The focus of his and our attention
Published 2:23 pm Thursday, August 3, 2023
Not everything Jesus did or said was self-explanatory.
What he meant by his words and actions was not always clear – even to the disciples, whom one might think would understand burning too many brain cells.
And then, after he died, some of his most learned followers tried to explain who he really was and what he meant only to cause scholars down through the ages to scratch their heads in confusion. What, pray tell, does Paul mean when he says that ………..
Don’t, however, let anyone tell you that Jesus wasn’t clear about how he understood his mission: how you treat the least of these in the cities and towns in which you live– the nobodies in your midst – the poor, the immigrant neighbor, the homeless, the imprisoned – is how you treat me and how you honor and worship God – or not.
It is not enough for those of us who live in Washington and Beaufort County, for example, and boast about being “saved” by the purity and vigor of our personal relationships with Jesus to be able to claim that that relationship, alone, will save us from damnation. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of the Father in heaven.” (Mt 7:21).
The “will of the Father”, being the will of the Son – that is, that his followers form relationships of love and compassion with those he spent most of his time with – the nobodies pushed to the margins by economic, political and cultural injustices and prejudices.
If you wish to follow ME, do as I do, he continued: focus on the least of those in your communities made invisible by bias and hatred and those you would rather remove from your lines of vision so that you don’t have to be reminded of their poverty, wretchedness and exclusion.
He would later tell a story about such a one who dressed in purple robes, ate filet mignon and lobster at every evening meal and lived in a million dollar home in a gated community, shut off from the outside world. At the entrance to his exclusive neighborhood was a guardhouse. And at the guardhouse lay a poor man named Lazarus who would gladly have eaten the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.
On leaving the community in his expensive sports coup, the rich man passed by Lazarus but refused to acknowledge his presence. To him, Lazarus was all but invisible. As long as Lazarus remained unseen, the rich man could ignore the chasm that existed between them and ignore his Christian faith that demanded that he acknowledge Lazarus’ presence and respond with acts of compassion.
Unfortunately we live in a time when the teachings and exhortations of Jesus to notice and minister to the poor and needy have been hijacked by political and Christian extremists to justify oppression, discrimination and violence against the very ones Jesus calls his followers to serve.
Such as the recently deceased TV evangelist, Christians Nationalist advocate and millionaire Pat Robertson. Robertson asserted that being gay or lesbian is “a pathology … a sickness, and that many of those associated with Hitler were Satanists – “many of them were homosexuals. The two things seem to go together.”
In 2010, following the devastating earthquake in Haiti that killed more than 200,000, Robertson suggested that the people killed deserved it. In 2020, he blasted the Black Lives Matter movement as anti-family and anti-God. He never tired of denouncing the separation of church and state, a concept he tied to communism in the former Soviet Union.
It is past time for the true followers of the Christ to take his mission of inclusion and love back by denouncing those like Robertson who hijack the Gospel for their own political and financial purposes. They can be found today in churches that refuse to acknowledge the equal status of gay and lesbian brothers and sisters; that denigrate women by denying them equal access to the ordination process; and that blind themselves to the “least of these” in their hometowns and communities.
Those of us who await Jesus’ return might consider the possibility that he is waiting on us. That his return is conditioned upon our joining him in his efforts to make his – Nick Hanauer
Capitalism bad econ theory that benefits only the few
Not in public interest
And self-interest doesn’t promote common prosperity
Works only for corps, financialists and millionaires
A 1. reduce taxes and reg.
- indebt consumers and other nations
- force other nations to adapt austerity programs
- Designed to cater to the wealthy at expense of everyone else.
Exists and created to generate profit for those with capital “kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.” He will return, perhaps, only when we have shown that we are ready to collaborate with him in the establishment of a world in which the nobodies, the discriminated against, the poor and the invisible become the focus of his and our attention.
I pray that it may be so.
Polk Culpepper is a retired Episcopal priest, a former lawyer and a resident of Washington.