a chilling reality has hit me of late.
I don’t necessarily want to indict the whole church of Jesus Christ, so I’ll just say that it’s what I’ve been conditioned to do: I think I live in self-defense.
And to be fair, it’s completely normal to do so. From an evolutionary standpoint, it’s natural to live in a way that preserves your life as much as possible. But the unfortunate truth is that I find this to be the case spiritually as well.
It’s just becoming hauntingly ostensible to me that I have a tendency to respond to circumstances and people in a way that is best for me, and often times, that’s the complete opposite of how Jesus would respond to someone.
For example, a homeless guy stops me on the street, asking if I can spare him any money or give him any food (or, in a lot of cases, they have a sign and they’re standing next to traffic.)
My thought process goes to what he’ll do with that money: he may buy drugs, he might be trying to get beer, he might buy cigarettes. What if he does something like that? Am I then enabling someone’s lifestyle? God forbid I do that.
But who am I really helping there? Even in the worst case scenario, let me follow this to its logical conclusion: let’s say I loan the guy money. He wastes it on drugs. Am I for drug use? No. But it’s not my money anymore. At the end of the day, God still pays my bills and I have food on my plate and a roof over my head. I’m provided for. He gets his drugs, but his using them doesn’t affect me, and unless he’s daft enough to tell me they’re for drugs, then I don’t know. But after I give him money, nothing’s on me. If he lied to me and he gets drugs, the lie is his problem and the drugs are his problem. Right? I’m not going to go to hell for aiding and abetting this guy for buying drugs – I didn’t know what I was doing.
I guess this one keeps popping up for me because nowadays I encounter more homeless people than I ever have before. And I know that it’s vulnerability to give – it’s risky. Who knows what they’re doing with that money? Maybe he’s NOT getting drugs – maybe he actually wants food.
But what good does it do me to keep it to myself? Am I so much better off because now I can get dinner at Chipotle instead of him getting a bite to eat? Will I sleep that much better at night thinking, “at least I didn’t enable someone getting drugs today!”
I just can’t help but think that sometimes the way we’re trained to respond is the complete wrong way.
Let’s talk about Ferguson a little bit. Not the actual shooting itself, let’s talk about the aftermath.
There seem to be two big sides to the argument: the people arguing that officer Wilson was a racist, this was profiling, there’s massive injustice to the African American community and that white privilege is prominent; and on the flip side are those arguing that officer Wilson was just doing his job and defending himself, that people should respect the police, and we should assume the best about people – concluding that officer Wilson wasn’t a racist.
Nobody. And nobody will.
Let’s talk about homosexuality a little bit – the hot-button issue of the culture at-large.
The LGBT advocates say that people should be allowed to love whoever they want, and as long as they’re not hurting anyone, how can their lifestyle be wrong? They talk about the struggles facing the LGBT community and how they’re marginalized and rejected. They talk about how God understands their situations, they claim God made them that way, and they say that if God were really loving, He wouldn’t consider their sexual orientation a sin.
The other camp (largely this seems to be evangelical Christians) rejects homosexuality completely. They say that it doesn’t matter whether or not it hurts anyone – it’s God’s law, so it’s wrong to oppose it. They talk about how people need to submit their sexuality to God, how it’s one thing if you really struggle with homosexuality but a whole other issue if you just accept it for what it is and fit God to your opinion and agenda. They say that God doesn’t make people gay (And they regurgitate age-old sayings like “it’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!”) and that God IS loving, but He doesn’t stand for their lifestyle.
Again, nobody wins.
And here’s where I get transparent: I tend to fall in the latter part of both arguments. I’ve found myself thinking that people are overblowing Ferguson. I’ve found myself forming weak opinions (that aren’t informed by any experience) that the oppression facing blacks isn’t as bad as they make it out to be. But how do I know?
I find myself thinking (and I unapologetically believe) that homosexuality is a sin. I hope that people struggle with it and don’t just accept it, the way that I (hopefully) struggle with pornography and lust and every type of sexual sin, fighting it tooth and nail, because realistically it’s all sexual sin.
But my problem is this: I always view things as an argument, and I always try to win.
I always serve myself in these situations.
A lot of issues seem to have a clear dividing line, and we end up choosing a side.
But you know who never seemed to choose a side?
When I think of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery – He didn’t side with the Pharisees and call the woman out on her sin, but He didn’t side with the woman either. He subtly said, “you’re ALL sinners, every one of you.” But that’s why He came.
See, as much as I try to self-preserve, Jesus never self-preserved. He couldn’t afford to. If Jesus were trying to win every battle He faced, He would have thrown His righteousness and His innocence in the faces of His accusers and He would have gone back to the right hand of the Father unscathed.
But Jesus always had a way of bringing a third, left-field perspective into every issue. It’s one that somehow treats both parties with a great deal of dignity, love, and respect. Jesus was a lot more gracious to both Pharisees as well as sinners than any of us are nowadays.
I want to learn how to see through bullshit the way Jesus did (‘crap’ doesn’t cut it here.) I want to be able to perceive people’s intentions and their motivations the way Jesus did. I want to start with myself – I want to locate and call out my reasons for trying to preserve myself and not take any risks. I want to know why I want to be right about the issues of race or sexual orientations. I want to uproot that. I want to know why it is that I get so pissed off when my roommate uses my body wash and doesn’t buy his own. I want to know why I get upset when people see God provide for them through the generosity of others when I have to work for the things I have.
See, I think this is another disadvantage facing Christians as Americans in a capitalist society – we are taught to believe that what you want, you earn; what you earn, you deserve; and what you deserve, you get. We want formulas. We want a set system that seems just to us, and we want to get ours and we want everyone else to get theirs.
But I’m convinced that the way God’s economy is set up is so foreign to that. God uses each other to meet the other’s needs.
I just want to learn how I can die to trying to be right all of the time – I want to learn to die to my human-formed concept of justice and learn what it’s like to live under Jesus’ concept of justice.
I want to change, but I don’t want to “progress,” I want to be more like Jesus.