I keep having this dream.
I’m at a park, or a convention, or at the White House, and he’s there too. I wait around for the chance to talk to him for a moment. When he sees me, I hug him. I tell him that even though I don’t like all his policies and stuff, I love him. I apologize for all the terrible things people say about him all the time. I ask if we can take a picture together, for me to put on Facebook. Then I wake up, disappointed that it was just a dream.
I’ve had this dream half a dozen times in the past two years, but it wasn’t always that way.
When I was in college, I cruised the streets Minneapolis in my beat-up two-door Cavalier with a McCain sticker on the rusted bumper, jamming out to the sweet sounds of Beck, Limbaugh, and Hannity. I thought the Tea Party was a great idea. When Obama was elected, we all worried about the fate of America.
To Love My Enemy
I remember those early days of his presidency, listening to the right-wing radio guys every day. Waiting every day to watch Obama screw up. New unemployment numbers. New popularity ratings. New sound bytes. They all confirmed what I believed – that Obama was a terrible President, maybe even evil. That he would fail. Every mistake was a point on our team’s scoreboard, proof that we’d been right about him all along. Vindication.
I stopped listening to talk radio when I left Minneapolis. As those voices faded from my mind, so did my hatred for the President. My active dislike became ambivalence.
Then I met a friend who told me he was praying for Obama. Of course, this was nothing new to me. As a Christian, it was my duty to pray for Obama. For wisdom. For good decisions. For him to somehow not screw up our country too badly.But my friend actually prayed for Obama. When the angry right-wing radio voices ranted about yet another First Family vacation, I remember he prayed that our President would enjoy the time spent with his wife and daughters. He told me that the more he prayed for Obama, the more he liked him.
I didn’t like this idea at all. I didn’t want to like Obama.
To Love My Neighbor
Hate is not an option for a follower of Jesus. I knew that, but most of my life I allowed myself an exception for liberals, gays, legalists, and immigrants. Slowly, Jesus has been taking those exceptions away from me.
I’ve always respected the President, for the sake of the office if not the man. This was the duty of a good Christian, because of that verse in Romans about how God ordains leaders and all that. But Jesus has been calling me beyond.
“Love your enemy”, He says. Then you wake up one day and your enemy is your friend.
To Love My President
The Bible tells us that love is patient and kind. It does not dishonor others. It looks for the best in a person, not the worst. It doesn’t keep a record of mistakes. It hopes. It endures. It never fails.
When I was under the influence of talk radio, I believed President Obama was cocky, arrogant, narcissistic, hellbent on destroying America. But when I started to love, I saw him as a kind husband and father, a hopeful idealist, a guy I’d love to play basketball with someday.Love changed the way I listened to his politics too. I stopped waiting for him to misstep, or screw up, or say something I disagreed with. Instead of sharing his worst quotes, I started sharing his best.
I still disagree with some of his policies, but I’ve become more and more open to understanding them. Rather than caricaturing him and his ideas, I’ve tried to approach them with grace. As a result, I’ve grown in respect not only for our President, but also for my brothers and sisters who voted for him.
To Love My Brother
The Scriptures tell us that, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone… especially those who are in the household of faith.
I remember when George W. Bush was our President how excited we all were to have a Christian in the White House. But I was hesitant to accept Barack Obama as a fellow believer. Then, as the hate faded away along with the political barriers I had erected in my own heart, I was more willing to listen to his own story:
“I am a devout Christian. I believe in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that that faith gives me a path to be cleansed of sin and have eternal life. But most importantly, I believe in the example that Jesus set by feeding the hungry and healing the sick and always prioritizing the least of these over the powerful. I didn’t ‘fall out in church’ as they say, but there was a very strong awakening in me of the importance of these issues in my life. I didn’t want to walk alone on this journey. Accepting Jesus Christ in my life has been a powerful guide for my conduct and my values and my ideals.” (from Christianity Today)
Ultimately, my love for Barack Obama does not depend on his job performance, politics, personality, or beliefs. I love him, not because he’s a Christian, but because I am.
As a follower of Jesus, I am called to love my enemy, my neighbor, and my brother. Hard as I’ve tried, I haven’t been able to find somebody that excludes.
I have so far to go, still. Often I find myself mocking, belitting, judging, disrespecting. Dismissing instead of discussing. Ranting instead of praying. But slowly, one person at a time, Jesus has been turning “I Hate You” into “I’m Sorry I Hated You“, and then finally into “I Love You.”
I hope that someday I get the chance to say that to Barack Obama.
published April 26, 2013
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