When the Pharisees heard how he had bested the Sadducees, they gathered their forces for an assault. One of their religion scholars spoke for them, posing a question they hoped would show him up: “Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?”
Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”
Matthew 22:24-40 (MSG)
Love your neighbor – the one with the Trump sign in his yard.
Love your neighbor – the one with the Clinton sign in hers.
There are no villains here, really (though it’s so much easier, isn’t it, to pretend that there is). We are, each of us, doing the best we can with the information that we have. We are trying to choose well in a world that feels complicated and contentious and misaligned.
Who among us does not sense the fractures in this country? There are cracks, and so many are falling through them.
The refugees crowded into low-income apartments, trying to make a new start with so little in their hands, waking drenched in fear and nightmares, filled with trauma, still aching for home.
The former factory workers in Indiana, laid off when their jobs went overseas to countries they can never hope to visit. Men who drive now by those empty buildings and feel their chests fill with sadness and rage.
The woman, fearful to run in the early morning hours for the threat of some man grabbing her, taking her, as if her body exits only for him. And the man she fears, the one who never learned what it is to truly love and respect a woman. Who now lives a half-life, driven only by his mad desire.
Love them all.
Love the McDonalds employee and the Walmart greeter and the Starbucks barista and the Veteran asking for donations outside the grocery store. Love your own child, flailing in the corner because you unwrapped the granola bar wrong. Love your partner who left his dirty socks on the floor again or who put her cell phone through the wash. Love your neighbor whose yard is full of crabgrass and lawn ornaments and the other one, who just spent a small fortune on professional-grade fertilizer that is stinking up the whole street.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
Love the black teenager’s mother watching her son drive the family Toyota off to work, feeling a flood of panic as he disappears out of sight. Love the cop’s mother who imagines every hidden glint to be a gun, a knife, a sudden terrifying end to her existence as she knows it.
Love the man on TV with his close-lipped grin and his bluster, the careless violence of his words. He, too, was formed in the dark secret of his mother’s womb by a God who is Love.
Love the woman with her coiffed hair and leaked emails and inscrutable eyes, heavy with years of experience and disappointment. She too belongs to a God who is Good.
Love them, for they are all your neighbors.
Love them because God’s love is big and expansive and generous. It crosses political hate-speech and posturing, policy divides, state and country lines, red and blue.
Cast your ballot into the box like bread upon the waters with all the faith you can muster. Whatever happens today, God will still be Love, and your work will still be this – to love your neighbor. To work toward reconciling this broken, fractured world with the unending grace of God.
And it begins with this: smile kindly at the person with the Trump bumper sticker or the Clinton button. Look at him, this person who has chosen so differently than you, and choose to see them through the filter of God’s love, which makes everyone beautiful.
You will make a choice in this election, and what you choose matters…but not as much as it matters to choose love in the daily interactions.
Walk out of your polling place and let the smile go all the way to your heart.
Say, “Isn’t this a beautiful day?”