The Opening of a Political Season & The Poor
Its that time of the political cycle again…the time when the political campaigns start churning. The slashing and bashing has begun and now we wait a year until the fittest comes out on top in the polls. It is a time where our identities as Americans very quickly become wrapped up in what party we are either part of or against. Unfortunately it seems that our identities as Christians easily gets wrapped up this same way.
A request as we enter this next polling season – can we all commit to following Jesus rather than parties this time around? And as we do so, can we commit to seeking God’s heart for the poor and those for whom injustice takes it’s toll, rather than just heatedly doing politics?
I find the politicization of the Poor hard to swallow. As a Church we are split down the middle as certainly as we are split politically down the middle. However, I wonder if for some of us our politics have begun to shape our theologies rather than our theologies shaping our political views. These political divides have left us divided as a Church into 2 camps (at least) which at times resorts to name calling and mud slinging. Every time we come into a heated political time there will certainly be those who start to accuse others of not being Christian because their views do not shape up with someone else’s political views and therefore the way they do theology.
When we get to this point in the division, we have failed as followers of Jesus. We have moved into a self-centered mode that at times is ruled by pride and greed and other times ruled by fear. This leaves us unable to follow Jesus’ example of love towards even our enemies. We’re not talking about discussing issues or trying to get God’s heart when it gets to this point. Rather, we end up throwing mud at our own Brothers and Sisters in Jesus while claiming His Name and His perspective on issues. Politics ends up winning out over our family in The Lord. At the end of the day, which really is more important?
Can we please move beyond all of this in this coming election cycle and keep those who live on the fringes in view?
Here are some thoughts about keeping the poor in view no matter what party affiliation we belong to:
1. God calls us as His followers to care for the poor. From cover to cover God shows His heart for the poor, and calls us as His followers to care for the poor. Wherever we land on policy issues, personally there is a responsibility that God put on us as His people “blessed to be a blessing” to then use that place of blessing as a place to release oppression, bring justice and show mercy.
2. Poverty can have a systemic cause. There are government, social, racial, institutional, status and educational injustices that leave many impoverished in a generational cycle. We have a responsibility to step in and break injustice.
3. Poverty can have a personal cause to it. There are times where a person’s brokenness leads them to act in ways that keeps them impoverished. We have a responsibility to love them and show mercy in the spirit of Jesus, while also assisting them in walking toward wholeness.
4. No matter what government does, The Church has the capacity & responsibility to make caring for The Poor a priority. Throughout history this has been The Church’s finest hour as we cared for the Poor, the Powerless and the Voiceless and demonstrated mercy and justice when no one else did. There are thousands who who have stood as a prophetic voice on behalf of the voiceless and vulnerable even when no one else cared.
5. As Jesus followers this is not an issue of politics, rather this is a question of sacrifice. This is about our allegiance to The King and His Kingdom, rather than the way politics bolsters our personal kingdoms. To truly care about The Voiceless and Vulnerable comes at great cost – Everything. In these moments The Church can again be the countercultural force that it was meant to be. This is the true place of power for The Church – to be in the place of caring for the powerless.
So, this time around can we agree to disagree. Can we agree to truly listen in a spirit of love as Jesus would want us to? Can we agree to be Jesus followers, following The King and caring about The Voiceless and Vulnerable enough that we don’t get mired down in the politics of it? Could we turn our hearts and minds to being about those whom Jesus’ hung out with, cared for, healed, set free and extended a full life to…and not simply make them a politicized issue?
Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be expounding a bit more on these 5 areas.
For now, consider these words of St. Augustine
“That bread which you keep belongs to the hungry; that coat which you preserve in your wardrobe, to the naked; those shoes which are rotting in your possession, to the shoeless; that gold which you have hidden in the ground, to the needy. Wherefore, as often as you are able to help others, and refuse, so often did you do them wrong.”