Sometimes, I find myself wishing Jesus would come to earth for a few days and clear some things up.
He could probably settle a lot of the confusion that swirls around him.
It would be interesting to see how he looked, and what he would say about pictures that have him with that long brown hair.
But mostly, it would be interesting to get his take on what he reportedly said.
This little diatribe comes on heels of my reading a comment on a blog, “Unedited Politics,” which had put President Obama’s recent speech at the National Prayer Breakfast on his site. One of the comments said something to the effect that Jesus wanted individuals to help poor people, that “social justice makes Christians lazy.”
The person who made the comment referred to the Biblical passage found in three of the Gospels, where Jesus says to people around him, in response to their ire at a woman anointing his feet with some very expensive oil, that “the poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.” That passage is found in Matthew and John as well.
Someone had apparently lifted that passage of scripture as proof that Jesus is a supporter of social justice, i.e., societies helping the poor, and the writer of the comment took issue, lifting up the “social justice makes Christians lazy” jewel.
That comment has bothered me all day. It reminded me of how the late Strom Thurmond once said, in acknowledging that Jesus advised us to help and love our neighbors, that Jesus would certainly allow us to “choose our neighbors.”
I know from having studied how the words of the Bible have been manipulated in order to keep certain power relationships intact – meaning the Bible’s words have been used to justify sexism, racism, militarism.
But Jesus’ words seem so…obvious. How is it that anyone could think that the words of Jesus do not mandate us to engage in social justice, to take care of each other, the “least of these,” as he said in the Gospel of Matthew?
The late Derrick Bell writes, in Faces at the Bottom of the Well, that racism is permanent, that it will never go away. That is a sad and sobering thought, but if the words of the One who was sent to teach us about the love of God cannot or are not interpreted uniformly, perhaps Bell is right.
I guess it makes no difference that people in the Bible were always under some kind of oppression, so a mandate for social justice would make sense. From the beginning, there was always a “we” and a “them;” oppressors included the Egyptians, the Assyrians, Babylonians,Persians, Greeks and finally, the Romans. In times of prosperity, the people of God would forget their God and go after the pagan gods, trying their best to fit into that society. Always, the oppressors would take economic advantage of the oppressed, but the oppressed, instead of turning back toward the the Hebrew god who had led them through the wilderness, would turn toward those whom they could see and aspire to be like them.
It spelled disaster for God’s people, if the Bible is to be believed.
I have heard people reject what seems to be a god who turned away from his people because of their apostasy, but goodness, is anything in the Bible sacred, beyond convenient translation and interpretation?
If a person can interpret the words of Jesus in such a way that would make social justice not a central part of Jesus’ message, then what is sacred? What WOULD Jesus say?
I wish he’d come for a visit, if just for a few days.
A candid observation …