Heaping coals of fire?

I wonder whether you are one of the 1.6 million who have signed an online petition to withdraw the Prime Minister’s invitation of a state visit to the UK by Donald Trump, the new president of the United States?

Or maybe, very quietly, you have joined the 200,000 who have signed the rival online petition arguing that the invitation should stand.

I wonder whether you were delighted when the Speaker of the Commons, John Bercow, stated his refusal to allow Donald Trump to speak to Parliament if the state visit goes ahead.

Or were you dismayed that Bercow had neglected both to uphold the role of neutrality that the Speaker’s office demands and also to consult on his position with the Speaker of the House of Lords before giving his opinion?

Despite the huge pressure on social media for us all to take sides, I have not signed either petition. Nor have I either exhorted or condemned Bercow.

On the one hand, I do see and abhor some character traits of the new President – particularly his arrogance, vanity, rashness, disrespect towards women and insulting language towards those he deems to put America’s interests at risk.

On the other hand, I recognise that the US is a close ally, that Trump was democratically elected, that many American people are tired of a political elite in Washington not listening to their concerns, that many are fearful – both for their jobs and their country’s security.

So what should I do? Is it right to sit on the fence? Don’t I have to make up my mind and take sides?

Well, I’m not sure that I do.

Or that it helps to turn this and every other complicated controversy into some kind of polarised trench warfare.

In the Bible, Jesus tells us to love our enemies, to love those we hate. So, even if we have the lowest opinion of Trump, are we are still called to love him? And what does this mean?

In many long and bitter conflicts – think of the Troubles in Northern Ireland – we have come to see that polarising and ostracising people does not lead to peace and reconciliation. We need to talk with, we need to listen to others and especially to those we disagree with. Even those who have caused us great pain and injury.

If the Queen is willing – in the name of peace – to shake hands with Martin McGuinnes, who was a leader of the IRA who murdered – among many others - a close family member, Lord Mountbatten, then can she not shake hands with Donald Trump?

Can we not both welcome Trump, and show him all respect and welcome, yet at the same time have the courage to challenge him on his policies and attitudes?

In the Bible, St Paul writes: if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

Let’s rise about the temptation to join a war of words that might so easily lead to a greater and more dangerous war.

Let’s take on the hard work of being peacemakers, as Jesus calls us to be - and let love be our greatest weapon.