Yes, children, there was a time, long ago and far away, when Christians, or those of any faith, maybe even no faith at all, cared for, stood up for and lived out compassion, generosity and even sacrifice for the larger good.
It was not, as now, a joke to care for others, even strangers. It was not a punchline or a political throwaway line to mock those who cared for the earth, the disabled, people not like them, future generations or even one’s own health.
You could make the argument that many people, even those of faith, do care only for themselves. But now, it seems, they don’t even do that.
The whole idea of “caring” is seen as weakness, and nothing in an era like ours invites attack – verbal or physical – more than even a hint of vulnerability.
Sacrifice is for fools. My rights are more important than anyone or anything else. These are the guiding principles of 2020.
There is nowhere to go from here.
At least in that direction.
A calm, clear, barely noticeable voice calls us back.
Back to God, back to our own humanity, and back to the community that desperately needs us.
Once there was a time when a community in pain was an invitation to heal, restore, and revive. Go advocate for, not fear or arm one’s self against. There was once a community who lived, and believed, as Jesus did, that our gift, our destiny, and our place in the world was to heal and lift up, to reach out, to be a companion and hope to those lost and forsaken – not to forsake them even more. Could any of us even imagine a belief system that inspired us to wash the feet of the poor – instead of washing our hands of their pain? Could we even begin to picture a life or a community where, as St. Francis put it, the afflicted are comforted and the comfortable are afflicted?
In our system (though few would put it into words), those who are afflicted, the homeless, the refugees, the cast out and vulnerable for some reason warrant even more abuse and discrimination.
And those who are comfortable and write the laws, deserve even more. Such is history and human nature you might say; the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
It’s a force of nature, like gravity or the changing of the seasons.
There is nothing we could, or should do about it, the lives of many attest. We should all accept our biological destiny – born rich or poor, here or there, this race or that race, it was all meant to be, and would be defying God if we worked to leave, or even did not adequately appreciate our appointed place. We obviously “deserved” our fate if God put us there.
Except that we all know it is wrong. And we all know that God calls us to something far higher and better. And far beyond ourselves than this.
In fact we are called to act as God would in the world; to give, to heal, to treat person and created being as coming from the same hand, with the same inherent, undeniable, unquenchable dignity.
The movement of the Messiah is grounded in a simple message of restoration He has brought down rulers from their thrones, but has exalted the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty (Luke 1:52-53).
The “has filled” in verse 53 refers to being fully satisfied. The wealthy and powerful on the other hand, the scriptures tell us, “have had their reward”. And one of the people who gets the highest praise from Jesus is not the one who gives the most, but who gives little—who sacrifices the most. (Luke 21:1-4).
Matthew 6:31-33 is a reminder that only unbelievers should worry about food or clothing or even, one could assume in our current world, paying our bills. And anyone who “hastens” to be wealthy courts poverty and personal ruin (Proverbs 22:1).
In other words, our fullest and truest calling is to a truly upside-down value system. Or at least to us it seems upside-down; right-side-up is how it was intended. We’ve been upside-down for so long, we can barely recognize it.
Being a person of faith in a broken world would never be easy, but our hearts, our faith, and our Creator nudge us in the right direction if we are able to listen. Yes, children, there will be a time, when our first impulse is to care for each other. We won’t need laws or rules or even teachers. We won’t even need to remind each other to do what’s right, we will do it eagerly, respectfully and instinctively.
There’s no magic in this fairy tale, no secret words, no special ceremonies. It is literally the eternal kingdom. And the way in is right in front of us.