A fresh preface to my essay, “The Forgotten Sign of the End Times: icy relations among God’s people.” I include here not only things I observe in others, but principally the things I’d like to root out of my own heart.
The Lord’s return may – or may not – be near, but no-one who reads church history would conclude that we clearly live in the last days. There are relatively no more wars today than throughout history (probably fewer), no more frequent earthquakes, no worse famines. And we have 2000 years of unloving actions on the part of the church to make our current lack of love seem mild by comparison.
Still, Jesus warned us in Matthew 24 that part of the future apostasy will be that “the love of most [believers] will grow cold.” And while 2016 isn’t necessarily the end of history, the fact that it is a political season gives us pause to gauge our level of charitableness.
The Enemy is pleased to put our love on ice, and he uses arguments both old and new to entice us to join in with him.
A few of his LIES:
“If you really have the truth, then you have the right to be reckless in how you present it.”
“If you feel charitable toward the needy, that is just as good as actually doing something to alleviate their needs. E. g., if you ‘share’ a post about starving children, that’s as filling as a sandwich.”
“Violence is tolerable, so long as it is doled out against the Other, not Us. Because They probably deserve it.”
“Using bad words, even from the pulpit, is okay, since if we love people, we need to get their attention, and fast. If not curse words, then at least use sheeple, wingnut, moron, etc. Oh, and again, this is cool so long as it’s against the Other, not Us.”
“If you want to help a woman with an unwanted pregnancy, don’t worry about saving the child she is bearing.”
And conversely, “Keeping her from ending a pregnancy is the sole expression of love we need to show toward her.”
“Take up your cross and follow Christ refers to abstract, spiritual things, not our daily behavior toward other human beings, and certainly not to our behavior on social media.”
“Hasty and off-the-cuff responses are sweeter to the tongue than slow-brewed wisdom.”
“It’s okay to hate the haters.”
“Well, they started it!”
“Those victims probably deserved it and shouldn’t complain, Our victims are faultless.”
“When people encourage us to act with respect to others, that’s just a ploy of the Politically Correct to shut us down.”
“We should love ‘our own’ first (family, neighborhood, race, religion, tribe) and others less.” [Note: Charity begins at home, while a Christian truth, is perverted when in Satan’s hand.]
Cynicism is a favorite of Hell, to despise the sinner, to make the Other the focus of evil in the world and the butt of “Well, what do you expect of Them?” The fruit of cynicism is sarcasm, sneering, suspicion, contempt, and given time, hatred. Love teaches us remain vulnerable, and endure and even embrace the pain that results from being witnesses to wickedness.
Christ was the one who was “oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth” (Isa 53:7), and he invited us to take up our cross and follow him, even during presidential elections, and he gives us the mighty Holy Spirit to rewrite the code of our mind to enable us to do it. This is what separates Christian charity from mere pleasantness or good manners.
But from all indications, Christian love apparently is meant to follow some weird liturgical calendar, by which the church allows us to lay it aside in 2008, 2012, 2016, 2020, etc., you do the math. That’s why Francis’s prayer of self-dedication, “grant that I may not so much seek to be understood as to understand” (see more below), strikes us nice and Christ-like, but only applicable outside of election seasons. Don’t eat meat on Fridays is sooo medieval; Don’t be charitable every four years is the new fashion!
I urge myself, and invite you, to take Francis at his word, in the run-up to the November election and in any season:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
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“Should we be loving during election years?” by Gary S. Shogren, Professor of New Testament, San José, Costa Rica