Jesus, The Poor and The G.O.P.

I have this rule, you don’t need to defend God because God is capable of defending himself. In practice this means that I generally don’t try to explain or rationalize difficult parts of God to people. I certainly do plenty of this in my own head, but never out loud and definitely never in public. I’m going to break my rule.

A few different places recently I’ve seen things that allude to the idea that if Jesus were walking the earth today he would only care for the poor in our society and disregard the politicians – particularly those of Republican leaning. I understand where this idea comes from. We like the idea of the liberator Jesus that comes to care for the disenfranchised and dispenses with the wicked oppressors. In the Gospels Jesus is the one who said, “blessed are the poor” and he took care of those marginalized (or worse) by society. It’s easy to like this Jesus, but it’s not the whole picture.

The Jesus of the Bible also shrugged of the idea that selling a bottle of fine perfume and giving the proceeds to the poor by saying, “For you will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me!” It was this same Jesus that invited himself over to a corrupt public official’s house for dinner. At another point Jesus said, “I came not to bring peace, but a sword”

When we focus Jesus entirely on the poor we miss Jesus. His mission on earth was not simply to the poor. Yes, taking care of the poor was a significant part of his ministry, but it wasn’t the whole thing. Jesus not only cared for the poor, but he spoke to power. He called them on their crap. He cared for the middle class. Jesus engaged the entire culture and if he were to walk the earth today, he’d do exactly the same thing.

From my perspective, if Jesus were to be physically walking the earth today, yes he’d be at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter helping those with next to (or less than) nothing. He would also be at the GOP and DNC headquarters calling them on their crap – since they both have plenty of it. He’d be pointing out the horrific nature of so much of our politics and helping to guide our politicians to a better way. That’s the thing about Jesus, other than that whole turning the tables at the temple thing, he wasn’t forceful about change. When he went to Zacchaeus’ house (the corrupt public official), it was his very presence that caused Zacchaeus to change his ways. Jesus didn’t guilt or lecture Zacchaeus into change.  Jesus’ care for the poor extended beyond simply caring for them directly but also to caring for those who had oppressed them in order to bring healing for all.

On a different, but similar, note, I was happy to see Pope Francis connect with both the poor and the highest political officials in the land this week. In both places he brought the same message, though in different ways. It was good and right for him to do this because this is the way of Christ. We would do good to follow his example if we can’t quite envision how Christ himself would do it.

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