Friday, June 3, 2016
“If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it.” ― Stephen Colbert
You wouldn’t think that it would be difficult to find a fairly succinct explanation of the central message of Christianity. You would be wrong. Googling gives you article after article that uses doctrine, denominationally specific beliefs, or just convoluted and (in my opinion, wrong) attempts to include theologies of various sorts in an attempt to force an understanding which is a contradiction in terms. Give a Bible to an African who has never heard of Jesus, have him or her read the Gospels and then ask them what Jesus most wanted from them. They will tell you quickly that Jesus wants them to love each other, to forgive each other, to heal, to feed, to clothe, to nurture each other, and to love God above all else. As I have travelled from remote village church to remote village church, this is what I’ve been told, and this is what I have seen being lived out by the members. I think they’ve got it. I did find one blogger (among many scholars, pastors, and denominations claiming to know the central message but getting it wrong) who seemed to understand. He wrote, “The command was (and is) to love one another. Jesus said that it is by having love that the world will know that we are His children. He went further by saying that if we use our gifts without love then it's like a clanging bell. Ouch!” Christ suffered and died for us but not before He taught, demonstrated, and lived out what He wanted us to do—to love, to forgive, to show caring, compassion, healing, and to feed, to clothe, and to be kind. That is the message of His that I carry in my heart and try to live out in my life. If I am wrong, I will happily die in being wrong if it is wrong to love, to forgive, to carry Christ in my heart, to teach, to heal, and to do the things that Christ taught in parables and in His life. Sadly, none of these things are the core element of any political parties, any nation’s diplomacy, any media outlet (it doesn’t sell ads or raise the numbers watching), and even more sadly, it is not the core of most denominations, bishops, pastors, and organizational structures within the Christian church. It is the core of most missionaries and missions. When you put people who truly love Christ and want to live like Him among the poor and helpless of the world, the centrality of Christ’s teachings are plainly evident. While many churches are woefully far from Christ’s main message, that doesn’t mean that there are not churches and many millions of members who are right on point. Mother Teresa had to fight the church to get her order of nuns certified to love the unlovable and to offer love, comfort, healing, and acceptance. There have been many others like her, maybe not as well known, but certainly living in the halo of Christ’s light. Christ, Himself, told us there would be a judgement and that we would be judged on how we loved and cared for one another. I believe Him. I love Him. I live for Him. I don’t need theologians to tell me what His message was or what I need to do to adopt it. This is one of those times when the direction and truth I need is crystal clear and available for all to read and see for themselves. It is made doubly believable by knowing others who truly live in imitation of Christ. We have some wonderful missionaries here who are returning to their home country to care for their ailing and aging parents. It is a great loss for those of us who look to them as inspiration and guides to holy living, but we wish them well and know that God’s love will surround them wherever they are. And we know that God will continue to bless each of us struggling here who loves and forgives first, and only worries about organizational things in their rightful places. What does Christ want us to do? To love. To forgive. To carry Him with us. To take care of the weak and defenseless, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked . . . well, I hope you get it. We truly believe that we do. We pray that it spreads wherever you are and changes hearts and minds. God bless each of you who tries to love and forgive as Christ called us to do. It is not always easy, but it is always right.