Faith, Relationships

How to Be a Good Neighbor in the Wake of the Election

Paper Doll cut outs standing on white

My daughters were scared to go to school on Wednesday because they’re immigrants and someone told them they’d be sent back.

This is not a post about voting, or Democrats or Republicans. This is a post about us.

Social media is a post-apocalyptic dumpster fire and we are losing our humanity. And we didn’t even need zombies to get to this point of wielding Lucilles at each other.

I feel like I’ve had a grief hangover all week. The most important thing to me, the thing that pulls me to this computer and opens my mouth in front of a group, my number one passion, is relationships. This election has not been good for our relationships.

And so I’m compelled to try to put some of what’s pressing on me into words that are sure to fall short of what’s needed. Whenever I feel a post bubbling in my soul like this, I always start with my face on the floor, in utter humility to God for the words I’m about to attempt. Let me try, and as always, I appreciate your grace.

Let’s talk about fear and compassion. What does compassion look like? When we as believers in Jesus have skin in the game, have relationships with people who are different than us, what does compassion require of us?

Right now I’m seeing a whole lot of fear and an utter lack of compassion.

Whether or not you agree with one political position or another, can you have compassion for immigrant families who are scared? Can you have compassion for Muslim Americans afraid to wear their hijabs to school? Can you have compassion for black Americans and Latino Americans and women and people with disabilities who are scared? Can you have compassion for people like my daughters, who don’t fully understand but somehow feel “other” and “different” during this tumultuous time?

I’m mostly speaking to white Christians right now. Our brothers and sisters living in fear are not responsible for reaching out in unity right now. When you’re in mourning you don’t have to build bridges; you get to grieve. We, white Christians, have some work to do. How do we serve as grace-bearers and safe people for our fellow Americans?

I’m seeing a lot of people saying to “get over it” but as Jesus-followers that’s not how we minister to people in pain and fear. Jesus never told anyone to get over it. He was a healer.

I’m also seeing a lot of “God’s in control.” Even though I agree with this statement, I think it’s a crappy way to squash people’s real feelings. God may be in control, but that isn’t always comforting to someone who’s just been screamed at to “go back to your country” or “speak American.”

Frankly, I don’t care about what’s happening in Washington at the moment. I went to the polls and now my responsibility is to make my spot on this planet a little warmer and more inclusive for the people around me. It’s the same responsibility I had last week and the week before.

I don’t care about Donald Trump and his assembling cabinet. I have exactly zero control over that now. I care about us and how we can actively seek to calm the fear that’s growing in the wake of his election. I want to love well during a time when many people are questioning whether or not love wins.

It’s not about explaining to someone that you don’t think they have a reason to be scared. It’s not about insisting that your point of view is right. It’s not about you at all. It’s about entering into someone else’s pain.

1 John 3:16 says, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” I’m pretty sure laying down our lives as Jesus did for us has exactly zero to do with reciprocity or tit for tat or whose turn it is. 

Start listening to the marginalized and disenfranchised. Seek understanding. Understanding is different than agreement. We don’t all have to agree but we need to work to understand.

“They’ll know we are Christians by our love” (John 13:35). I still believe this can and should be true. The online dumpster fire can suck it; love is better.

So regardless of who you voted for and why, how are you going to reach out in lovingkindness and display the radical love of Christ?

Christians like to talk a lot about unity during times like these. That we should seek it. I love unity. I love Philippians 2:1-2 and likemindedness. But so often, we call on others to get themselves unified with us. What about the rest of that passage? 

Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,

    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

rather, he made himself nothing

    by taking the very nature of a servant,

    being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,

    he humbled himself

    by becoming obedient to death—

        even death on a cross! (v. 3-8)

That “made himself nothing” part in verse 7 is a Greek word, kenosis. It means “to empty.” Jesus, fully God, emptied himself and came down, entering into our humanity, and made himself nothing and died. For us. This is humility.

It takes a heck of a lot of humility to get quiet and listen to others in their pain and frustration and anger. It’s tempting to want to shout your feelings and beliefs over them, but that is not the way of learning and it’s not the way of Jesus. 

Can we make ourselves nothing? What does it look like to empty ourselves of preconceived ideas based on our understanding of the world? What if we loved like that?

Can we lay ourselves down and comfort and fight for each other? Can we declare ourselves safe spaces for our neighbors?

What does being a good neighbor look like in your neighborhood? What does it look like online?

The election is over but I’m electing to believe in the goodness of people. I’m voting for us.

What can we as Jesus-followers do to build bridges in a divided country? Do we rail at the TV and rant all over Facebook or do we open up our homes? Do we ask questions and listen? Do we humble ourselves and serve?

Forget Washington. Forget the election. Who is grieving in your circle? Comfort him. Who is scared in your neighborhood? Comfort her. Who is unsure of their standing in this nation? Make them sure of their standing with you.

Friends, do not miss this. We can be a refuge for a hurting country. Dare to discover the beautiful humanity inside someone else, humble yourself, and offer love.

After calming my kids on Wednesday morning, I looked them in the eyes and told them to hold their heads high and above all, be kind.

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  • Katie

    I just remember, “For you were once strangers in a strange land,” and I don’t know how we got to this.

  • Wendy

    Some people just don’t get it. This country doesn’t have a problem with immigrants. This country has a problem with ILLEGAL immigrants. If you are not a citizen of the United States of America, there is a right way to enter this country and live here so you can work and go to school. Anyone who came here in a different way (I’m talking about sneaking in over the boarders undetected and undocumented) did it illegally. Those are the people that need to be sent back to their countries. From their countries, they can apply to come to the United States the right way, thereby becoming legal immigrants. If they can’t or won’t do that, then they should not be in our country. Other countries deport, jail or even kill illegal immigrants. At least the new administration only wants to deport them. Call me insensitive, uncaring or unenlightened if you want, but I’m all for that. That’s why I voted for Trump.

    • Gbates

      Insensitive and uncaring to send people back to places where they will be killed!

  • Tina

    Melanie, Thank you for “going there” with this post. I tried to force myself to not read the comments, because I didn’t want to see more politicking….ew….but today I felt so encouraged by what you wrote and I wanted you to know it!
    We have three amazing young women God has given us to raise and they are so sad and full of despair right now. They are in Middle school/high school and college and live the “front lines” of exclusion everyday. They see the mean, MEAN things kids do and say to each other and fight against the tide of it all the time. Your reminder of what a “Jesus follower” can do is exactly what we needed today. Our new motto around here is…. “Let’s Love Like That!”

  • Tiffanie Hester

    Good job Melanie! Spot on. We must move forward in love.
    I appreciate this post 💓

  • Brian M

    Just found this… good post, Melanie. I’m a member of a bilingual church and this is a truly relevant issue in ways that more homogeneous communities surely don’t fully appreciate or understand. I lean “conservative” in my political views; and, believe that the most sane way to govern a wheat-and-tares republic like ours in this fallen world is to do so by the ”rule of law” as opposed to rule-by-fiat of potential tyrants (as we are all prone to be).

    That said, the very reason that we have our current “immigration problem” is because, for decades, many of those charged with upholding the rule-of-law weren’t serious about it in the first place. Given this, how can we possibly, in good conscience, assign all of the “blame” to immigrants (I can assure you that some honestly don’t realize that they have broken any laws until they are already here)? Do we have enough faithful men/women among our elected leaders who will be humble enough to accept this and factor mercy into any solution? On the other hand, our leaders are *primarily* (and, rightly so) charged with protecting both the interests and safety of our citizens in a time of out-of-control national debt and serious threats from terrorism and rogue nations. What an incredible mess we’re in! I certainly don’t presume to have the answers, but I do know this: endless finger-pointing is not one of them.





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