Last week a video emerged from 2015 (the internet is forever — remember that, kids, the next time you Instagram a photo of yourself in a state and location you might regret later) of former Vice President Joe Biden commenting on his relationship with former Vice President Dick Cheney. He called him a “decent man.” “I actually like Dick Cheney, for real,” he said. “I get on with him.” Cheney, of course, has borne the brunt of the wrath of the opposition (and a fair portion of his own base) for the war in Iraq that his boss perpetrated.
I don’t care what you think about Biden, Cheney, Iraq, or any other particular element of this conversation. I share this story merely to tell you about the light bulb that went off in my head upon reading some of the vitriol spewed forth against Mr. Biden from some of the people who, until five minutes ago, may have been looking at his 2020 presidential candidacy with an eye toward supporting it.
See, good guys are not allowed to like bad guys. Not in Twitter world, they’re not. If you like the bad guys, that makes you a bad guy too. And if you dare try to convince anyone that the “bad guys” are not really the bad guys, you deserve whatever vulgarity, boycott or brick that might be headed in your general direction.
And since people always assign to others the motives they themselves have, these same screamers think the “bad guys” are operating at the same level of hatred and venom. Any kindness from the other side is fake. Any overtures are politically motivated. If somehow the bad guys actually were to prove their pure motives, that would only indicate they are lying to themselves. If they knew their own character as well as the “good guys” know it, they would be repenting in sackcloth and ashes.
The upshot of all of this is, people hate me. The fact that the overwhelming number of them don’t actually know me is irrelevant. I have been judged already — by my skin, by my faith, by my wallet. It’s not personal. And yet it could not be more personal.
Now, for the record, here is what is in my heart. Believe my first-hand knowledge or your own uneducated supposition as you like.
I genuinely hate sin.
I’m not always as consistent as I should be, particularly with regard to my own patience with myself. But I try. I don’t bind anything on anyone that I do not bind on myself. (I do read Matthew 7:1 and try to practice it, although it does not mean what many people say it means.)
I genuinely love sinners.
Jesus died for His enemies; the least I can do is love them (Matthew 5:43-48). I have friends mired in sin ranging from profanity to homosexuality to atheism. Some are battling and losing, and some are just losing. Many or most of them know where I stand and are willing to maintain at least some relations, especially long distance. Perhaps they would join the detractors if they had to deal with me on a daily basis. But as it stands, I think they would testify to my kindness and reasonable nature.
I genuinely seek out truth — particularly when it is truth I do not currently possess.
I have been wrong far too often to assume I am always right. My faith in God’s word (John 17:17) is real, but it can be shaken by someone showing me a more accurate way. It will take more than poking pinholes in the Bible record or flashing a bunch of initials behind an author’s name.
I genuinely believe people can agree to disagree.
Jesus’ disciples may have been inclined toward a “fire from heaven” solution (Luke 9:54), but Jesus Himself was more inclined toward shaking off the dust (Matthew 10:14). Peace is always preferable to war (Romans 12:18-21). Conflict between the kingdoms of Jesus and Satan is inevitable, but it need not be bloody at every turn.
In a nutshell, I want to get along. And I will make reasonable accommodations to do so — always falling short of compromising my stand for truth, of course. If my opponents insist on bringing a gun to a knife fight, they should know I didn’t even bring a knife. Just “the sword of the Spirit” for me (Ephesians 6:17).