They’ll know we are Christians by our … hate???
I confess . . . I hate election years. They seem to bring out the worst in Americans, and seldom bring out the best in any of us. In 1966, Peter Scholtes wrote one of my favorite worship songs, “They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love.” That song is based on the instructions that Jesus gave his disciples, or followers, on the night he was betrayed and arrested, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35 NRSV)
Even the most casual observers, listening to or reading about, the candidates for public office in the United States, would come to the conclusion that they are anything but Christian, or followers of Jesus. I’m a big believer in separation of church and state; in fact, that’s what freedom of religion really means: no state church, and no church state. What troubles me is that so many of the candidates claim to be Jesus-followers, and then turn right around and show that they are anything but Jesus-followers; by what they say and how they treat each other . . . especially their opponents.
That’s what freedom of religion really means: no state church, and no church state.
This is especially true of the Conservatives, the so-called religious right, which takes the Greek word for gospel: “evangelical,” capitalizes it, and lays claim to being the only true Christians. Richard Rohr calls this movement away from the reality of the Christian Gospel “an embarrassment for American Christianity.” A much more honest name for them as they relate to the Jesus of the Bible would be “Neo-Pharisees.” Jesus roundly condemned the Pharisees for self-righteousness.
The liberal left, the Progressives, don’t get off the hook either. They claim to be non-religious, yet they are religiously devoted to their social causes. William Willimon calls it “the imperialism of liberalism’s sweeping embrace.” They are zealots about their favorite cause. Maybe we should call them “Neo-Zealots.” Jesus refused to join the cause of the Jewish Zealots.
Jesus always leads by example. Jesus never asks his followers to do something he is unwilling to do. He loves others, all others; and he holds himself and his followers accountable for loving others, all others; even those who want to kill him.
Jesus loves others, all others; and he holds himself and his followers accountable for loving others, all others; even those who want to kill him.
So, this year, as the candidates do everything possible to get your vote and become one of your leaders; spend some time re-reading the “red letters” (what Jesus actually said as opposed to what others said about Jesus) in the Bible books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; and ask yourself, “Who would Jesus vote for?”