On this Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, I have a question for my readers, particularly the vast majority of my progressive friends, and that is, “Where is the love?”
I ask this in the context of the upcoming inauguration of Donald J. Trump and the notions of both Imago Dei (we are all made in the image of God) and Matthew 5:43-44, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Many of my family and friends are afraid, and for good reasons. Some depend on the Affordable Care Act. Some are LGBTQ. Others are federal government employees who have read of Trump’s want to strip away existing civil service protections. Many are not US born.
On November 17, 1957, King preached at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, AL, on “Loving Your Enemies.” His words that day have provided me with a lot of food for thought. King said:
Now let me hasten to say that Jesus was very serious when he gave this command; he wasn’t playing. He realized that it’s hard to love your enemies. He realized that it’s difficult to love those persons who seek to defeat you, those persons who say evil things about you. He realized that it was painfully hard, pressingly hard. But he wasn’t playing.
There aren’t many groups Trump hasn’t said evil things about. How do our feelings about Trump’s words square with Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:3-5?
Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye?
King contended that in order to love our enemy and those that hate us, we must first take a deep look inside ourselves. Next, we must discover the element of good in our enemy, which relates to the notion of Imago Dei, or, we are all made in the image of God. I am not saying any of this is easy, and neither was Jesus. King said:
… within the best of us, there is some evil, and within the worst of us, there is some good. When we come to see this, we take a different attitude toward individuals. The person who hates you most has some good in him; even the nation that hates you most has some good in it; even the race that hates you most has some good in it. And when you come to the point that you look in the face of every man and see deep down within him what religion calls “the image of God,” you begin to love him in spite of. No matter what he does, you see God’s image there. There is an element of goodness that he can never sluff off. Discover the element of good in your enemy. And as you seek to hate him, find the center of goodness and place your attention there and you will take a new attitude.
I’ve read some people will not pray for the new president. Wow. Just, wow. I can’t imagine my heart ever being hardened to the point where I would not do that. When you do this, you are refusing to pray for someone made in the image of your own God, you are refusing to pray for someone that God loves. You have yet to find the purest form of love; not romantic love, not eros, not philia, but agape. Agape is to love someone because God loves them.
Where is the love?