Father, help me to receive your love for my neighbors, enemies and others easily, eagerly and with joy. Let me see your image in them so that I may better see it in myself. Let me be the vessel through which others find hope, strength, understanding, and support.
In Jesus’ name, amen.
I have to say, I have been on the wrong side of this debate from the start, including a change of sides. And I’m pretty sure most of you reading this have, too. That’s why it is so critical that you not just “read-along” with me, but that you actually get your hands on this book and read it for yourself. That said, let’s talk about this.
Pro- or Anti-? Both Are Wrong …
One of the most common, most volatile, most politicized talking points this past election season and for many years has been the “pro-life” vs. “pro-choice” argument. After reading this chapter, I think we’ve all been arguing with faulty language. None of us are truly “pro-life” or “pro-choice”. We’re just anti- … anti-abortion or anti-subjugation, and I don’t use that last word lightly.
Some (myself included) argue that “pro-life” is really just “pro-birth”. Our argument is based on statistics from polls, etc., that show most “anti-abortion” supporters also support defunding of or significant cuts to public assistance programs, organizations like Planned Parenthood, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, rolling back protections found in regulation of Education, Environment, and so much more. And you have to admit, the arguments from that camp are pretty demeaning, demoralizing, and just flat mean. In fact, in a lot of respects, they seem to be subjugating women, minorities, and so much more.
On the other hand, the “pro-life/birth” camp has a valid argument, too, at least on speaking for the unborn. And it’s based in scripture. Just like the “pro-choice” argument is.
That kind of hurts, doesn’t it? Does it mean the scriptures conflict? No. It means we’ve all be reading the scriptures that support our personal agenda/argument – we take them out of context. Sauls spends this chapter showing us what we’ve all been missing, especially where both God and Jesus stand and you’ll be surprised at their position versus yours.
Suffice it to say, we will all be weighed, measured and found wanting by the end of the chapter, and not just about abortion and public assistance programs, but about refugees, undocumented immigrants, and so many who fall in the “other” category, as Sauls points out:
“Whenever public figures give an inaugural speech, they will make sure that the speech emphasizes the agenda items that are most important and central to their future administrations. Jesus could not have been more clear in his inaugural speech about what would be central to his agenda. He was going to preach good news to the poor, set captives free, and liberate the oppressed.
Jesus went on to refer to himself as a physician and healer, and he spoke of Naaman the Syrian, a leper who had been cleansed in the days of the prophets.
But his listeners weren’t sick. And to them, lepers were cursed beings. Throwaways. Useless eaters. These religious men listening to Jesus preach did not understand. They were not sick or desperately poor. What was Jesus’ agenda all about? Their desire was not for cultural underdogs to be liberated, but rather for their privileged establishment to remain the privileged establishment. Their desire was to keep themselves clean from all the messiness involved in moving toward the sick, the poor, and those on the margins. Their desire was to keep themselves free from the costs and inconveniences of love.”
Re-read that quote, please. And then re-read it again and again and again, and each time you do, please substitute the name of some group that you are guilty of marginalizing for whatever reason with the words “leper” and “lepers”. Examples: Immigrants (of any kind), refugees, the poor, gays, various races, other faiths, women, pro-________ (whichever you aren’t), etc.
Even those we don’t like, don’t want, consider our enemies are to be loved by us as commanded by both God and by Jesus. Not asked. Not suggested … commanded. They are as created in His image as we are. They are as holy, as righteous, as beloved by God and Jesus as we are.
I could write more and expound on what Sauls has to say, but this time I am seriously going to not so gently push you to read for yourself, stop being so anti-the-other-position, and become pro-Christ on this one.
I do have one small objection to one statement Sauls made. At one point he says, “Poor conditions often breed poor choices.” As someone who has been there, done that, I wish Mr. Sauls had said “poor or desperate choices”. It would have made the statement far more personally true.
I do want to leave you with something special. This is a contemporary recording of an old hymn Mr. Sauls references in his closing paragraph. And we should all be learning and singing it.
Chapter Three is titled “Personal Faith or Institutional Church?”. My worldview and my world are already changing from the previous chapters. I think I may need a trip to the Army Surplus store to pick up a parachute and/or survival gear before I begin Chapter Three. I’m not sure where I’ll land, but I know I’ll be better for it.