Much of the New Testament focuses on the concept that Jesus is love. In all the accounts written about him he was exemplifying love and mercy to those around him (perhaps with the exception of chasing out the money changers in the temple). Jesus’ ministry focused on healing the sick, blessing children, and befriending the outcasts. If Christians are followers of Christ, then Christianity at it’s most basic level = doing what Jesus did… right? Why, then do so many of my friends and even family who claim to follow Christ live lives so opposite of how Christ lived?
My Facebook feed is filled with stories and posts about the evils of public assistance and how most people are just out to milk the system. The loudest refrain I hear is that people must work, work, work – if you are on public assistance you must not be working hard enough. The assumption seems to be that poor people are lazy and should simply work harder. Those Americans fortunate enough to not be in that position should not have to help out those less fortunate than themselves. Given that a large percentage of people who hold to those ideas claim Christianity, I question their understanding of the Bible. What about this attitude is Christian? Where in the Bible did Jesus tell people to work harder and stop looking for help? How many beggars did Jesus use as an example of what happens to lazy people? How many sick people did Jesus turn away because they couldn’t pay for his services? Can you envision Jesus turning away children or leaving them to go hungry? Would he have prided himself in making lots of money and living in luxury while those around him suffered, struggled, and starved? No. Those are all current American ways of thinking and living. Jesus wasn’t American. Granted, there are more than just Americans who think and act this way. I suppose what I mean more specifically is that many people who claim Christianity have confused what it means to be Christian with what it means (to some) to be American.
The story that really got me thinking about this was how some Americans have responded to the immigrant children that have recently flooded our borders. These children have risked life and limb to reach America, because they believed that they would have a chance at happy, hopeful lives here. These children are fleeing violence, rape, enslavement, and abject poverty in their homelands. Why is this a crime? Why are children spat upon as if they were criminals intent on destroying America? This is America – we have a statue who stands as an emblem of hope in New York, and upon that statue are these words:
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
~ Emma Lazarus
I find it ironic that many people I know who are so staunchly opposed to immigrants and programs that provide aid to people sing a song in church that talks about Lady Liberty and how proud they are to be Americans. I guess they’re so stuck on the “liberty for you and me” part that they’ve forgotten about everyone else, particularly the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Lady Liberty’s poem seems like it should be a mantra Christians would be happy to live by. Indeed, there are many who do… but rarely do they carry the title Fundamentalist or Baptist.
If you are a Christian, please take away this: don’t be so busy squabbling over who’s right and who’s wrong that you neglect to behave as followers of Christ. Jesus set a beautiful example for all of humanity, and the core of his ministry was showing love to people. If you don’t want to love others, stop using Christ’s name to describe yourselves.
Matthew 18:1-6, 19:14,21 6:24; Luke 14: 13-14, 18:16-17; Acts 2: 44-45, 4:32-37; Romans 13:1-7 and pretty much everything Jesus said or did