You have heard the law that says, "Love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5.43-44a (NLT)
(I write this as a Christian pastor. And, due to the fact that for so many years, Christians have vocally supported the Republican Party, I also write this article as someone closely watching the Republican race. It is not a goal of mine to address the democratic race in this article. I will save that for another day.)
I am thirty-six years old and for the first time in my life, I am genuinely and deeply concerned about the direction of our country. It is easy for many to look at the current election cycle and understand why I, and many others, feel this way. On the Republican side of the election, the political discourse has plummeted into a very non-statesmen direction. And, one of my genuine fears is that such discourse will end up in the Oval Office; the highest office in our country and possibly the world. Can you imagine a sitting U.S. president using innuendo to make fun of another country's president's genitalia? Can you imagine a sitting U.S. president disrespecting a female foreign leader by using innuendo to degrade her menstrual cycle? Can you imagine a sitting U.S. president making fun of someone with a mental or physical disability?
That's what many campaign representatives are saying now, "But, that's not what he meant..." or "but this was not his intention" or "He has to muddy in up in order to win" or even worse, "He said that and he is not going to retract his statement because he believes..."
Two things scare me about the Republican primary; the level of political discourse and the fact that many Christians do not seem to care about or even worse, are justifying such non-presidential and dare I say, non-Biblical behavior. It scares me to think that many Christians will vote for someone who practices the exact opposite of what Jesus said in Matthew 5, "Love your enemies." I am not even talking about ISIS, Russia, or the Taliban. I am talking primarily about Republicans practicing what Jesus said, "Love your enemies...Pray for your enemies" with other Republicans.
Would Trump truly say some of the strongly disrespectful things he is saying about Rubio and the other candidates if he was genuinely praying for them? Would Rubio be responding with innuendo about Trump's hands and genitalia if he was genuinely praying for him? Would Cruz produce terribly bogus campaign flyers about Rubio if he was genuinely praying for him?
Prayer changes the heart and actions of a person, especially when they find themselves praying for someone else. And, at this point in the race, I have a hard time believing that any of the Republican front runners are practicing the daily discipline of praying for their presidential enemies. ("Enemies" too strong a word? Not for the current rhetoric being used.) And, as Christ-followers, are we really ready to vote for someone who is openly and boldly displaying actions that are not Biblical?
"But," someone might say, "we are not electing a spiritual leader or pastor! We are electing a president." Go back and look at the historical books of the Old Testament and see what happened when Israel had a king who did not practice the Old Testament law; absolute and utter chaos. Whether or not we want to admit it, the unBiblical discourse that we are seeing this election season will negatively affect our country if that continues into the presidency. And, we cannot use the excuse that we are not electing a spiritual leader or pastor because that excuse will not save us when their unBiblical actions cause our country to move further and further away from the Biblical virtues of faith, hope, and love.
Scripture teaches that all have sinned and fall short of God's glory. So, there will be no perfect Biblical candidates that run for president. However, Jesus said at the end of the above passage in verse 48, "But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect." Was Jesus telling his audience that perfection is attainable while on this earth? I do not think so. But, I do believe Jesus was using the holiness and perfection of God to present to us that our goal is Christ-like behavior. We will not perfectly attain that goal while on this earth, but we are to, at the very minimum, strive for that goal. That goal includes loving and praying for our enemies. And, if a party's candidate cannot at least pass the "love and pray for your enemies" test for those within their same party, Lord help us if that behavior ends up in the Oval Office.
Paul is the husband to Tara, father to Natalie and Isaac, has an average jump shot, and enjoys running. His secret wish is to one day become a Jedi Knight. Paul holds a doctorate in marriage and family counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and currently serves as senior pastor of Hardinsburg Baptist Church. Paul desires to help young couples navigate the early crucibles of marriage, especially when one or both of the spouses are engaged in vocational ministry.