Over the weekend, I spent some quality time with a few amazing people in Woodstock, GA at the “Unleashing the Word of God” event, hosted by The Jesus Purpose Community.
Over dinner we shared more than a few conversations about faith, doubt and deconstruction. Eventually we meandered over to the topic of politics and that led to some observations about the person currently occupying the White House at the moment.
Given the progressive nature of our event, the comments about the President were pretty harsh. To be honest, I share a lot of those same concerns about where this nation is headed in terms of human rights, immigration and racial tensions.
However, I had to admit something that was more than a little challenging for me: I’m called to love Donald Trump, in spite of anything he may say or do.
There’s a meme I created a while back that says: “Jesus loves all the people you hate and he wants you to love them too.”
Now, if I’m honest – and if I sincerely believe this is true – then I have to admit that I have a really hard time loving Donald Trump. In fact, it’s not only hard to see him as a fellow human being, made in the image of God, who is loved and treasured by His Abba Father, I also find it hard to love anyone who supports Donald Trump.
Of course, loving Donald Trump doesn’t necessarily mean that I need to also love or support his actions, or his Tweets, or his policies. Far from it. I can – and should – always oppose anything that is misogynistic, racist, violent, insulting, or otherwise un-Christlike.
But, I can learn to love Donald Trump – the person – even if I consistently oppose and resist nearly everything he does, says or stands for.
Saying it, as we all know, is one thing. But doing it? That’s another matter.
I mean, I know I’m supposed to love everyone. And I do know that Donald Trump really is a fellow human being who is dearly loved by God and who – one day – will eventually be redeemed, restored and renewed from within by the irresistible love and transformational grace of God.
I know it, but it’s really hard to remember that on a daily basis.
So, what helps me to love people who are sometimes hard to love is this: I try to picture them as a five year old child. I imagine what they were like before anyone had the chance to warp their soul or twist their heart into a pretzel. I do my best to see them as an innocent, happy, childlike being who has the capacity to love and be loved without limitation.
Another thing that helps is to recognize that I’m no Mother Teresa either. I’ve got flaws. I’ve got hang-ups. I have blind spots and bad habits. I’m not always so easy to love.
In fact, over this weekend, sitting around that table, I also had to confess that I never really saw an actual Pharisee until I looked in the mirror. Because I honestly believe that until I see the Pharisee in myself, I’ve really never actually seen one.
That’s hard to admit, but it’s the truth.
So, if Jesus loves everyone I hate, and if he wants me to love them, too. Then I have some work to do. I have to take the time to look beyond the outer appearances, deeper than the surface-level persona I see in front of me, and I need to see the irreducible spark of the Christ in everyone – even someone like Donald J. Trump – because hating another person is off the table. I have been loved with an everlasting love. This is the love that has changed my heart and transformed me into someone who has the capacity to love everyone – even someone who seems at first glance to be unlovable.
If I cannot learn to do this, then my faith is empty. My testimony is worthless. My connection to Christ is in question.
If I cannot see the Pharisee in myself, and the Christ in others, then what am I doing here? What good is the Gospel to me? What effect has the resurrection life of Christ been to me if it cannot deal with this fundamental flaw?
This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where it gets real.
Can we learn to love the unlovable? Can we ask God for the grace to love everyone – even those we disagree with the most – as Jesus loved us?
I certainly hope so. Because this is our only chance to get it right.
Keith Giles was formerly a licensed and ordained minister who walked away from organized church 11 years ago, to start a home fellowship that gave away 100% of the offering to the poor in the community. Today, He and his wife live in Meridian, Idaho, awaiting their next adventure.