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Love no matter what

We must take action in loving our “enemies” rather than simply talking about reconciliation.  |  Tomber Su [file photo]

 

I recently wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post discussing the “despicably harsh” tone of this year’s presidential race, in which debate stages have turned into debate cages as malicious one-liners are thrown back and forth. In the midst of this shrill election season, however, I realize that I too have been guilty of antagonizing those with whom I disagree.

Sadly, Christians often rant before we relate. We go to war with our “enemies” when we could pursue them in conversation and friendship.

step up to tear down

In today’s divisive climate, I believe we Christians must step up to tear down the walls we’ve built that separate “us” from “them.” If we do not start leading with loving-kindness as Jesus would have us, we are just contributing to the noise. We can be the ones to contrast the harshness of today’s political climate with kindness. We must focus less on battling our enemies and more on befriending them. Because, as someone recently told me, “we never lead our enemies toward following Christ, only our friends.”

I recognize this is challenging in today’s polarized world. The call to love the “other side,” no matter what, is harder than ever.

That is why on March 23 Biola will host a conversation about bridging the “us” and “them” gaps that currently plague our society. We are calling the event Love No Matter What. I will be joining American ethicist Stanley Hauerwas, social psychologist Christena Cleveland, Sister Helen Prejean, the nun from “Dead Man Walking” and pastor and speaker on the relationship between Christians and the gay community Caleb Kaltenbach in TED-style talks about living out Matthew 5:44 in today’s culture, loving our enemies and praying for those who oppose us.

to love the “other side” 

My prayer is that those who attend this event will find the courage to love the “other side” in today’s debates, even when it is hard. The Easter week timing of this event is particularly relevant as we contemplate Christ’s model of sacrificial enemy love, laying down his life for the very people who opposed him. This event is a great opportunity to think about how Christ’s example can guide us in difficult conversations, balancing our convictions with compassion, our firm center with soft edges.

A few weeks ago we celebrated the 20th anniversary of SCORR Conference, and students from around the nation came together at Biola to pursue listening, confession and honest conversation about some of the same topics we will discuss on March 23. I am continually moved when I see Biola students pursuing reconciliation and listening instead of contributing to the noise.

renewing our commitment

At a time when political candidates waffle on condemning racism and KKK rallies are held in our own Southern California backyard, as in the Anaheim rally that turned violent a few weeks ago, we at Biola must renew our commitment to a Christian vision of reconciliation and justice. In the poem I read during the SCORR poetry slam, I wrote, “We have work to do, no finish line, we need candor, we need God’s blessing, / For diversity must be our way of life and not convenient window dressing.”

We must take action rather than just talk about diversity and reconciliation. We must pursue and listen to one another, especially with those who are different from us. We must lament alongside those in our communities who are pained by the hate on display in today’s political rhetoric. We must work together to chart a different course than the one we see in the news. We must have these important conversations, not closing ourselves off to those who are different, but loving them and pursuing them as Jesus would.

 

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