Your Neighbor is Not Your Enemy

Gentle Reader,

These are grumblers and malcontents; they indulge their lusts; their mouths utter bombastic nonsense, flattering people to their own advantage.

– Jude 16 (NRSV)

I pay attention to politics. I know that some consider this a waste of time. Many days, I agree with them. Who wants to spend their days rolling their eyes so much that they begin to fear that they’ll stick in some awkward position and they’ll just be staring at the ceiling forever? Not me. Who wants to feel their heart race as they read another scary article or statistic? Not me. And yet, I keep myself informed.

It could be the years of training in journalism.

It could be my love for The West Wing.

I could be that I believe that at least some part of all this is a theological wrestling match and I am alarmed by who is currently winning.

Whatever it is had me sitting in bed with my laptop, several tabs open, as I watched the results come in. There was no “red wave” and no “blue victory.” Mostly just a maintenance of the status quo, give or take a few House of Representatives seats. Why is that? I’m sure there are many answers, but I wonder if it’s because we simply don’t know what to do anymore. There’s no clear, uniting vision for this country. There’s no longer a sense that, while we might disagree on the “how” to get to a point, everyone has a certain point at which they want to arrive.

The Church has a lot to do with that.

Or rather who and what has infiltrated the Church.

I’ve been studying Jude for the last few months. You wouldn’t think I would take that long to get through a letter that’s only 25 verses long, but this servant of the Lord and brother of Christ packed quite a lot into it. There’s some really interesting stuff about Enoch (who is one of my favorite Old Testament characters), but Jude’s point isn’t to draw his audience’s attention to the esoteric. The original recipients of his letter were facing a choice: contend for the faith, the orthodox doctrine that had been handed to them via the teaching of the Apostles, or to go along with the false teachers who had infiltrated their community. It is unclear exactly what these false teachers were teaching; Jude didn’t get explicit about it because his audience would have already known what it was. But we can glean from this short sermonic letter that they were not encouraging the people of God to live in ways that pleased God.

Jude describes them vividly in the verse quoted above.

Grumblers and malcontents.

Indulgent and lustful.

Big talkers and big liars.

I wonder if you can hear echoes of that when you listen to someone tell you how this is “supposed” to be a “Christian nation,” whatever that means.

I wonder if that thread is apparent when people who claim to know the love of God slap the enemy label on those who disagree with them on the “how.”

I wonder if you can sense that in the dissonance found in singing praise to the God of grace while following and applauding those who would wage war on their neighbors, and encourage you to do the same.

We want to say that you can be a Christian and vote for whoever. I’m not sure I think that’s true. I am not and will not advocate loyalty to a party. I find that far too limiting. But I do advocate for a faith that makes sense. A faith that refuses to confine itself to a box of nationalism. A faith that does not view others with suspicion. A faith in which our verbal confessions and our daily actions are in alignment.

Evil isn’t good, even if it smiles and tells you that it loves Jesus. Even if it promises to clear up all of your problems, real and perceived. Evil stokes the fires of your fear and hate and pride, and that is never of God.

You can’t vote for promoters of evil on Tuesday and then walk into Bible study on Wednesday.

Well, you can. I haven’t heard of anyone being struck by lighting. But why are we wasting our time and opportunities by doing so? Why do we keep throwing away whatever positive influence we might have in our communities by backing people who practically foam at the mouth with rage and tell us this is Christlike?

Your neighbor is not your enemy.

And lest we forget, according to Jesus, everyone is your neighbor.

So. Who are you going to listen to? Who are you going to believe? Christ, who tells you to love and to serve others? Or people who claim to speak for Christ, and tell you to fear and despise others?

You can’t do both.


Image Courtesy of Tiffany Tertipes