The headline on CNN Monday morning was “Campaign in Limbo” and reflected on the fact that although two weeks remain in this never-ending presidential election–and although anything could yet happen and things could change–it seems we’re nearing the end of our collective rope. Three exhausting debates are over (and so even Saturday Night Live won’t have fresh material) and it seems like we’ve seen and heard it all. Leave it to the satirical newspaper “The Onion” to catch this, too, with a faux headline the other day that was something to the effect of the nation contemplating suicide after “FEC Extends Election Seven More Months So People Can Get to Know Candidates Better.” Oy.
We are collectively and individually exhausted and it has gotten me to thinking about part of the reason why: hatred and hate-filled speeches sap us of energy and verve and joy. Nasty backs-and-forth on Facebook–in which I have participated to varying degrees I confess–sharp Tweets, bitter arguments over dinner tables, vitriolic divides on campuses and in congregations: it is literally sucking the life out of us. And if Clinton wins in a couple of weeks, her legitimacy will be impugned by millions who hate her beyond all reason and it is all-but certain that as president she will be accused of one scandal after the next because those who want to see her fail will pursue every possibility. There will be no reserve of forgiveness for her if she makes even the smallest of errors, much less if she falls down more seriously.
But hatred destroys life whereas, as the Apostle Paul knew, love builds up. Loving others adds to our substance as human beings. Love has to be about the only reality we know of wherein the more of it you give away, the more of you there is as a result. Giving love does not deplete our hearts or empty our souls or leave us feeling weary and spent. Quite the opposite: sending a loving message on Facebook, dropping a sympathy card in the mail, calling up a lonely friend to chat, extending yourself to lift up another all have this curious way of giving us more energy than we had before we made the effort.
Yes, we can all get weary in well-doing, as they say. Ministry in its various forms can leave a body tired. But even that weariness of the flesh is offset by a buoying sense that we made life better for somebody else and–although we did not do it for selfish gain–our life seems a little sweeter and more worthwhile as a result.
Two weeks ago here on The Twelve I mentioned the recent health struggles of my mother-in-law. This past Saturday evening she went to be with the Lord. Those who knew her and who have been filling up the Comments section of the Facebook notice I put up knew that Mom was filled with love for others. She loved children and right up until a month ago at the age of 86, she still did the hard thing of sitting on the floor with the kids in Children in Worship–even though we begged her to use a stool due to the pain from two hip replacements–and telling them the stories of the Bible. She loved those kids and poured her love into them. She loved the oppressed and was passionate for justice for those under-served by society, those shunned on account of being in the LGBTQ community, those imprisoned and forgotten. And if she seemed–as someone put it–a force of nature in her own way even well into her 80s and with a progressive lung disease, the reason was because the more love she gave, the more she had to give. That’s just the way it goes.
And we Christians know this better than anyone because all the Life this world has now and all the Hope there is for a better world became a reality precisely at that moment when Christ–in sacrificial, perfect love–gave his all on the cross. When Jesus did that, there was more of Him to give to the world forever and ever. That’s why for 2,000 years Christians have gained more life and love and hope in their own hearts and souls by taking to themselves the very body and blood of Jesus. The more Jesus gives, the more of him there is to give. It will never run out.
This hate-filled election full of nasty comments from all sides will soon be over. But our lives don’t have to be over and we don’t have to keep getting sapped by the hatred that surrounds us. Love builds up. It really does. Let’s use the time after the election not just to turn down the volume of the news, try to think about other things or go back to cat videos on Facebook. Let’s use that time to practice love and let’s just see if there is more of our collective self as a result.