If any significant amount of time is spent scanning popular social media outlets, the volume of contentious statements, divisive rebukes and harsh criticisms aimed at neighbors, relatives and purported friends is alarming. Likewise troubling is the frequency of conclusive comments similar to “I cannot be friends with somebody who …” or “I have no respect for anybody who … .”
Admittedly, the circumstances that surround us and the never-ending flow of horrendous headlines with which we are inundated are disheartening, frightening and tend to cause a sense of despair.
Such unpleasant sensations are magnified by the perception that we are powerless to change what is happening around us. If you or a loved one can relate to what I have described above, I invite you to consider a simple yet effectively powerful remedy: Choose to love and respect those you may be tempted to view as your enemies or adversaries as if they were your closest friends.
Abraham Lincoln once provided a memorable and relevant response when asked about perceived irreconcilable enemies. He answered the inquiry with a question of his own, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”
Another who was famous for answering difficult questions with soul-searching questions of his own taught something similar. In the fifth chapter of Matthew, the master teacher invited his followers to rise above the hatred and contention that had become so deeply embedded in the politics and culture of their time. He taught, “Love your enemies, bless them …, do good to them … and pray for them… . For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye?”
Despite what media would have us believe, and regardless of what our natural instinct may be, it truly is possible for two equally reasonable people to reach completely different conclusions after analyzing available information through the lens of their respective life experiences and idiosyncrasies.
Believe it or not, it is likewise possible for those two reasonable people to choose to continue to love and respect one another despite the stark contrast in their conclusions.
More importantly, the strength and potential of the societies and communities in which these individuals coexist will rise or fall with the decision of their residents to continue to love and respect or to hate and reject those who have different life views than their own.
In a season when we are contemplating significant decisions that will have lasting consequences, may we choose today to eliminate any currently perceived enemy or adversary by choosing instead to view them as a beloved brother or sister and a cherished friend.
May we choose today to embrace more than ever the second great commandment declared by the Lord in the 22nd chapter of Matthew and deliberately love our neighbors as we love ourselves regardless of political party, religion, ethnicity, gender, or any other potentially divisive categorization.
He is the way, the truth, and the life and we will be blessed collectively as we choose more deliberately to follow His incredible example as we respond to the unique circumstances of our day.