This blog post is part of a continuing series. If you would like to start reading from the beginning, then please start with Love – An Introduction.
Patience In Politics
I have mentioned already that I studied 1 Corinthians 13 for two years. What I haven’t mentioned yet is what lead me to the famous Love Is list. It was during the year leading up to the 2010 elections when liberal democrats were accusing the Christian conservative republicans of behaving hatefully. How’s that for a bit of irony? And certainly, that was the main intention of the accusers was to point out the hypocrisy of a people who are supposed to be Christ like.
But to me, being a Christian has always been a life centered on love. Hate is the opposite of love….no…better worded, hate is the absence of love. So the liberals’ accusations were something I took very seriously. It was those same accusations that lead me to study Biblical love the way I did and that eventually lead to me teaching about love in Bible studies.
What did I learn? Do Christian conservative republicans behave hatefully?
This first word in the list, “love is patient”, when you look at what it means, describes an attitude that I feel is sorely lacking in most of the conservatives that I have come across. Webster defines patience like this:
1. bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint.
And in case you might think that the Biblical definition of patience is any different, there are several scriptures that demonstrate this very same definition.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
“Patient in affliction!” In other words, when you are afflicted, be calm and don’t complain.
This goes contrary to the way the general public understands this word. To most people, if you ask them what patience is, they will say something like “being able to wait for something.” But no, being able to wait is only a small part of what it means to be patient.
Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.
“Endure patiently!” The word endure doesn’t sound like you are just waiting for mommy to give you your favorite ice cream. The picture painted here is not one of waiting for Santa to leave presents under the Christmas tree. No, the word endure implies hardship.
My favorite description of what patience means in the Bible comes from Habakkuk:
Habakkuk 3:16 – 18
16 I heard and my heart pounded,
my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
to come on the nation invading us.
17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The prophet says “yet I will rejoice in the Lord” in the midst of such dreadful conditions. What a beautiful image of what patience is and what our attitude should be.
Now, to answer the question, are the Christian conservatives hateful?
My answer at this point must be to say that I see very little patience from the Christian right. I hear so much complaining, fear-mongering and panic from my fellow Christians, in the political arena, that I must admit that there is a lack of patience.
They Started It
The few Christians I have discussed this with have replied with almost childish responses. It’s as if the are saying “they started it.” My hard core, Christian conservative friends feel validated in their lack of patience because they believe that the liberals are actually worse. And while that may be true, it is entirely irrelevant.
We are not called to love only those who would love us back. As Christians we are supposed to be lights shining in the darkness. We are supposed to be different. We do not repay hatred with hatred. We are to love those who hate us and endure the adversity that this kind of love brings into our lives. When we let the cyclic, downward spiral of negativity take hold of us, when we let ourselves be manipulated emotionally into returning insult for insult, we then step outside of God’s will for us as Christians.
I find this terribly ironic because the people who are the most “impatient” on the religious right are the ones who say they are fighting to make this a Christian nation. But it is not the leadership of a nation that makes it Christian. If you want a Christian nation, it MUST begin with YOU and your behavior. For as long as you are impatient, for as long as you refuse to endure the abuses of your political opponents calmly and without complaint, you will never have a Christian nation.
I wrote a blog about this called What is Christian Pre-Primary Voting?
God’s Way, Not the World’s Way
I understand that most people believe an election will not go the way they want it to go if they don’t play the game. And slinging mud seems to work, so what’s wrong with whipping your constituents into a frenzy if it means the right people will be put into office? Won’t that lead to the changes we want in our government?
No, when you step outside of God’s will and work according to the ways of this world, you get only what the world has to offer you. When you turn your back on the commandment that Jesus gave us, to love God and to love your neighbors, then you become an instrument of evil, not of righteousness. This applies as much to politics as it does to any topic preached on the pulpit.
There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
If you are a Christian you should understand that God’s ways don’t always make sense to us. My life has been one of checkered successes and failures as a Christian. I know full well what it is like to live in miraculous blessings, under God’s wing and within His will. I also know just as well what it is like to think that it’s better to do things the way that makes more sense to me. I have both life styles to look back upon and compare.
When I do things the way I know God wants me to, it doesn’t seem like anything good will come of it while I’m doing it. But the results are always miraculous. When all is said and done, people ask me, “how did you know this was the best thing to do?” They think I had some sort of inside information. But the truth is, when you walk in God’s will, YOU don’t need any inside information because God has already taken care of all of that. All He asks is that you follow his statutes. And for us Christians, that means that we are to love everyone.
So no, I can’t tell you how being more patient with our opposition would lead to a better country. I’m not that smart. Maybe being more patient might mean that the candidates you want in office won’t get elected. But I want to trust God in this matter just as much as I do for other things in my life. Far be it from me to believe that God doesn’t do politics well enough for my liking so I will just take it from here. Heaven forbid!
Now what I can tell you is that I do believe that two people could live in the same nation and one will live in a Christian nation and the other will not. But that’s a different topic for a different blog post.
What I can tell you is that, when we walk in God’s will, when we walk in love, being patient and enduring insult and injury without reacting emotionally, then we take our nation’s welfare out of our own hands and we place it in God’s. Quite frankly, I trust Him more than any political party or movement. I would rather God be the one building up a Christian nation than to leave that in the hands of someone like you and me.
A Call to Patience
If you think that what I have written here constitutes an open criticism of Christians, think again. It is because I am a Christian that I write these things. I want to encourage my Christian brothers and sisters to invite the Holy Spirit into their political lives. I want to encourage you to treat politics and political topics the same way you would treat anything else as a Christian. Love your neighbors. Love your political opponents. Be patient with them. Endure their abuses with joy in your heart. I will write more about the political stuff as we explore some of the other words in the love list, but in the context of patience, I encourage you all to endure the abuses of your political opponents calmly and without complaint (and this advice applies to all Christians – left or right – liberal or conservative).
I believe there is a reason why “patient” is first in the list. If we cannot stop the cycle of sensational and emotionally charged volleys, the hate filled tits for tats, we will continue to be distracted further away from being the Christian nation so many desire us to be. Don’t let this happen. You have the power to end that cycle in your life by simply enduring the lies, taunts and insults. Try to be more like the prophet who said, “yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” It is really the only way forward in any political situation.
More About Patience
In the next Love post, we will take a deeper look at “patience,” applying it to other life contexts outside of politics. Yes, I will be writing a little about politics in these blogs because that’s what originally peeked my interest on this topic, but the majority of what I write about will not be political. Love is so much bigger than who’s going to be president next year.