I called my daughter this week to celebrate her birthday. She told me it had been a trying week for her, as she teaches the children of Somali refugees. It’s a tough and rewarding job, drawing on all her love and creativity as she leads them to not just fit into the American culture, but to blossom as people. But this was a week of tears—of fears for the refugees. They had been listening all year to the words of the now President-elect, over the course of this political season. How he expressed himself and also how he revealed his character through his own words. His election was frightening to them.
Some of you who read this might think that their fears are overblown. But they are refugees who have come here to escape hatred and warfare. They are black in a culture where minorities are still stigmatized. They are young women who know what it means to be sexually used. They are Muslims, hearing that they belong to a group who is unwelcome in this country.
I believe this is a moment when we, who are being transformed by the good news of the Kingdom, need to grasp this truth. Both major parties have just put this nation through the wringer using the already present fear of what might happen or what is happening to try to motivate their voters. I did say both parties. And the media chipped in on this—is still doing so. One side now feels relieved that their worst nightmares may not come true. The other is emotionally distressed that theirs will.
This is neither the time to gloat nor glower over who did or did not win. It’s not the moment to call the other side bigots, or whiners, or sick or whatever name that you find satisfying. Not the moment to conservesplain or liberalsplain the election to those with whom we disagree.
It is time for us to practice spiritual discernment—to be aware that we are surrounded by people who are afraid. They’re afraid of each other, of being squeezed out of jobs, of not being able to pay their bills, of being unsafe, of being misunderstood and blamed for all sorts of social ills. They fear they will lose personal rights and be marginalized, even attacked, for believing what they do and being what they are.
Fear is the product of the Fall. The first conversation that Adam had with God after his and Eve’s decisive rejection of His reign over them was about fear. This fear has not gone away in the ensuing years. It has grown to embrace everything we touch. Fear teaches us either to keep our distance from those we do not understand or to attack, hurt and even kill them to protect ourselves from harm.
What do we who are being transformed have to counter this fear in those around us? Clearly, it is the love of God. We can all nod our heads and say this is the right answer. But what does this mean practically?
Before we can love people who are in the grip of their fears, we need to know them. The reason why my daughter had a tough week with these kids was because she loves them. Their distress matters to her. As a believer, she wants to be a source of hope in their world instead of rolling her eyes over their ‘irrational’ fears and chiding them to ‘get a life.’ Such a negative response never even crossed her mind.
The uncomfortable fact is that many of us do not know those on the other side well enough to love them. We know of them, but have never put in the effort to make friends who see the world differently than we do. Whose skin is a different hue from ours. Whose outlook on issues may not be ours. Instead of engaging them in a relationship, we condemn them for acting out on their fears.
Instead, we need to follow Jesus because that is what he has empowered us to do by the Spirit. What does this look like? Go out among people who are quite different from us socially, politically, religiously—getting out of our bubble—and know them. Befriend them. Listen to them. Include them in our lives. More importantly, understand their fears. Give them hope. Love them.
After an election that just demonstrated that the nation is split pretty much down the middle, where believers have made their votes felt on both sides, God gives us an opportunity to again be salt and light. We can love those whose points of view we do not embrace. We can demonstrate through both personal friendships and active concern for their needs, that we are true peacemakers. Don’t miss this chance to bind up the nation’s wounds. Listen to the Father, who loved the world and gave His Son to bring us peace and rescue us from condemnation.