Sunday, August 28, 2011

Jesus is a RADICAL

A lot of people still wonder how I can be a Bible-believing Christian and be politically "liberal," not to mention a Democrat. Frankly, I'm not sure how I couldn't be!

Today's Epistle lesson in Church, Romans 12:9-21 strikes me as a great patter for how to live your life. It also seems to be to be filled with progressive (aka liberal) values, like caring about others, being unselfish and offering dignity, respect, love and forgiveness to others, whether they deserve it or not. Sharing with those in need, showing genuine compassion and concern. Being humble, empathetic, non-judgmental and not being arrogant, controlling or greedy.

Last week I was trying to get my 8th graders to consider what respect means. It dawned on me that in many ways, it's synonymous with love. I remembered Cornell West's quote about how "justice is what love looks like in public."

Romans 12:21 especially reminds me of  what Martin Luther King said, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."

Jesus' teaching in Matthew 5 to "love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you," is radically different than what the world practices.

It's radically different than what we assume is normal, natural or "right." It's counter-intuitive, you might even say it's "counter-cultural."

And as critical, controversial or divisive as it may be to say this- I believe that it's radically different than what the religious-right, conservative-Christians, Republican  and Tea-Parties tend to represent. My perception is that they hold to an authoritarian, insensitive, fear-based, anger-stoking, greed-perpetuating, sort of Machiavellianism.

Mind you, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God (Psalm 20:7)." So I don't recommend making the Democratic Party into your religion or trusting it as a steadfast refuge either, after all from 1864-1964 they were the party of Jim Crow injustice.

Seriously, I think that is the United States used Romans 12:20 as a foreign policy doctrine, perhaps we'd have fewer enemies. We'd have a Marshall Plan in the Middle East instead of counter insurgency and counter-terrorism programs.

Not-so seriously, if Republicans used verse 20 as a political strategy, the poor would be fed in America and they'd be paying gay couples to get married!

At any rate, I just feel like Romans 12:9-21 is some of the most beautiful explanation of what God hopes for His children. This passage fleshes-out what is encapsulated in Micah 6:8, "what... does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

Here is Romans 12:9-21 from the NIV, but I took the liberty to remove the verse numbers and hit "return" a few times so that you can read it like poetry, because it deserves to be seen like poetry.

Love must be sincere. 
Hate what is evil; 
cling to what is good.

Be devoted to one another in love. 
Honor one another above yourselves.

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. 
Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; 
bless and do not curse.
Rejoice with those who rejoice; 
mourn with those who mourn.

Live in harmony with one another. 
Do not be proud, 
but be willing to associate with people of low position. 
Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. 

Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
If it is possible, 
as far as it depends on you, 
live at peace with everyone.

Do not take revenge, 
my dear friends, 
but leave room for God’s wrath, 
for it is written: 
“It is mine to avenge; 
I will repay,”says the Lord. 

On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry,
 feed him;
if he is thirsty, 
give him something to drink.
In doing this,
 you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, 
but overcome evil with good.

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