How Do We “Love Those Who Persecute Us?”

As my boyfriend Chris and I were walking down the stairs to the subway train platform to head to Sunday morning service at Riverside Church, I spotted it. That unmistakable fire engine red, poorly designed, ill-fitting cap that has become an emblem for all things sexist, racist, xenophobic, and anti-Muslim. We were still a ways away from the young white man wearing it, but as we got closer, “Make America Great Again,” taunted me on this otherwise pleasant morning.

As a train arrived, I could feel my heart pounding loud, angry thuds in my chest, landing heavy punches against the wall of my rib cage. 

I walked into the same train car where the hat entered and sat down a few seats away, turning my body 90 degrees to pointedly face and stare openly at him. He didn’t notice, but Chris did. Tugging at my jacket he said, “Come on, let’s move to a different car.” Chris stood up and went out the door closest to us. 

As I stood up, it felt as though all the blood in my body stood up too and rushed directly to my head. I saw nothing but red, the red of that cap, the red of my eyelids, red for the boiling anger for the violence and bloodshed these views had and would continue to cause. 

I lost it. 

I stood up and walked the opposite direction from Chris, towards the door closest to the young man, so that I would have to pass him. I stopped directly in front of him and shouted, “Is that hat a joke? What is wrong with you? F*ck you, you f*cking bigot. You aren’t welcome here.” He seemed as surprised as me at my words and responded only with, “okay,” refusing to make eye contact, my eyes still burning red. 

Suddenly Chris’ hand was on my shoulder, pulling me from the car just before the train bell sounded for the closing doors. 

My heart was a fist pounding furiously on a red door upon which someone had written, “MAGA,” with white ink.  

Slowly, I started to breathe as Chris squeezed my shoulder, rubbed my back, didn’t speak. 

A few stops later, he quietly asked, “Can I say something?” I nodded. “You know I support you, and understand how passionate you are about the mistreatment of people in the world. But, I worry about your safety. Your principles are 6’6” and 280lbs, but you are half that, and these people are crazy and violent and I won’t always be there to grab you or stand next to you.” 

“You’re right,” I said, shaking my head, “I’m sorry, I don’t know what happened.” 

We rode quietly down to church, with only a few of my small interjections from me: “My neighborhood is nearly all Black and Brown people; how could he wear that hat? How could he think that and proudly greet his neighbors?” 

Chris responded to my questions with answers I already knew, but could not accept. 

As we arrived at church and settled into our seats I looked up to the stained-glass windows lining the nave of the cathedral, reminded of how small we are during these moments that seem so big. 

Reverend Amy Butler’s sermon that morning was remix of the Sermon on the Mount. Suddenly, I knew what was coming—or maybe more accurately, who.

But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Why should God reward you if you love only the people who love you? Even the tax collectors do that! And if you speak only to your friends, have you done anything out of the ordinary? Even the pagans do that! (Matthew 5:43-46)

I leaned forward in the pew, gently shaking my head. Surely Jesus didn’t mean these alt-right Nazi fascists harassing Muslim women in hijab? Surely, he didn’t mean these cowardly white nationalists drawing swastikas on Jewish monuments? Surely, he didn’t mean these racists calling for a wall and cheering at families being torn apart and dragged from their homes? Surely, he didn’t mean these bible-thumping fundamentalists begging for license to discriminate against LGBTQ people openly in public on the basis of their “faith?” 

I fear those are exactly the people he was speaking about.

How on earth am I supposed to do that?

Photo by James McNellis

Comments (4)

God is so wonderful. His truth reigns eternally. His kingdom is right, upright and holy. There is nothing unholy that can stand in his presence. He made man and knows all about him. He knows how great the fall of man was, and how perverted and degraded mankind became, yet he so loved the world he created and all that is in it, that he sent his only begotten Son, Jesus for the redemption of them all, whosoever will invite him into their lives. There is no deep place of the heart that he can not touch with his healing power. Nothing unclean can stand in his presence, and he will deal with anything he chooses. People who have not known him will invite him into those deep dark places of the heart, even places of the past where they have been. They will call upon him, even asking him, what his opinion is about things pertaining to their life, and he will answer. He will bring things to their remembrance, some of them very dark and evil, but he will be with them in it. There is no time where Jesus can not travel to. He can be with anyone in anything of their past, and he will not approve of anything unclean. His offering of himself on the cross for our sins, will atone, and by it, by the power of the cross, he will heal hearts, making them new again, according to how deep people are willing to go. Once they have tasted of his healing, delivering power, they will want more, for they know what life tastes like, and they will choose life over sin and death. They will rejoice in him and bring others to Christ. They will gather together in his houses of worship, for the will know of his goodness. They will learn to sing songs to him of his goodness, and their deliverance, rejoicing in his salvation. Nothing political will have the power again to draw them away from him, for his love, kindness, wisdom, and righteousness is far greater, far surpassing natural understanding. Spiritual strong holds will be taken down. Demonic forces that have held people in bondage will be broken like links of chains. The captives will be set free. The glorious light from heaven will shine upon them, and they will taste of their heavenly calling. This is their inheritance of God, and by his Spirit, they will cherish it and protect it. Once they have tasted that the Lord is good, they will never be satisfied with anything less. Like the prodigal that went astray, and found his inheritance to have run dry, they will call upon God again, for nothing of this world will satisfy them like the love of God and his riches they left. They will come back to him, for they have tasted that the Lord is good, and they will go out to lead others to him that his house may be filled and his kingdom increase here on this earth, and forever in eternity.

I've often wondered the exact same thing. Those hats and political signs trigger me also. I'm scared of so much these days as they keep trying to make laws trying to erase my very existence as a Trans woman. How do I love them?
I could only think that the way to do that is to respect them. Help them if they need help. Greet them kindly instead of avoiding them. Engage in polite conversation. Show that they are wrong by how you live your life and not by arguing. If a conversation leads to issues that you disagree on, respectfully disagree. Never lash out, but also never be silent. Stories inspire. So tell your story. Try to hear theirs. That's the start of understanding.
All of this is incredibly difficult to do. I fail miserably so much. I don't think it means hug them like they've been your life long friend, but instead to just show respectfully. After all, if we treat them badly, we are just reinforcing their own ideas in their mind.
Maybe there's more to it than that, or maybe there's less to it. I don't know. I'm still trying to find my way through this issue as well.

This is the crucial issue, not only in Christianity but in general. Many of us believe that love and truth is the answer. We struggle because knowing it and being able to live it are millions of miles apart. How do you love someone who thinks you are vile? Or who believes you were asking to be abused because your spiritual weakness could be sensed? A church lady and friend whose house we went to for Saturday morning prayer group told me this when the sexual abuse I suffered at 4 from my preschool teacher came up after of a young teen told me she was being sexually abused by her grandfather. I stopped going soon after. I needed to draw a line for myself, I needed to allow myself the ability to say no to being hurt, after not being able to stop it so long ago.

So I think it's important you did what you needed to do. You needed to tell this guy, no, I won't accept your hatred, and you did.

You might need to express yourself more online, maybe in articles, maybe you have, on your feelings of upset. You have a reason to be upset. Horribly upset!

Healing happens for everyone in it's own way and time. For me, my own huge limitations, my own need for forgiveness, has brought me to have love for the woman who blamed me for getting molested. I see her as someone who was not allowed to show her hurt, and so now she sees showing it as something abhorrant, as something weak. It's really about her, what was and so what is now, acceptable for her because of her upbringing, because of her past.

These haters hate you with all the force they hate what they experienced was unacceptable about themselves. Their pain, not heard, or validated, maybe mocked, remains festering within. Anyone that reminds them of their own intolerable imperfection, their own vulnerability, is reviled as they revile that part of themselves.

I think most haters are people who find a large and vulnerable part of themselves absolutely disgusting. They can't reconcile what they were taught with what they see as their own weakness. They are lost.

That doesn't mean their hatred is acceptable. It doesn't mean I don't get very upset still when I see someone being or espousing something hateful. I think to do it we have to go back to the same thing triggering them-- with our own self-hatred, our own intolerable to us vulnerability. I think loving ourselves the way Jesus loves us is perhaps, the hardest thing ever. I am pretty sure most of us don't succeed, but even a teeny bit of success does remarkable things, thank you, God.

So for whatever it's worth, how do we love those who hate us? By learning to mirror as much of the love and forgiveness that the Divine graces us with for and to ourselves. By remembering that those who hate are proportionately sickened with self-disgust and fear of their own weakness and vulnerability.

God loves the sick, and the lost, and the weak, all that society has generally hated about itself, except a blessed few. I too have a hard time loving a hater. But behind every hater, is one whose hurt has overtaken them and lead them to being lost in anger and fear. As a person who has long been broken, I can love another lost in their own brokenness. As someone who has long been lost, I can love those who are also lost.

It's a journey, and you are already taking it by just asking how the hell one gets there. Just know, there are millions of us right with you. Love and blessings to you.

Well, this story prove the long-suspected sociopsychological theory: that totalitarian set of thoughs is perfectly compatible with ANY ideology. And even liberal and democratic ideas could perfectly be used for that.

Basically, if we distill the story - the main idea is, that the respected author verbally attacked another human just because he happend to have a baseball hat with slogan that author personally disliked. Author knew nothing about this guy. He just automatically - i.e. mindlessly - assumed: "Trump slogan = bad man". Totalitarian ideal; the citizen which does not THINK, just mindlessly react on outer triggers with pre-programmed responses.

This, basically, prove, that even democratic idea could be perfectly used to march in columns in matching uniforms, mindlessly chanting "Hail, democracy! Hail, liberalism! Hail, the glorious hereditary Chief Demoract! Death to all who does not believe in Holy Democracy!"

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