BRIAN BASHAM, HOST: Today is Monday, July 13th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Brian Basham.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Commentator Trillia Newbell has some thoughts now on loving God and your neighbor this election season.
TRILLIA NEWBELL, COMMENTATOR: Take a quick stroll through my neighborhood and you’ll find fences. Lots of fences. The fences are there for privacy or, in some cases, for aesthetic reasons. But these fences serve one ultimate purpose: protection.
Fences draw the boundary lines. Fences provide a safeguard so others cannot enter or at least must go through the barrier first. Fences are helpful and often needed.
Metaphorically speaking, we can erect fences in our hearts and minds like those we find in my neighborhood. Those fences can be helpful, too. They can provide a clear distinction for theological convictions. They may help you identify where you fall politically. Clear conviction allows for faithful action.
But let’s think about my neighborhood again. I can go weeks without seeing certain neighbors because of our fences. Fences can tempt us to be insular. It takes a little extra effort to reach out and enjoy neighbors because we have structures that literally divide us. Some fences even feature the classic “Beware of Dog” sign. In other words, you can’t come in. And if you do, come in at your own risk!
Similarly, our political ideologies can act like fences that divide. There’s an invisible sign that says, “Beware of Human—I might bite!” And unfortunately, often we do bite. We bite and devour our own—our Christian family.
The political season is upon us, and I can already sense the tension boiling up. The dividing lines are drawn, and the fences are growing taller each day. The question is: What will Christians be known for this election cycle?
Jesus gives us a command to love God and love neighbor. And John records how Jesus helps us understand the significance of this type of love. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
Loving our neighbor doesn’t mean we have to tear down the fence, but it might mean we need to keep the door open and put away the dog. We can have different opinions as long as they honor the Lord and don’t break those two commandments: Love God, love neighbor.
We can disagree. But too often our disagreement turns into hate, bitterness, judgment, assuming the worst in others, and leaning on our own understanding, not the Lord’s.
We are divided politically. And we may stay that way. Unity as Christians doesn’t mean uniformity, but it does mean love. Let’s imagine a better, more beautiful political season. This time can be marked by charity, forbearance, forgiveness, and gentleness. We could look a little bit more like the church and less like the world.
We can’t do this on our own. We will need the power of the Lord to enable us to look at our neighbors behind the fences as image bearers who deserve love.
What a joy it would be if, come January 2021, we look around and don’t find the carnage of broken relationships because of political differences. It won’t make the news, but it will glorify Jesus and signal to the world that we believe in the One we proclaim.
I’m Trillia Newbell.