Tuesday, May 5, 2015

#DailyProverbs 2015_0505: Choosing Love Over Privilege

The church cannot afford to wait any longer for many of the phobias and "-isms" of our history to fade. The bottom line is that people are tired of being mistreated. People are exhausted from the abuse. And, sadly, the church has grown cold and selfish in hoarding grace and has, essentially, done away with extending mercy to those in need of Christ. I have never once read an example of scripture where the early church body stayed in buildings and waited for people in need to come to them. I have never once read an example of where Jesus didn't meet those in need where THEY were and not where they SHOULD be, or where they were judge to have been lacking. Even the disciples tried to shoo away those that would become the greatest examples of faith and restoration.

Most well-known conservative Christians, or "christianist pundits" would rather wait for the 24 news cycle to fade than dispense mercy to someone in need. If you slay someone's character for a mistake on the news, or your show, and you don't act as a minister of reconciliation, how am I to assume you understand love from God, and the grace that extends to us all. And so many Christians these days are talking about having their rights trampled and how they are the subject of attack and denigration; but I am here to say that if you truly follow Jesus... what did you expect? Jesus doesn't "fit" in this world. Following the true teachings of Christ will never be "in fashion" in a conservative, capitalistic country will focus on the bottom line. Jesus isn't about a bottom line; He is about a life line. Your rejection by others and your abuse at the hands of those that decry your faith is part prophesy fulfillment and part test. You will be despised and ridiculed for the sake of the name of Jesus. Period. Nowhere in scripture does it say that you'll take up arms, bring politics into the body, rebut this abuse, and subsequently form a super PAC that legislates morality or a majority vote for your continued economic monopoly. Scripture paints a vastly different picture.
Matthew 5:38-48: "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But now I tell you: do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, let him slap your left cheek, too. And if someone takes you to court to sue you for your shirt, let him have your coat as well. And if one of the occupation troops forces you to carry his pack one mile, carry it two miles. When someone asks you for something, give it to him; when someone wants to borrow something, lend it to him.""You have heard that it was said, 'Love your friends, hate your enemies.' But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may become the children of your Father in Heaven. For He makes the sun to shine on bad and good people alike, and gives rain to those who do good and to those who do evil. Why should God reward you if you love only the people who love you? Even the tax collectors do that! And if you speak only to your friends, have you done anything out of the ordinary? Even the pagans do that! You must be perfect - just as your father in Heaven is perfect."
We openly talk so much of our "freedom" and our "rights" these days when what we mean is privilege. We want our way. We want no opposition. We want to be the majority. We want to be comfortable in our position of leadership. We want everyone to understand us. We don't want to be questioned. We want to be agreed with, but, that's not realistic. And it's not scriptural. And it's not going to happen... so why rail and fight against something that, in the end, makes YOU the sinner when you behave badly and trample the cross. 

We talk so much of our "rights," yet the attention given to human entitlements has not brought about collective or individual freedom. Instead, it's splintered and divided humanity into selfish and jealous groups. Intersectionality is a word thrown around to get groups of disenfranchised people to work together, collectively... but what has happened is a competition for whose rights can be won first, a race for whose equality can come sooner. If you make two steps forward... then why didn't you include my special group, too? You can't be a white feminist and still understand the struggle of a woman of color. You can't be black and not make fun of white fragility and privilege. This halts the conversation and this endangers the peace of mind and personal growth of many on ALL sides of the issues at hand. This is not the way. This isn't how it should be. 

It's a sad fact that the exhaustion that comes with social activism makes most people "periodic" activists. I have friends that do it for cycles or periods of time and then they need a rest. They need a sabbatical and to come to terms with "self-care." The heightened emotions, learning, and being told example after example of abuse, and just... the evil that people can do is draining. It's emotionally crippling. You want people to act right. And each group and person and story has a POINT and has a valid voice and reason to exist... but the truth is that most people end up being prisoners of jealousy. They are jealous of one groups "greater" rights. 

These people... these souls... become prisoners of greed. In their minds, they deserve more, and "more" becomes "never enough." Christians have moved from the message of salvation to one of legislation. Abortion, gay marriage, racism, 1%, tax breaks... these are not the arenas in which Christ dwells. And you can't campaign, and fight, and legislate a clear "winner" in these issues. If you always set a finish line in your head that when THIS law changes or when I GET this exact same right, then you are done... but that's not how it goes. Then there is another finish line, and it moves again, and again.

For example, every "christian" will tell you that you can't be a champion of women's reproductive rights AND a "real" Christian, right? You can't counsel someone that you feel abortion is wrong, if you still think the choice should be legal, safe, and sane, correct? In truth and full disclosure, I am anti-abortion, but I am pro-choice. How can this be, Michael? Well, because I think it's insane for anyone that isn't a woman to think they'll ever be put in the position to need an abortion, or to have to make choices that are unconscionable, or to need to have safe alternatives. We, as men, are not hardwired to think anything other than we can do what we want. We'll never be in the position to be told, legally, that we need permission to do something with our own body.

Gay marriage is a another great example. The word mostly used is equality, but what's really being wanted is "fairness." Fair doesn't come to everyone. But everyone is equal and should be protected legally. Unfairly, in the fight for equality, is that it's mostly white lesbians and dual-income GWM that will benefit from the tax privileges and the ability to say the word "marriage." This causes a lot of division in other groups that think marriage equality being the "cause du jour" and "face of equality" is ridiculous. What does a pair of well-to-do white folks have to do with the struggles and day to day life of a young, black, trans woman that just needs to not be kicked out of housing, or be fired from a job? She just wants the right to exist and live. She's not worried about tax breaks when her 1040EZ doesn't even get to make deductions. Is life "fair" for her? Likely not. Poverty is an unfair cycle of suck for most people of ANY color. Does it mean that the happy well off white couples doesn't care about her? No, not likely. I mean, it's not like they are taking an active role in her struggle, but they likely "care" and even make donations to causes, etc. Does it mean that she doesn't care about them? No, she likely does. But some people are always going to have tunnel vision for their own cause, because that is what is affecting them immediately. Does that mean you don't care?? No. You, too, have your own cause. Does a Christian have the ability to love and support gay people, even if you don't understand it or believe in the cause or morality of a thing? You better believe it. You can love and support someone and not believe something they do is right. You can believe in their cause OR not believe in it. That doesn't mean you don't love, care, support, and pray for them. Human compassion, love, and hoping that people don't get mistreated are what Christ would do. Finding some common well to talk at, searching out the humanity in someone and not reducing them to a body, or a sexual compulsion, or a sin and showing Jesus... that's where the difference is. Most gay people are stereotyped as hedonists that cannot control their impulses. Well, if that's true, then how do you expect someone to not be promiscuous if you only ever tell them that the sum of their being is based on a sexual choice? Their worth becomes an extension of sexual choice, sexual desirability, and their existence begins to cycle around ways to couple that into a justified way of life. How do you expect a gay man to find Christ if you tell him Christ will never love him, as is. The woman at the well was promiscuous, adulterous, and then some - and yet... she's an example of thirsting for God and finding peace. Did you forget that Christ died for all, as they were? You don't change to come to Christ. Your experience, the repentance, the water baptism... those bring about a new creature that is changed in love and shows the love of Christ.

Why do you think that black men are so angry? If you can even categorize a group and make a nearly-racist-blanket-statement like that. Consider that maybe being black and seeing so many young black men disparately sentenced into corporate for-profit prisons for crimes less than those of other races that get no jail time. Or that's if they are lucky. Most are killed or abused. It would even be nice if white frailty would stop saying the phrases when a black man is gunned down that "blacks kill them, too." Or vilify the victim, bringing to light every past mistake, to justify passing a death sentence without due process or even a jury of peers. Yes, weed means he should have been shot. Yes, running away in fear means he should have died. Sigh. That's a soul that will never repent or change now. We white folks claiming to be all about Jesus get really upset and boycott places that say "Happy Holidays" instead of exactly what we want for Christmas. Yes, really. We get all up in arms over a word, or something petty... but we want to stay out of it when it comes to saving lives. I mean... it's pretty one-sided as far as the offense goes. Or, consider that the fact they are legislatively forced out of black homes may be a justifiable reason for anger. Maybe the fact that if you, as a black man, reside in the home of your wife or girlfriend, she can't get public assistance for the babies she was forced to have, some of which likely came from sexual assault if statistics are true. People are legislating the family and core values of a nuclear core of family away. (Some white person just rolled their eyes and said "get a job.") That'd be easier if you had a white-sounding name, and no previous record because you chose to resist being beaten down in a traffic stop because your music choices were considered wrong, or your car was too new for your color.

When did we, as Christians, begin to think that we could tell others how to live, behave and then find ways to politicize that? I get that not all Christians do this... but it is seeming like more and more of the sane, normal "Christians" I knew are moving further away from scripture and focusing on the love of God, to a religion of political capital and conservatism as a tenant of faith. The message of Jesus was clear: radical love and escorting both religious and social change through BEING changed. When you have an experience with Jesus, your walk changes. Your talk changes. Your ability to forgive and move on changes. Your ability to love beyond yourself changes.

Christians, watch out for bitterness. Be so careful... you can read the above, you can watch the news, and see your news feeds. You will feel entitled to judge. You will feel like you are above others. You will want to find a reason to feel violated. But be so careful. You will start to hang on every word, looking for offense. We are IN this world, but we are not OF it. Stop acting like you don't speak the language, stop acting like you are so offended and roll up your sleeves and HELP others know the same freedom and life in Christ. I know many white people that will, ignorantly, never learn the difference between racism and bigotry. They will use misnomers like "reverse racism" and show their overt privilege in doing so. And they will say that indiscriminately and call other white people racist, or self-hating, for not believing in it. They will leave the race conversation, heatedly and early, because it becomes uncomfortable and they will alienate and harm souls in the process. To what end? Who do you bring to Christ by making skin and culture an issue? It will have an effect, but not the one you are thinking: It will cause black people to be so sensitive to every word then, and the stress and emotional duress that comes with evaluating everything's meaning is life-draining. It also creates so much further division and a splintered group on how to say AA, black, of color, or light, bright, almost-white... Throw in LatinoHispanicAsian... and the Anglo-euro distinctions and suddenly everyone feels that they must be distinctly called out, represented, and "respected." Majority, minority, powerful, powerless, special interest, or even those that have a tenuous grasp on the power they have left in their final generation of rule... they all feel violated and hurt and somehow "marginalized." To quote Dreamgirls... "Effie, we ALL got pain." And we do, so tell someone what power in the name of Jesus can do vs. helping to define yet another point of separation. If we are in Christ, there is NO difference. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ. There is neither Jew, nor Greek, nor Gentile. There is no Moor, Highlander, or Saxon. There is no Republican, or Democrat, or conservative, or Liberal. There is no black, no white, no male, no female... We are all one in God. So, why are we, as Christians so determined to show off the differences and not proclaim the wonder of what the power of  living God can do to a soul that was in distress? 
1 Thessalonians 5:12-18: "We beg you, our friends, to pay proper respect to those who work among you, who guide and instruct you in the Christian life. Treat them with the greatest respect and love because of the work they do. Be at peace among yourselves. We urge you, our friends, to warn the idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that no one pays back wrong for wrong, but at all times make it your aim to do good to one another and to all people. Be joyful always, pray at all times, be thankful in all circumstances. This is what God wants from you in your life in union with Christ Jesus."
Instead of focusing on the privileges we feel that are "due" to us, we should take the biblical perspective of loving enemies and forgiving persecutors (Matt. 5:44). Believers must lay down what they consider their rights and privileges so they can take up the cause of a holy kingdom. That doesn't mean that we let people trample on us. Rather, we offer a proper response according to biblical principles. In short, true followers of Jesus Christ, according to scripture, should be more concerned about showing God’s LOVE to those who do wrong than about demanding their rights and enforcing a legislative cap on other groups that don't follow or believe the same. You will never legislate the love of God into someone's heart; but you can humble yourself and show the true power of the servant-hood of Jesus.
Some of you are thinking, "Who is this guy? He has NO idea about black people, or the struggle of women, or how it feels to be in a marginalized group of trans people. Hdoesn't know how I've been mistreated. He doesn't know MY story." Indeed, I do NOT. But what I do know is how Jesus Christ, our example, reacted to terrible atrocities and abuse. I do know that no matter what you've gone through, Jesus loves you. I know that no matter whether or not yo and I agree on the morality, or spirituality of a situation, that I don't hate you and I love you. I do know that Jesus lived his life as our very road map that we were to follow. I know that if I am to be able to honestly claim that I'm a Christian, I have to be willing to go through the same things as the Christ. He was betrayed by His friends, persecuted by His people, condemned by His peers, and crucified for our sins. Yet He said, “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34).
Can we do that? Can I do that? Can you do that? Before assuming that Jesus’ capacity for forgiveness and love is out of reach for you and me, as mere human beings, remember: the Holy Ghost dwells in believers. We can choose to believe that, and LIVE that. Or we can throw away one of the greatest spiritual gifts ever given: LOVE.
Luke 6:29 says to turn the other cheek and give up more than is asked because expressing love, expecting fairness, and being an example all outweigh exerting our "rights" or even our "privilege." 

If you never read this whole thing, if you never learn from my mistakes in my past, if you never really grasp any of this... get THIS: You simply cannot lose when you show others the boundless, and endless love of the Lord. You gain His blessing. He supports and defends you in this, and essentially, and most importantly, someone will hopefully be saved because of your example.

In Christ,
#JustBeingMichael ツ