THE assassination of Rajiv Gandhi a few weeks ago postponed the stormy Indian elections that were being held at that time. The sectarian strife that has been so much a part of that nation's political process isn't limited to India. More and more often, violence and tense party blocs seem to characterize elections.
As I was praying about this event, I remembered rather vividly an experience of sectarian hatred that I myself had had some years ago. It reminded me of the importance of loving not just our friends and those we approve of, but also those whom we may dislike very much. After an election, I had been very angry when a certain official was elected to a high office and had hated him from the moment I heard the news. Instead of subsiding, this anger persisted until it just seemed a part of my being.
Then one day he was attacked by a gunman. As I watched the news reports I suddenly saw very clearly that the hatred I had been feeling paralleled that violent act. And as I considered his family and those who loved him, I began to see that he wasn't a remote political figurehead. He was a real person with as much right to joy and life as I had. I prayed to see him as totally under God's protection.
The would-be assassin was apprehended; the political official survived. And I learned the importance of resisting the temptation to hate--whether it is hating someone because of a political party, a religious belief, or the color of his or her skin.
Christ Jesus made this clear in many different ways. In his Sermon on the Mount he laid out a set of rules that, if followed, would transform our politics and our lives. For instance, he set a much higher standard than loving our friends and hating our enemies. He declared, Matthew's Gospel tells us, "I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father wh ich is in heaven. …