Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Love, Hate and Neighbors

*note* This might be a little disjointed. I've been working on this off and on for a few weeks now.

There seems to be so much bad in the world any more. I don’t know if there really are more horrible things happening than ever, or if we just hear about it more, since the internet brings the entire world into our living rooms. There are terror attacks, earthquakes, civil unrest, refugee crises, wars, droughts, etc.

This is a prime time for churches to help the “least of these”. Unfortunately, it seems that many Christians have settled into the group on the left mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 24:31-46. I have seen so much hate spewed by so-called Christians in the last couple years, both in real life and on the internet. It is no wonder that in Matthew 7, Jesus says that he will tell people “I never knew you!” The visible, outspoken parts of Christianity don’t resemble Christ very much anymore.

Being a follower of Christ comes with a code of conduct. While it is elaborated and expanded upon throughout the Bible, this code of conduct boils down to 2 basic principles. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself." Luke 10:27 Like the lawyer in Luke, a lot of Christians don’t seem to have a good grasp of who their neighbor is. We’re so far removed from the culture and times of the New Testament that the impact of the story of the Good Samaritan, told to illustrate who our neighbors are, is greatly diminished.

So, how about an update?

A man was visiting a city for business when he found himself in a bad part of town. He was mugged, beaten nearly to death, and left in the gutter.

A short while later, a nationally respected minister, who had been volunteering at a small inner city church, happened on the scene on the way to his car. Fearing that the injured man was a ploy to get him to let his guard down, he hurried to his car while mumbling a quick prayer for the man, sticking to well-lit areas, and intending to call 911 as soon as he was safely away from the bad part of town.

The next person to come down the street was a community activist. If she ever saw the injured man, we will never know. She walked past on the other side of the street, in a hurry to get to her next appointment.

The last person to come across the badly beaten business man was a Muslim physician assistant who was heading home from her long shift at the free clinic. Seeing the bleeding and battered man lying in the gutter, she rushed over with the medical kit she carried at all times. After she got the man stabilized, she called 911. She rode with him in the ambulance to the nearest hospital. After she was certain that he was in good hands, and that he was going to recover, she headed to her home. Later, with her own money, she set it up for the best physical therapist in the city to help the business man on his road to recovery.

Since Syrian refugees are currently the target for much Conservative “Christian” vitriol, I chose to have the rescuer be Muslim. But insert a gay man, a Planned Parenthood worker, a bleeding-heart Liberal, and the message stays the same. Everyone on this planet is your neighbor. More to the point, like I’ve said before, and will say it again, and again, and again… Everyone on this planet is a child of God, and should be treated accordingly.

When we don’t help a panhandler because we think we’re scammers, when we say we shouldn’t take in refugees because one might be a terrorist, when we minimize the experiences of people whose situations we don’t understand, we are in effect turning our backs on Jesus, whose name we claim when calling ourselves Christians.

Maybe it’s because I’ve spent my whole life being “different” (geeky-homeschooled-bookworm Seventh-Day Adventist does not fall in the category of “normal” where I grew up) but it makes me heartsick to see people demonized, marginalized, criticized for being different, for falling outside of the publicized Conservative “Christian” worldview. But I take solace in realizing that that worldview is NOT the one Jesus encourages us to adopt.

A true Christian worldview advocates loving enemies, blessing those who curse you, doing good for those who hate you, praying for the ones who persecute, helping the helpless, turning the other cheek, and doing all that humbly, quietly. If more Christians fought fear, hate and evil with love, goodness and kindness the world would be a much better place.