george hancock stefanIt was late at night after a long day. There had been a lot of work in the office. I had several phone calls from parishioners to tell me they would not be in church on the Lord’s Day because they were sick. I had talked with one of my daughters about various people who were not able to come into the USA, even though they had visas. I told her about my refugee status in 1966 and the differences that have occurred since that time in refugee and immigration status. Towards the end of the night, I read various Baptist Press releases, Christian Century articles, and some Huffington Post articles.

As I was finishing the last article by Benjamin J. Dueholm, it dawned on me that what I experienced that evening was events and people seen through filters of hate. There are people who write about President Trump with hate for him, his policies, and everything associated with him. There are other people who had the same type of feelings for President Obama.

It is not only the articles that are filtered through hate; the comments on the articles are even more vitriolic. Many years ago, I translated for the NJ court system. I would come home extremely tired after translating for 4-8 hours. One evening, my wife asked me what bothered me the most. I said that I was very bothered by the enmity among the parties in the courtrooms, but the most devastating thing was the words thrown at one another during breaks. Those people would use that time outside the courtroom to fling the worst words that I have ever heard in my life at their own family members!

Loving according to the gospel is extremely difficult because we are called to love like Christ. Apostle Paul said that Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners, or the enemies of God. God did not wait for us to change in order to love us – he loved us before we loved Him. Jesus tells us to love one another as He loved us.

There were many times during the 8 years that Barack Obama was president when people would tell me all of the things that he did wrong. I would stop and ask them two things: “Can you tell me one or two things that he did right? Can you tell me if you are praying for him as we are commanded in the Bible?” Most of the time, there was silence from my more conservative brothers and sisters. I find that now my brothers and sisters on the left are in the same predicament. They cannot identify one single thing that they see as positive and they cannot bring themselves to pray for the current president.

We do not have to agree with our leaders, but we are commanded to pray for them. Christians in the first century did not choose the Roman Caesar who was very cruel to them, but they were commanded to pray anyway. When we allow hate to set in our hearts, we are becoming like the world, and not more like Jesus, the one who redeemed us in love.