If one looks carefully, it is possible to see a common thread running through all the political issues roiling our country today: immigration, healthcare, deficits, energy, employment, the environment. That common element is fear of lack or want. The underlying assumption or postulate behind each issue is that there simply aren’t enough resources in the country or in the world to supply everyone, so we (I) need to take steps to insure our (my) own well being. The well being of everyone else is their problem and their responsibility. If they cannot successfully compete and gain their share, that’s tough luck, maybe even God’s will.
In a society like ours which promotes self reliance, personal responsibility, and competitive drive, it seems natural to operate in this self serving fashion. Looking out for number one is the watchword of “free market capitalism”. Looking out for the other guy invokes that dirty word- “socialism”.
Ostensibly, the church has always heralded the power and majesty of divine love and held it up as the ultimate example for human behavior. Emulate Jesus is supposedly the motto of every Christian. The problem, however, has always been the confusion about what acting like Christ really involved. Was it Christ, the lamb, dumb before His shearers, or Jesus the righteous judge of all humanity? Is my example the sacrifice or the warrior? Some have tried to explain the seeming dichotomy of Christ by saying that He started out meek but finishes up mighty, might being the final solution to sin, culminating in the destruction of the universe. Since the end result of redemption is a display of Christ, the warrior prince, then it seems logical that the real example for His followers is that of warfare. Warriors are always struggling to gain advantage over the enemies, those not of us, so Christianity’s warrior mentality, lends legitimacy to the fear of others, of the need to compete, and of the reality of separation, isolation, and independence. By independence I mean the ability to succeed and be happy without regard to the state of others, especially outside my immediate locale or national boundaries.
If someone, inside the church suggests that the warrior Jesus is not our example and points to Jesus the ethical instructor instead, they are branded as “liberal”, a pejorative which handily serves to render their opinion as unworthy of further consideration. If someone in the governmental sphere proposes public policy as a means to promote the ethical standard of the Golden Rule, they are labeled as a socialist.
Are we really afraid to do what Jesus taught us to do, to love bountifully, to embrace even those who proclaim themselves to be our enemies? If you asked the average church member or probably even the average individual if they thought love was powerful, chances are they would say yes. Well, just how powerful is love? Is it powerful only amongst those who love us back, i.e. our own tight little circle of family and close associates, or it maybe a bit more powerful than that? Jesus would never have died if His and God’s concept of the power of love was as feeble as ours appears to be.
Every time an issue comes up in our society, maybe everyone naming the name of Jesus should ask themselves this question: What would a self sacrificing love like that of Jesus demand. I think the answers would not allow any of us to cling to the past or cry out for the status quo.
Conflict, separation, and fear- these are all the result of not loving like Jesus, of not believing that love is any kind of real answer. There are two choices available to us: love and banish fear or be afraid to love and cling to our fear.
For 2000 years now the church and the societies it has fostered have tried to embrace Jesus the warrior as the road to redemption. History records the results of that example. One obvious result has been that humanity has learned very well how to destroy one another. Obsession with conflict means we expend a lot of energy trying to be good at winning.
In the past century it has really become obvious that we have the capacity to completely destroy human civilization on this planet, in a multitude of ways. Human governments and other organizations have attempted to address this new threat by legislating, regulating, and coercing groups and nations into forsaking certain weapons and activities. The obsession to compete and grasp endlessly for personal or nationalistic advantage make such attempts seem woefully weak and insubstantial. Why would anyone, who must struggle for their fair share of world’s resources, want to relinquish any element of personal advantage? That makes no sense in the world we have created by following the warrior mentality. If hope and reason are to prevail into our future, something new and different has to be tried.
Yes, entrusting our future to the transformative power of love is a leap of faith. It involves, deciding to believe something that many don’t want to believe, that seems too unbelievable, that some will claim has been tried and proven unworkable. This is a conundrum for the Christian. Why claim an inerrant Bible and deny its crowning principle? If love only becomes powerful and transformative after God destroys the world and takes a few folks to heaven, Jesus’ words to those hearers 2000 years ago seem delusional. You need to love your enemies, someday, somewhere, after there are no more enemies and God has seen to His. Truth may be different from what we naturally conclude, but does it have to be totally confused? Since there is so much confusion, maybe we need to be open to continual newness. Clinging to the old is what keeps us where we are and that is not a happy place.