This morning, let’s evaluate ourselves on this according to four Biblical standards. The first is, “DON’T RETURN EVIL FOR EVIL.” This comes from 1 Peter 3:8-9. By the point in his life when he was writing this, Peter knew a thing or two about persecution. He knew what it was like to be beaten and humiliated even when he had done nothing wrong. Nonetheless, he warns us that it’s wrong to repay the wicked in their own coin.
I see two political applications here. The first is that it is not godly to respond to the other side’s evil with our evil. One of the political diseases of our time is whataboutism. Whenever somebody in our party, it’s common for partisans to reply with, “Well, what about when So-and-So did Thus-and-Such?” as though hypocrisy on the other side mitigates bad behavior on our side. Evil conduct doesn’t become less evil because the other side did it first. Sin is sin, even when it’s practiced by somebody on the home team.
Similarly, we must beware of approving in our hearts when a political commentator on our side attacks the other side with vicious sarcasm. It doesn’t matter whether we think they deserve it. Hate-filled vitriol is hate-filled vitriol regardless of the source, and Christians never should have anything to do with it. When we buy in to political savagery, it inevitably corrupts us.
Second, we must be sure NOT TO REJOICE IN UNRIGHTEOUSNESS. This, of course, is 1 Corinthians 13:6. This is a familiar passage, but this morning, I want to put a little different spin on it. Rather than talking about our attitude toward unrighteousness in the people we love, I want to talk about our attitude toward unrighteousness in our political enemies.
Let’s say you flip on the TV or open the Internet browser in the morning, and the first thing you see is a story about awful, wretched behavior by a politician in the other political party. How does that make you feel? Do you feel gleeful that the wickedness you always knew was there has been exposed for all to see? Do you feel vindicated that someone you opposed has lived down to your expectations? “See! I knew it all along?”
If so, let me suggest that that’s a problem, because that’s not how we respond to wrongdoing in people we love. When somebody here at Jackson Heights gets trapped in sin, I’m not gleeful. If some brother I’ve been concerned about for a long time falls away, I don’t feel vindicated because I was right. Instead, I’m heartbroken! In fact, if I weren’t, and I went around talking about how glad I was that Brother So-and-So was gone, I’d probably get fired over it.
Brethren, if it’s not loving to rejoice over unrighteousness in our brethren, it’s not loving to rejoice over unrighteousness in our enemies either! We should never feel justified or satisfied or vindicated by someone else’s wickedness. If we respond to sin in anyone with anything other than mourning and a prayer for their souls, we’re doing it wrong.
Third, also from 1 Corinthians 13:6, if we love our enemies, we will REJOICE IN THE TRUTH. Necessarily, that means that we can’t rejoice in lies, and these days, that poses a problem. Right now, there is no “the news” anymore, like there was when I was kid. Instead, you have Red News and Blue News, and Red News promotes Red narratives, and Blue News promotes Blue narratives. What people watch and read and listen to depends on what they believe already.
In fact, the deeper Red you get, and the deeper Blue you get, the more important the narrative becomes, and the less important the truth becomes. It is often the case that the most wretched lies put out by far left and far right alike are the stories most eagerly read and shared by partisans. “The other presidential candidate had an affair with a space alien? Great! I’m going to share that on my Facebook page, right next to the inspirational Bible quote from yesterday!”
Brethren, no! If we love our enemies, we won’t be eager to believe lies about them either. If you come to me with some whopper of an awful story about my wife, I’m not going to lap that stuff up. I’m going to be really reluctant to believe you. Why? Because I love my wife! When we want so badly to believe evil about our political enemies that we embrace even falsehood, it reveals that we don’t have a shred of love for them in our hearts.
Finally, it will help us to love our enemies if we ENTRUST OURSELVES TO GOD. Consider the example of Jesus in 1 Peter 2:23. Even on the cross, Jesus did not cease to love His enemies, and He was able to endure such terrible suffering because He had entrusted Himself to God. They could kill His body, but they couldn’t touch what truly mattered.
I predict that over the next couple of months, we’re going to hear a great deal about how this election is going to be one of the most important in our lifetime. We have to get out and vote right, or else horrible things are going to happen! Of course, the same people also said that the 2008 election, and the 2012 election, and the 2016 election also were the most important in our lifetimes. If we’re still here in 2024, I predict that will be called the most important election of our lifetimes too. All of them are, apparently.
But really, brethren, for the child of God, no election is truly important. No matter who wins the vote, they can’t touch our relationship with God unless we let them.
Right now, all is well with us, not because of our earthly blessings, but because our lives are hidden with Christ in God. On Wednesday, November 4th, if the wrong guy wins the election, it still will be well with us—so long as our lives are hidden with Christ in God. Even if worst comes to worst, and stormtroopers from the other side come after us, and they drag us out of our homes and stand us up against a wall and shoot us, even then, it will be well with us—so long as our lives are hidden with Christ in God.
So long as we are with our Lord, our enemies can’t touch us, no matter what they do. We have no reason to fear them, and that frees us to love them. If we entrust ourselves to God, something as insignificant as an election isn’t worth worrying about.