Loving Your Neighbor, Your Enemy, and God

Nov 3, 2020 9:00:00 AM / by Rebecca Ninke

In November 1976, at age four, I stormed out of the kitchen after arguing with my dad about who should be elected president. It was a tradition we kept his whole life. Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows how I lean politically. From the pulpit, I don’t tell people how to vote, but I sure don’t shy away from addressing political issues when they are also religious issues. If you don’t think that faith has something to say about refugees, climate change, systemic racism, budgets, and legislation that affects poverty, hunger issues, and a thousand other topics, then it’s time to dust off that Bible and dig in again.

My undergrad degree was in Political Science and my vocation is in ministry; I’ve never consider the two pursuits far apart. I have always tried to preach with Barth’s proverbial newspaper in one hand and Bible in the other. After all, if our faith is not relevant to the world in which we live, then what is it? I have done my best to challenge people (myself included) to always see events through the lens of our faith—and to vote accordingly.

I’ve been reading again Daniel Erlander’s beautiful resource Manna and Mercy: A Brief History of God's Unfolding Promise to Mend the Entire Universe. Erlander somehow conveys the message of the scriptures, start to finish, in one illustrated book. During this time of political unrest, this has been just what I needed: a reminder that through all the challenges of the last several thousand years, the message to God’s people in the scope of scripture on how to live out faith has been unchanged:

  • Love God; love others.
  • Feed the hungry.
  • Care for the vulnerable.
  • Welcome the stranger.
  • Take care of God’s creation.
  • Stop piling up piles and piles of stuff.
  • Love enemies.

That last one is a stickler, isn’t it? Which enemies? ALL OF THEM. That means whatever you are fighting for or against, you are called to love the persecuted and persecutors, the leaders and the losers. I believe—and I’m pretty sure Jesus did too—that if we are able to love those who are easier for us to hate, that in that simple act, we have the power to change the world. Radical stuff; Jesus wouldn’t make it very far in a primary.

Everything feels tense and polarized now. But we certainly didn’t invent political strife; the Exodus wasn’t about leaving for college and Jesus wasn’t killed because he gave the powers-that-be warm fuzzies. We are called to live out our faith in the real world, where conflict and hatred are easy and discipleship is more difficult to pull off. But it is certainly the better way—and, once again, sorely needed.

Politicians come and go. Some can’t go fast enough. But no matter what happens in the election, our role as Christians remains unchanged. You as youth group leader, paid church staff, or church member—you are the models for the world on living out faith.

If you love your neighbor and your enemy, you love God. Your words posted on social media will be your prayers. Your worship will be how you care for the hungry, the vulnerable, the oppressed. No matter what happens, keep living your faith.

If you do not stand firm in faith, you shall not stand at all. —Isaiah 7:9b

So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. —Galatians 6:9

Topics: General Ministry, election

Rebecca Ninke

Written by Rebecca Ninke

Rebecca is an author, freelance writer/editor, and pastor.  She currently serves two churches in the Madison, Wisconsin area.  She also has two kids, two dogs, two cats, but only one husband. Rebecca Ninke teamed up with her ten-year-old daughter Kate to write the picture book, There’s No Wrong Way to Pray—a kid-friendly reflection on talking to God in the everyday moments of life. There’s No Wrong Way to Pray is available for purchase at wearesparkhouse.com by searching PRAY.


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