This post is written with a sincere heart, but I realize it may be objectionable or even offensive to some. For that, I apologize, but I did not have it in me to “self-censor” these thoughts. The Bible is filled with warnings to Christians to be mindful of their actions so as not to cause another to stumble or fall in the faith. If at any point this post becomes too much, please stop reading and carry on with your life. I will understand. Since I started writing this, I have heard that a few Christian community leaders are speaking out against the Administration’s Family Separation policy for asylum seekers. I am grateful, but it’s not enough, not yet.
Jesus wept over Jerusalem.
I sat at my computer several times over the last few days trying to write about what is heavy on my soul. Each time I sat down to think about a way to start, an image presented in my brain. It is the image from the Gospel according to Luke chapter 19 at verse 41. Jesus wept over Jerusalem.
Luke 19:41 Good News Translation (GNT) 41 He came closer to the city, and when he saw it, he wept over it,
This verse talks about Jesus as he is approaching near to the city of Jerusalem. He stopped to take it all in and then he cried.
Over the years I’ve heard different preachers give sermons about this verse. Different people chose to interpret the chapter as they saw it in their hearts. Based on a cross-reference of verses, some people said that he was crying for the future of Jerusalem, others expressed that Jesus was crying because he knew what was waiting for him in Jerusalem; others explained that Jesus cried because he knew the people of Jerusalem had hardened hearts. I believe all three are correct, but given the circumstances of our own country today I feel that our leaders have hardened their hearts to the pain of humanity.
Matthew 23:37 Good News Translation (GNT) 37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You kill the prophets and stone the messengers God has sent you! How many times I wanted to put my arms around all your people, just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would not let me!”
To love, then, is to obey the whole Law
I was in a bit of shock the other day. In response to critics on the Administration’s implementation of the immigration policy, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions got to the podium and “for our church friends” explained that the reason for coldhearted treatment of persons seeking asylum was because the Bible said so. Sessions, with a smirk, went on to read such scripture to support his claim. He read from the book of Romans 13, the first verse, which as a side note was also used by the slave owners in their attempt to justify keeping slaves during President Lincoln’s time.
Romans 13:1 Good News Translation (GNT) 13 “Everyone must obey state authorities because no authority exists without God’s permission, and the existing authorities have been put there by God.”
Even Steven Colbert pointed out that Sessions should have kept reading because verses 8-10 could have proved fascinating to hear.
8 “Be under obligation to no one—the only obligation you have is to love one another. Whoever does this has obeyed the Law. 9 The commandments ‘Do not commit adultery; do not commit murder; do not steal; do not desire what belongs to someone else’—all these, and any others besides, are summed up in the one command, ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ 10 If you love others, you will never do them wrong; to love, then, is to obey the whole Law.”
God’s kingdom is a spiritual realm
What has shocked me the most is that Jeff Sessions and later Sarah Huckabee Sanders, had the audacity to use the Bible to give credence to the current Administration’s policies and interpretation of the law. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the United States of America is not a theocracy. When the Founding Fathers wrote the constitution, they wrote: We the People. They had come here to get away from a government-sponsored religion. I understand that we have grown accustomed to the fact that everything in this administration is “unprecedented,” but we cannot be fooled to think God ordains this. God’s kingdom is a spiritual realm. We need to stop using religion to excuse bad policy or bad behavior.
John 18 Good News Translation (GNT) 33 Pilate went back into the palace and called Jesus. “Are you the king of the Jews?” he asked him. 36 Jesus said, “My kingdom does not belong to this world; if my kingdom belonged to this world, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish authorities. No, my kingdom does not belong here!”
Is God good enough?
I have often said that some Christians seem to create a God in their image. If we take the Bible as a starting point, the Bible says that God created us in His image. Where is the disconnect? Is it faith? I’ve noticed that the “conservative” movement feels it’s their responsibility to get God’s work done one way or another. They think they can use the government to move God’s timeline. When Trump moved the embassy to Jerusalem, many Christians were posting on social media “even so, come Lord Jesus.” I saw people posting things like “ok it’s done, we are ready for you to come.” Did they think that their God could not figure out a way to get things done? Did they think they had to elect Trump to do God’s work; to get things done? God wasn’t good enough to do it on his own?
When Evangelicals support Trump, it seems to me that they are re-creating the story of the Passion of Christ when the High Priest in Jesus time, instigated the crowds to demand Barabbas be released. If you have read the story of the Passion, you may remember that the crowds yelled and screamed asking Pilate for the release of Barabbas and to crucify Jesus. The High Priests didn’t want someone who was going to take away their power and bring the people closer to God; they wanted someone who was going to get them out from under Roman rule. They wanted self-government which gave them the power and control over the people.
In my experience, whenever someone quotes the Bible for a political purpose, very rarely have I heard anyone quote something that Jesus actually said. Trump’s entourage of evangelical advisors often quote the Old Testament histories or they bring up one of the letters that the Apostle Paul wrote to one church of a specific place and time. They don’t however, bother to explain the historical context. If I’ve missed it, please do comment here, it is not my intention to spread wrong information. There are many examples of Jesus teaching using parables. One the most well-known perhaps is the story of The Good Samaritan from the Gospel of Luke chapter 10 verses 25-36. This parable teaches that spiritually is not bound by race, ethnicity or nation of origin but rather by a love of God and His creation.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan 25 A teacher of the Law came up and tried to trap Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to receive eternal life? ”26 Jesus answered him, “What do the Scriptures say? How do you interpret them?” 27 The man answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with your entire mind’; and ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’” 28 “You are right,” Jesus replied; “do this and you will live.” 29 But the teacher of the Law wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus answered, “There was once a man who was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when robbers attacked him, stripped him, and beat him up, leaving him half dead. 31 It so happened that a priest was going down that road; but when he saw the man, he walked on by on the other side. 32 In the same way a Levite also came there, went over and looked at the man, and then walked on by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan who was traveling that way came upon the man, and when he saw him, his heart was filled with pity. 34 He went over to him, poured oil and wine on his wounds and bandaged them; then he put the man on his own animal and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Take care of him,’ he told the innkeeper, ‘and when I come back this way, I will pay you whatever else you spend on him.’” 36 And Jesus concluded, “In your opinion, which one of these three acted like a neighbor toward the man attacked by the robbers?” 37 The teacher of the Law answered, “The one who was kind to him.” Jesus replied, “You go, then, and do the same.”
To get the full meaning of this parable, one must understand that the Jews and the Samaritans did not get along; similar to racial and ethnic differences and tensions in our country. According to the parable, while a priest and a Levite, saw the injured traveler, neither one stopped nor did anything to help (in a nutshell, a Levite was an assistant to the priests and caretaker of the temple). The Samaritan, however, was filled with pity and took action. How does this passage compare to our current day issues? As Christians, how do we compare? Do we hear the parable of the Good Samaritan from the pulpits in this country? The Samaritan used his own money to take care of someone in need; even though they were strangers.
The reason I bring these things up is not that I want to point fingers at anyone but to bring up one of the teachings I am most respectful of. Throughout the New Testament, we noticed that new believers are compared to children; children in the faith.
Matthew 18 Good News Translation (GNT) 18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, asking, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?” 2 So Jesus called a child to come and stand in front of them, 3 and said, “I assure you that unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven. 4 The greatest in the Kingdom of heaven is the one who humbles himself and becomes like this child. 5 And whoever welcomes in my name one such child as this, welcomes me. 6 “If anyone should cause one of these little ones to lose his faith in me, it would be better for that person to have a large millstone tied around his neck and be drowned in the deep sea. 7 How terrible for the world that there are things that make people lose their faith! Such things will always happen—but how terrible for the one who causes them!
There is nothing more for me to add to this. There are plenty of verses admonishing seasoned Christians to take care of those struggling to believe, struggling to keep the faith. I hear it all the time, Christians who want nothing to do with organized religion because the image of Christianity projected in our society is not Christ-like. I ask fellow Christians to do an honest self-exam. I know there are true believers out there doing their best. They are my friends, they are my family. They radiate the love of God in their lives. Is that you? Are you careful not to cause your brother or sister to stumble, to lose faith? Only you and God know if your life is demonstrating all the love of Christ. That love that makes people realize that God is real and a peaceful spirit can be found in Him.
John 13:35 Good News Translation (GNT) 35 If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples.”
Peace be with you.