Monday, March 4, 2013

A Lenten Reflection for March 4, 2013

For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly one with another, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, then I will dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your ancestors forever and ever. (Jeremiah 7:5-7)

People sometimes have a difficult time distinguishing between their religion and their nation. Nations, by design, operate out of self-interest. Religion typically has a different agenda.

I’ve heard people demand of the US what is demanded of Jesus’ followers. As much Christian influence as there continues to be here, the nation of America is not the people of God. That’s true of all nations.

But we who follow Jesus have, I think, a two-fold role in our respective countries. First, to serve as elders at the gate, so to speak, asking national leaders to act justly, wisely, and compassionately. It won’t do for us to simply embrace a preferred political agenda, baptize it as the Christian way, and then denounce all opponents. We must bring more to table than that.

Second, our role is to be the kind of people that God calls us to be. Regardless of the nation’s response to the alien, the orphan, the widow, and the innocent, we must care for them and not oppress them. Whether we are citizens of the US, the UK, China, or Venezuela, we are called first of all to be God’s people for the sake of the world. Our civic responsibility has to rise from that identity. If it happens the other way around, then we just might try to clothe Jesus in the garb of our political party.

I once heard Pastor Bill Hybels (of Willow Creek Church) say that he knows when he is in vital relationship with Christ, because that is when he has a heart for the poor. When he quits caring, then he realizes that something is amiss in his journey of faith. I’ve always appreciated that honesty, and have had to check my own heart along the way. When I quit caring for the people around me then something has gone wrong. When the poor and needy become abstract concepts or only shadowy presences at freeway offramps, then I need to look around and see where Jesus has gone. More to the point, I need to see where I have gone.

“Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.” (Psalm 80:7)

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