I can't remember a time when I wasn't interested in politics. My parents like to tell a story about me when I was 5 years old, dressing up in a button-down shirt and tie, and sneaking downstairs after bedtime to watch the 1992 presidential election coverage. That interest in politics, especially during election years, only grew throughout adolescence and into my adult years.
2020 is another election year, and I now typically follow campaign news and commentary online. If I'm not careful, perusing the various headlines, articles, social media posts, etc., can become very disheartening. In particular, I’ve noticed reading articles about my political enemies has a way of stealing my peace.
Sadly, when it comes to how I generally view these political enemies, I’m not sure I always see them as real people with real souls. I don't think I intentionally view them this way; moreso, it’s just a given that they are bad. They’re the enemy. They're lost causes, too far gone, stuck in their ways, incapable of changing. No hope for them.
It’s sad I don’t always recognize their humanity and potential for conversion, because I know, as a Christian, that Jesus tells us we must love our enemies and pray for those who persecute and mistreat us. He clearly has hope for them, so I should too. He also says that we are to forgive others from our hearts—not merely out of obligation, but to truly mean it.
To be sure, God is not asking us to approve of politicians who embrace and promote evil, or to sit silently by while they seek to destroy so much of what we hold dear. No, we are to actively engage in politics and the public forum, confront and fight against evil, and seek to share with others what we know to be true and good for society. By God’s grace, we are to transform the culture and win over hearts for Him.
Along with that, we are called to pray for the political enemies who are working against us. In fact, one of the most effective ways to combat evil is to pray that those committing the evil convert. After all, Saul persecuted Christians and became St. Paul; I can’t help but think that there were many hopeful Christians praying for his conversion.
So, I know I should love my enemies and pray for them, but it certainly doesn’t always happen—especially in an election year when the stakes are high. In an effort to change that, I’ve tried a couple of things to help me continue to follow political news and election coverage, while seeing my opponents as real people, with real souls, capable of conversion. In other words, to see them as Saul.
Pray the news.
I’ve heard it said that we should “pray the news.” Instead of just thoughtlessly clicking or scrolling through headlines and articles, we can intentionally enter into prayer. This is especially helpful when taking in political news that can too often make us cynical and resentful.
In praying the news, we can try putting on the mind of God—seeking to see people as God sees them. When we see a news headline with that certain politician’s name, or even just a picture of their face, we can be prepared to overcome the common hatred and disgust for them.
Rather than sarcastically thinking, Can you believe this guy?—while looking forward to the next time we can gossip or share an eye roll about him to our like-minded friend or family member—we can humbly pray for him. It can be a simple and sincere prayer like, “Lord, have mercy” as we read or watch the news.
Imagine our enemy in hell. Then imagine them in heaven.
We can also take a moment to imagine our political enemy suffering in the eternal pains of hell. We can see it as Satan winning the battle for his soul. No words can describe how tragic that really is. Then we can take another moment to imagine our enemy repenting from his sins, experiencing God’s mercy, dying a happy death, and enjoying perfect truth, beauty, and everlasting joy in heaven. Then we can ask ourselves who we want to win that battle.
We should never forget that there is a constant battle being fought for our souls. Satan wants all souls to suffer with him in hell. He is the father of lies and wants us to hate, to condemn, and to believe the lie that our political enemy is a hopeless case. God, on the other hand, created us all as potential saints, and He asks those who know this to never see even the most hardened sinner as a lost cause.
So, as we consume election year news and commentary that so often promotes hate for our political opponents, let’s try to keep at the forefront of our minds the battle that is taking place for their souls—and for our own soul. By God’s grace, may we choose to love our political enemies, pray for them, forgive them from our heart, and have sincere hope for their eternal well-being.
Let’s pray they lose the election, but not the place God has prepared for them in heaven.