President Trump’s leadership over the past four years has caused a lot of Americans pain and heartache. Most recently, his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed the lives of over 210,000 Americans, has been less than satisfactory. It was released earlier last month that Trump knew the severity of the virus earlier in the year, but chose not to publicize his knowledge in an attempt to “minimize panic.”
Now the president as well as the first lady are struggling with the virus, which he announced in a tweet late Thursday night. The public’s response has been a mix of earnest prayers and vengeful death threats. Many refuse to sympathize with Trump due to his lack of compassion for the hundreds of thousands of Americans that many believe he neglected. And as much as I disagree with the majority of the rhetoric he and his administration produce, I can’t help but think of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech “Facing the Challenge of a New Age,” when seeing the mix of responses.
Dr. King was addressing 7,000 people at an NAACP rally in 1957. He spoke on entering a new age and a new world and what was required to impact that new time differently, than how they were operating before. When Dr. King begins to speak on loving your enemies, he makes the distinction clear and simple.
“The Greek language talks about love in several senses,” King said. “It talks about eros. And eros is a sort of aesthetic love… Philia is a love between personal friends. It’s a sort of reciprocal love… Agape is more than philia. Agape is the love of God working in the lives of men… It’s the type of love that causes you to love the person who does the evil deed while hating the deed that the person does.”
Simply put, agape is unconditional love, and it seeks nothing in return. As a follower of Christ, the commandment to love your neighbors as you love yourself is a commandment I try my best to uphold every single day. Choosing to love those who afflict you isn’t an easy choice, but in a world full of hate and division, it’s a necessary position that I choose to align with, even with Trump.
I personally would never wish sickness or death on anyone. Not only because of the animosity that it puts out into the world, but because of what it does to the individual on the inside. To speak words of harm or death over another person is the culmination of loathing that has been brewing in the heart. Ultimately, me hating Trump or anyone else for that matter does more harm to me than it does to them.
So does having unconditional love for those who commit “evil deeds” mean that we stop being critical and calling out their decisions that harm others? Absolutely not. For over four years I’ve made it extremely clear that I oppose the rhetoric and increased levels of hate and violence that have come as a result of the Trump administration. I’ve also made it extremely clear that I don’t agree with his policies and leadership for our nation. But to allow myself to get to a place of wishing death on the president and his supporters, would ultimately mean that they won. And I refuse to allow their carelessness of human life to cause me to become like them.
Michelle Obama’s infamous saying “when they go low, we go high,” isn’t easy at all. It is especially difficult during a time where people still don’t have adequate access to healthcare and the president is being treated by some of the best doctors in the nation with the best medicine. Yet, I’m reminded of Dr. King’s call to combat injustice with love. It is a force not to be reckoned with, nor is it passive. Kingian principles that outline how to combat injustice are centered in a strategic love that asks for nothing in return. Agape love is what we need during our current political climate.