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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Following The One We Call the Christ

There are not many things about which I consider myself an expert. I took economic and political theory classes in college and I think I have a pretty good working knowledge of how that fits into current events, informs my voting decisions, and impacts my general outlook on life. But, it is not my area of expertise either educationally or vocationally, so I try not to pontificate on such matters over much. It's good to know one's limitations.

On the other hand, I did study theology quite a bit and did a 10-year stint as a pastor and another 6 as a theology teacher, so that is an area where I feel like I have a bit better footing, as it were.

The reason for this little preface is that what I am about to say comes from my knowledge and understanding of who Jesus is, what he teaches, and what it means, so far as I can tell, to claim to be a follower of this one that we Christians call the Christ. It is not, conversely, a political plan or policy, so, I'm fine about being taken to task if I have misunderstood something about Jesus or the Good News, but if you tell me that my politics are a bit janky, the best I can say is that I may have to agree with you since, as was already noted, that's not my particular gig.

So, here are the things that I know about Jesus:

1) Just before he was born, Mary and Joseph traveled a great distance and arrived at their destination tired and without anywhere to stay.

2) Just after he was born, he, Mary, and Joseph (according to one Gospel narrative) fled to Egypt as refugees in order to ensure his safety.

3) He said that all of the law and the prophets (so, essentially, the better portion of the Hebrew Scriptures) can be summed up like this: Love G-d and love your neighbor. When pressed for a definition of "neighbor," he used as an example someone who would have not only been considered the least of the least, but an actual enemy of those to whom he was speaking.

4) Many of his followers believed him to be the Messiah and they therefore thought that meant he would do politically what they wanted him to do. He did not. It wasn't that he was apolitical, because he definitely reached out to the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized ... but he didn't try to overthrow the Romans, or set up his own power structure, or even to keep the Jewish people safe by political means.

5) He said that if we want to be disciples that we need to follow him and he said that whatever we do for the least among us, we do for him. He also mentioned that what we are not willing to do for one another, it is as though we are unwilling to do it for him.

6) He told his disciples to not be afraid. He promised to be with them and with us always. And, he went to the cross.

Now, there is a lot of stuff that we don't know about Jesus' life and quite a bit that he never said anything at all about. Of those matters we have to speculate, interpret, wonder. There is some biblical study and theological work that can be difficult because of that. Clearly, that's why theological types get paid the big bucks ... or not.

But the stuff listed above, it's pretty clear cut. We can disagree. We can not like it. We can think it is silly or naive or impractical or whatever. But we can't get around the fact that Jesus either said or did it, if we give any credence to the biblical account at all.

And, in the end, I guess that's why I felt the need to remind myself of these six tidbits. I don't claim to know the answers to the world's problems. I do not fancy myself as either a political or an economic theorist. Shoot, most days I'm lucky to make it through to bed time. But it seems to me that those of us who claim to follow this Christ need to be honest about how we're doing that.

If the way of life that he calls us to live is not to our liking ... if we find it impractical, implausible, or otherwise unsatisfactory, I suppose that is okay. We all have to choose which paths we will follow. But, then, let's be honest about it. Let's not preface our political, social, or economic commentary with "as a Christian" and then say or do something that can in no way be reconciled with what the one we claim to follow taught or did.

And, if it is vitally important to us to self-identify as Christians, as followers of Jesus the Christ, then let's really follow, let's at least try to live and teach and speak and love as Jesus did.

It could be that simple.