Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Realist

The difference between the world and the true believer in Jesus is sacrifice for others. 

The world has as their primary doctrine that they want it all, but it can’t hurt too badly.  Sure, they will send their sons off to war, and they will mortgage their house and rack up debt to go to school.  But all of this is on the blind hope that “it will all come out okay in the end.”  They will eventually pay off the mortgage.  They will get a great job to pay off school debts.  They will see their sons return from war.  It will all be okay.

            The Christian, frankly, is the greater realist.  Sons die in war.  School debts aren’t always repaid.  Houses are taken away.  Suffering is simply a part of this world, and if this world is all that there is, then there ain’t no justice.  The innocent really do spend their lives in prison.  Civilians really are the tragic victims of war.  The wealthy really do get more than they deserve.  Children really are the number one target of death.  That’s reality.

            The world can’t handle that, so they have to dress it up, make the facts more palatable.  Existentialism is finding the meaning of life in a life that is pointless, for no particular reason than that the other options aren’t acceptable.  The evening news tells us the hard facts—but not the hard facts that are really painful.  They tell us how many Americans died in Iraq today, but not how many Iraqis.  Not how many children died of AIDS today.  They celebrate the ball going down in Times Square, not grieving over the mass murder of drunken driving that same night.  Humans are a cowardly lot.

            But Jesus doesn’t endure cowardice.  He tells it like it is, and insists that we see reality as it is.  He tells us, “If you want to follow me, count the cost—and you will find that it is more than you want to pay.”  Sacrifice, he insists, is the only true way to gain the ultimate joy.  Cold hard facts.  The follower of Jesus is persecuted.  They lose their housing. They take up poverty. They are hated by many.  They get rejected by those whom they love. They get tortured, raped and killed.  This isn’t just some masochistic wishful thinking.  It’s reality.  And it’s ugly.

            Of course, the Christian repeats the mantra of “it will all come out okay in the end” as well.  But they don’t see “the end” as being in this life, this age of Orwellian self-deception, CEOs, push-button warfare, economic selfishness, celebrity rulers, blind nationalism, half-hearted bureaucratic welfare and immoral religionists.  The “all right” cannot be found in the midst of such a world system.  Rather “the end” is a matter of God’s making, God’s creation, after all this is over.

            And the only way to achieve this end is sacrifice.  Sacrifice of this world, this life, this false American hope.  Sacrifice of all our parents lived to give us.  Sacrifice of all the martial martyrs died to offer us.  To obtain God’s end, we must be anawim—rejects, outcasts, poverty-stricken fanatics.  We must be like Abraham.  We must be like Jesus.  Only then will we be able to walk in God’s presence and call it “home.” 

            The message of the whole Bible is that to receive God’s salvation, one must be anawim:

To obtain God’s security, one must be vulnerable.

            To obtain God’s wealth, one must be poor.

            To obtain God’s comfort, one must be suffering.

            To obtain God’s fellowship, one must be lonely.

            To obtain God’s utopia, one must first live in hell.

And for those of us who live pretty well, this means we have to give up an awful lot.  God’s eternal life means recognizing our good life and getting rid of it.

            To sacrifice, one might be called irresponsible and insane, like Abraham was.  To sacrifice, one might have to give up all that is good to accept all that is awful and shameful as the Son did when he became human.  To sacrifice, one might be accepting a life of what is unacceptable to those around us.  But it is all for that which is greater than we can now touch or see.  We will obtain the greater by surrendering the lesser.

How does one do this?  There are many ways, depending on who one rubs shoulders with, the lifestyle one lives.

One could be like Francis who would refuse to keep anything for himself, if it was lacked by any needy person he met.  Thus, he was given a coat, and he would pass it on to the first coatless person he met.

We could be like Philemon, who opened his house to whatever people in the church needed a place to live.

We could be like Dorothy Day, who wrote for the sake of the needy, published for only a penny and opened homes for the poor to live in until they got on their feet.

We could be like Jean Vanier , who created communities in which the developmentally disabled would choose to live with “abled” people who choose to live with them.  Or we could be like – who, as a famous spiritual author, chose to live in such a community.

We could be like Peter Waldo, who heard and obeyed Jesus’ clear statement to “sell your possessions and give to the poor” although his wealth was great, and then trained the poor to preach Jesus’ word, in opposition to the sermons of the wealthy pastors.

We could be like the hundreds of workers for Mennonite Central Committee, who gave up their professions to use their skills for the poor around the world at a minimal income.

We could be Shane Claiborne and his community who chose to live amongst the poor in Philadelphia, so the plight of the poor could be their plight.
We could live in community with the poor, like Viv Gregg or the many workers through InnerChange.

We could be like James and learn how to transform our church to be a place which is open to the vulnerability of the needy, giving honor to them above the honor we give to the wealthy, granting work and a fair wage to those who need it most.

We could be like Anawim Christian Community and create a space for the needy to worship and live and create their own solutions.

We could be like Blanchet Farms and create communities for the needy to work for themselves.

The possibilities are endless.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please no spam, ads or inappropriate language.