I’ve backed away from politics over the past few years. I remain distanced for a variety of reasons, probably the most important of which is that I would rather my understanding and interpretation of scripture, and as a result, whatever I teach from whichever pulpit I may occupy in the future, not be colored by the political flavor of the day. One of my professors puts it quite nicely on his Facebook page, where rather than declaring an affiliated political party, he simply says that politics is “mostly irrelevant.” That’s a fantastic, succinct way of putting it. And it’s fairly accurate.
That being said, let’s talk about something political. Sort of. I want you to try to look at some things objectively, in such a way that, hopefully, will let you filter the world through another kind of lens, one that is neither red nor blue, Republican nor Democrat, liberal nor conservative. Maybe this will sound a bit too churchy for some folk, but I want you to look at what you’re about to read (and pretty much everything from this point forward,) not through the lens of a man-made political ideology, but through the lens of “Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s son, [who] will be with us in truth and love.” You can’t get much more churchy than that.
As always there’s much turmoil throughout the world, though for the past few years the fragility of the economy has taken center stage. Here in the United States, we’re hovering at just over 9% unemployment, while Spain is in the neighborhood of 20%. Nationwide in September, 1 out of every 605 homes was slated for foreclosure. In Las Vegas that number is a staggering 1 out of 89 homes. Throughout Europe the prospect of the debt crisis reaching its end should be reassuring to some, but for many the damage has been done.
From Wall Street, to Main Street, to the rest of the world, protesters have taken their opportunity (because unemployment tends to free up much of your day,) to express their opinion. You probably have an opinion about what they’re doing. Maybe it’s a criticism of who is protesting, or perhaps what is being protested. Maybe your opinion stems from overindulging in Bill O’Reilly or Keith Olbermann. If so, I’m talking to you.
Maybe you don’t consider yourself part of the “99%,” (the number chosen to reflect the percentage of the population who isn’t in the top 1% of the income bracket,) and that’s fine. But like I said before, I want you to look at this through a different filter. It can be difficult to peer through sometimes, mainly because this one is a bit red with a few etchings from Roman nails.
What is the responsibility of the Church and of individual Christians to these people whose recent foreclosure may have forced them out into the street, to individuals who have been unemployed for two years, who have absolutely nothing left but the clothes on their back and the knowledge that they have been relegated to living out their days as a blot on society; a wretch whose very presence makes people turn their heads in an effort to pretend that the smelly guy with baggy, dirty clothes doesn’t exist? Okay, maybe the imagery is a bit much, but the point stands. Whatever street (or recliner) you’re occupying, we all have to remember that everybody has their breaking point, and right now the world is full of broken people. It seems to me that if grace, that precious gift from God through Christ has been extended to us, the least we can do is live out that Grace in how we relate to the people around us.
So what do you think? How should that grace manifest itself in our lives? How much compassion is too much, (and how little is too little?) Do you think how you relate to other people, and how much you show them the love of Jesus in whatever practical way you see fit, could in any way earn the ultimate response of “Well done good and faithful servant?” If not, what can you do to change that?
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:
“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
their righteousness endures forever.”
2 Corinthians 9:6-9