One of the things I get to to is to travel to interesting countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Pictured Above), Pakistan, India, Ecuador, Iraq, etc. The people in these countries are incredible people trying to survive like the rest of us, but in many places in the world, the playing field of survival is not flat, but tilted in the direction of the powerful and the wealthy. I’m sure for some reading this, that last statement is a turn-off, because it wreaks of Marxist overtones. While I can assure you I’m no Marxist, since I have been in those countries too, and they are certainly no bargain, the fact remains that 10% of the world lives on less than $1.90 a day, which is approximately 700 million people. Many others live in relative and/or spiritual poverty, and are struggling to make ends meet, and find themselves looking for hope in a world that has been cruel to them. On the flip side, 70% of the wealth in America is in the hands of 1% of the people.
With that said, this is NOT a post to shame the wealthy, since I know many wealthy people who are the most loving, giving individuals I know, and are doing all they can to help those less fortunate than themselves. No, my question here isn’t the typical, “why isn’t the wealthy giving more?” Mine has to do more with the question asked of Jesus in Luke 10, “who is my neighbor?” That’s a good question, and one that His Jewish audience would want to know, since the question is asked in the context of ‘inheriting eternal life.’ Jesus connects this parable to His command to “love your neighbor as yourself!” Many of the people in Jesus’ time were waiting for a Messiah to deliver them politically from Roman oppression, but in reality, according to the prophets they were in that predicament because of their outright rejection of God’s command to love their neighbor and bring His “Good News” to the nations. As a matter of fact, the Samaritans, who were ‘half-breeds’ and especially hated because of their intermarrying with the Assyrians, their ‘unorthodox‘ religious beliefs and their opposition to the Jews when they were trying to rebuild Jerusalem ( Ezra 4, Nehemiah 4) after the Babylonian captivity. Many of the Jews had rejected God’s command to love their neighbor and bring His good news to the nations. They had become Nationalists, which was represented by the Zealots, whom Jesus’ disciple Peter was one of. Interesting enough that Jesus picked Peter a nationalist, Zealot, and Matthew who was a hated traitor, tax collector to be part of His rebuilding a people of God that would “Love the Lord God with their heart, mind and soul…and their neighbor as themselves.”
So, how does Jesus answer that question? He answers it by making a Samaritan the hero of the story because he helped his enemy in need, which clearly connects with Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount to “love your enemies.” Now what puzzles me here, is the way we, modern day ‘followers’ of Jesus act in regard to issues such as immigration, or aid to countries that are in great need, etc. If you listen to some, it appears that American Nationalism, is more important that God’s plan to bring the nations together. Now I can hear the objections loud and clear. “Mike, you’re being naive, we have to protect our borders. You’re espousing an ideal that is not practical in the 21st century!” I do understand that, and it’s possible that Luther’s 2 kingdom idea applies here, meaning that the government needs to do what it needs to do to protect its people, while believers like me can talk nonsense about idealism; but that’s politics; since when should we ‘followers’ of Jesus get our cues from politics?
My fear in all of this, is that many that call themselves believers are more concerned with American values than they are God’s values, which the Sermon on the Mount so clearly cuts against our American sensibilities. I am not writing this blog with a clear command from God that gives us a perfect solution to a problem on our borders, but I am asking ‘followers’ of Jesus to show more compassion for those in need than I have seen on much of the public Christian rhetoric and on social media of many ‘followers’ of Jesus that I know. The gospel compels us to bring the “Good News” that God is reconciling the wrongs and injustices, and He is bringing the Jew-Gentile together to be one in Him, as the people of God for His glory and the enjoyment of the nations! Amazingly enough, He does this through His people. While the Sermon on the Mount is a very high bar, it is the bar that Jesus has set for His people, I’m just not sure we have striven to work it out in our churches.
We are citizens of God’s kingdom, and are sent as ambassadors to this present Kingdom to represent His Kingdom here on earth, and that just might take some sacrifice on our part, so that others can flourish. Does that sound familiar? The person we call Lord did that for us, and according to Jesus in John 20:21, “as the Father has sent Me, even so, I am sending you!” Who are you following? Who is your neighbor?