“Then the King will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.'” (Matthew 25: 40 CEB).
Have you read your Bible lately? Have you read one of the Gospels lately? I’m honestly curious about this. As Christians, we all have some kind of belief that the Bible is the word of God. Some of us believe that it was literally dictated to the human authors, some of us believe that it was an inspired work of human hands, but we’re all supposed to take it pretty seriously, right? Then when we read the actual words of Jesus, we’re REALLY supposed to sit up and take notice.
I’m just wondering because it seems like the Bible has a lot to say about some of the current things that are going on in the United States. I’m actually pretty proud of the way most Christians have taken a stand on one issue, and not so much the other.
Recently the President announced his decision to end an Obama-era rule that allowed people who were brought to the USA illegally as children to stay under certain circumstances. These kids are collectively known as “dreamers.” Let’s be clear about this. These people did not choose to come here in the fashion in which they did. Many of them came at such young ages that they have no knowledge of their native country. I picture them a lot like my sister, who we adopted from India at age 7. She likes Indian food, but she really has no recollection of Indian culture. Several years ago she went to India to visit her native country. It didn’t really click for her. She’s an American, she has been for nearly 30 years.
The Bible is of course pretty clear on how immigrants should be treated, from Leviticus 19:34:
Any immigrant who lives with you must be treated as if they were one of your citizens. You must love them as yourself, because you were immigrants in the land of Egypt.
This command is repeated several times in the Old Testament and echoes through the New Testament as well. The statement isn’t qualified either. It doesn’t say that you only act this way if….followed by conditions. You just do it. The oppression that Israel suffered in Egypt was so grave that this command became, and still is, a part of Jewish identity. Few peoples have suffered like the Jews in our history, yet they continue to practice this command today.
Many Christians do too. I was actually heartened by the response of the vast majority of the Christian community on this. Many different churches and religious leaders spoke up against this and said that we need to make a law that allows these young men and women to stay. It’s helping, too. This last Sunday at church we received a very good report from some faith leaders who met with some of our congressional delegation who said that they believe there is enough momentum on both sides of aisle in Washington to fix this. I hope that it’s true. Then I hope that it can lead to comprehensive immigration reform.
But then there’s this other issue. Senator Bernie Sanders is introducing a single payer healthcare bill into the US Senate. Now I don’t hold out hope for this, but so many people need it. This isn’t an issue of being able to afford it either. This country is the richest country ever to grace the face of the earth. We can afford it. Maybe we build a few less bombs. Maybe we realign our budget priorities a bit.
This was definitely a priority for Jesus. I was skimming the opening chapters of Mark’s gospel before I started writing this and it’s just chuck full of stories of Jesus healing people. It was one of the bedrocks of his ministry. He rejected the way the world values the lives of sick people and poor people and put them and their needs first. As my pastor says: “If you take the priorities of the world and turn them totally upside down, you end up with something that’s a lot closer to the priorities of Jesus and His Kingdom.”
However, many in the Christian community have not gotten behind this at all. I’m not sure why. Jesus seems pretty clear on this. Some will inevitably say that “Jesus would never direct us to give up what we’ve earned to poor people!” Well, I think the rich young ruler might disagree (Mark 10: 17-31). When Jesus directs the rich man to do just that, the Scripture says:
But the man was dismayed at this statement and went away saddened, because he had many possessions.
I think a lot of us are in that place. We have been so blessed with abundance that we can’t see beyond it. I know I can be that way. Even though we may not be wealthy by American standards, we’re really wealthy by the standard of the rest of the world, thus I believe that these words of Jesus are directed at us as well:
Looking around, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘It will be very hard for the wealthy to enter God’s Kingdom!’
Yet not all Christians ignore this edict. This is why I am proud to be a United Methodist. We certainly have our own issues, but I love the position the church puts forth on this issue. From The Book of Discipline, 2016 edition, in the Social Principles (Paragraph 162 V)
We believe it is a governmental responsibility to provide all citizens with health care. We encourage hospitals, physicians, and medical clinics to provide primary health care to all people regardless of their health care coverage or their ability to pay for treatment.
Sounds like a good, Christian statement, and I support it 100%. I don’t support it because I’m a democrat, though I am. I don’t support it because I want to stick it to the rich folks. I don’t support it because it would be a “victory” for my “side,” I support it because it will do the most good for the most people. I also support it because I try to follow the example set before me by the Son of the Living God.
So you see, neither of these issues are a political thing for me.
They’re a Jesus thing.