I had a splendid interview on BlogTalkRadio last night with Doug Stevens about loving our enemies. Tolerating our enemies is not a high enough standard. Jesus wants us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute (say evil against) us. This discussion was spurred on by a talk on loving our enemies that Dr. Arthur Brooks, a professor at Harvard and the president of a conservative think tank, gave at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., two weeks ago. Dr. Brooks is not a theologian, but in his own words is “a Catholic whose personal savior is Jesus.”
It took a lot of courage to deliver this message in that setting with such bitter enemies as President Trump seated on his right and Nancy Pelosi on his left. And Trump and Pelosi, who each spoke briefly following the professor’s talk, immediately illustrated how hard it was going to be to give any credence at all to this message. Trump, newly acquitted by the Senate, even said he disagreed with Dr. Brooks and proceeded to bash the Democrats who unsuccessfully tried to impeach him. I’m not sure at that point that Mr. Trump realized that he was not disagreeing with Dr. Brooks, or his message, he was disagreeing with Jesus from whom the message originated.
Yes, it’s very hard to love your enemies — perhaps even impossible — without any help from God, and as I listened to Dr. Brooks giving this message, I couldn’t throw off an overwhelming feeling about how impossible a message this was in these times. Almost like it was useless to try. It felt like a giant disconnect. Yes, this was the exact message that needed to be given in that setting and in that hour, but it was hopeless to think that anyone, even Christians, on either side of the great political divide, could hear and take in this message and actually do anything about it.
And even as Doug Stevens and I discussed these things last night, I was again beset by an overwhelming sense that nothing was going to change. It was the right message falling on deaf ears. No wonder Jesus repeated so many times, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
And while I kept thinking, “How do we get all these people to change?” it dawned on me that I was turned in the wrong direction. I was focusing on the people who need to change and not on me who needs to change. I’m the only one I can do anything about, anyway. It’s not up to me to change anyone; it’s up to me to be the person God wants me to be. Do I have ears to hear? That is the question.
And then I finally realized (and this is why I wrote this Catch, so write this one down somewhere): We have to be the people we want everyone else to be.
To his credit, President Trump did come back around by the end of his talk, to acknowledge about his enemies, especially those who tried to impeach him: “then you’re supposed to like them? It’s not easy, folks. I do my best.”
Yes, Mr. President, it is hard, and nobody’s best is going to be enough without God, the Holy Spirit inside to change our hearts.
“Moral courage isn’t standing up to those with whom we disagree. It’s standing up to those with whom you agree on behalf of those with whom you disagree.” Dr. Arthur Brooks