Jesus stood clearly on the side of the disinherited – the outcast, the sick, the poor, the disabled, the marginalized, and the oppressed. CLEARLY. Why has that attitude and behavior seeped down to every last Christian?
In 2012, 77% of adults in the U.S. identified as Christians. Why has that not created a world of peace, love and equality?
I know we’re not supposed to “should,” but it seems to me that in a primarily Christian country, we should not be having race riots. Women and men should be equally valued. Our LGBT youth should not be bullied. Children should not be beaten, starved and sold into sex trafficking. In a primarily Christian country we should pride ourselves on our ability to work out our problems peacefully, we should be work toward understanding and accepting our differences, we should err on the side of love.
(For the full audio version, click here.)
I am sad to say that it seems the prevailing impression of Christians out there today is that we are judgmental, rigid, and stuck in a belief structure that is no longer relevant. We may be for the poor, but we are not for women, women’s equality, or women’s right to choose. We are not for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender folks… not to mention queer, intersex and asexual. We are not for the immigrant, nor do we value other religious paths. How did that happen? Because Jesus, his teachings and his example had nothing to do with that. And, frankly, I’m thinking of coining a new name for us Christians who don’t fit this description. Maybe we’ll be the Neo-Christians.
At the last church I served, there were folks who wanted to just be a “middle-of-the-road” church. Jesus wasn’t EVER middle of the road. He was very clear about what side of the road he stood on and that was clearly with the disinherited. I have no doubt that if he were to show up today, he’d be working to reform Christianity and take it back to its roots in the spirit of love, the same way he was trying to get Judaism back to its roots in the spirit of love.
You know all this, I know, I’m preaching to the choir.
But I know that you and I aren’t perfect either.
Last week in our scripture reading from John 15, Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Live in me as I live in you.” Completely distilled down it is as simple as live in love. “Love one another as I have loved you.” Period. Jesus didn’t call names. Jesus didn’t judge. Jesus didn’t throw stones.
First John 3:18 this week says “our love must not be simply words or mere talk – it must be true love, which shows itself in action and truth.”
Love in action and truth. BE love and give it authentically from your heart. That is what Jesus did. To the end. That in and of itself is the most amazing miracle.
Love in action and truth – that is what we struggle with every day of our lives. (Or, at least I do and I’m assuming you do, too, so I don’t feel so alone.) I know the good person I want to be, but I find that I’m not always who I want to be.
What is the struggle? Why is it so hard to come consistently from a place of love?
These are some of the answers I’ve come up with:
- We have become jaded and critical and we’ve learned not to trust.
- We believe the worst in people instead of the best.
- We fear for our safety and the safety of others.
- We are afraid that if we reach out we’ll be rejected, or betrayed.
- We retreat to a safe distance where we then give money which is less risky.
- We don’t get involved, we don’t get to know others’ stories. We don’t want to know. We could call it selfishness… but it hurts too much and we feel too helpless.
Still, we can’t stop trying. That’s what Jesus would say, “Live in me as I live in you. Ground yourself in my example. In my relationship with God. In my love of others. Love in action and truth.”
The first, and perhaps biggest step to doing this is not to live in isolation. We need to open to other people’s stories, to listen to their pain. Remember that everyone has some struggle in their lives. If we lead with that foot forward, with the assumption that we never know the full story, never see the closet full of hurts someone is keeping under lock and key, we will lead more often with love and compassion than with skepticism, criticism and fear. And perhaps if we listened, we might begin to build bridges.
We can’t just say it. We need to live it. In action and truth. Then all might know the Divine through each of us.
Peace & Love,