(22) “by this everyone will know…”

A Facebook friend posted a photo of Billy Graham with a statement regarding the upcoming elections. Apparently Billy Graham did authorize these ads, in which he encourages voters,

“I believe it is vitally important that we cast our ballots for candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel. I urge you to vote for those who protect the sanctity of life and support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman. Vote for biblical values this Nov. 6, and pray with me that America will remain one nation under God.”

I have such deep respect for Rev. Billy Graham. But I felt very unsettled, flustered, concerned, even angry after reading this. A week later, after much thinking (and several rousing discussions about it with my dad and husband), I know why I don’t fully agree with these ads. We’re satisfied with a broken function machine: Put in Christian or biblical values and politics in one end and you will get anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage and pro-Israel political stances out the other. Really? Are these the three things we ought to be known for as Jesus-followers? Graham isn’t alone; Huge swaths of American Christianity have made it their (our?) mission to stamp out abortion and gay marriage and support the nation of Israel.

But I think we’re missing out on something. This thing Jesus said comes to mind:

Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other. (John 13:34-35 MSG)

Ah.

The NIV says “by this everyone will know that you are my disciples…” referring, of course, to love. Elsewhere, Jesus pointed out the greatest commandment was two-fold: Love God and love others. It seems to me this is the primary biblical value, then, the guiding principle around which we build other values and practices and choices.

I’d love to talk with Rev. Graham about this, actually, because I am sure he knows these verses inside-out. Surely he is taking these also into consideration when he encourages us to vote with biblical values. But I feel that limiting our political footprint to the “big three” mentioned above is potentially so harmful to the Church’s mission, since it doesn’t clearly represent Jesus’ heart of compassion for people. Instead of people who are defined by love, we’ve developed this reputation of being people who hate gays, hate abortion doctors and hate Palestinians.

I want to be a person defined, driven, shaped, spilling over with love. Someone who, out of this deep love, is passionate and concerned about helping the poor, ending slavery, rescuing prostitutes and child soldiers, setting captives free, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, ending genocide and war, caring for widows and orphans, housing the homeless, loving, loving, loving people.

May we be that kind of person, a Jesus-looking people, a people identified by how much and how deeply we love, not by the way we vote on a few hot issues.

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