Pastor’s Friday Comments (01.11.19)

Every morning I engage in a fairly structured order of prayer. (I know prayer should be spontaneous, like conversation, but this works for me.) And every day I conclude by saying the prayer our Lord taught us to pray, always in the King James English, the way I and most Americans (and Brits) learned it when we were growing up.

Like most thing we do from memory and routinely, I’m sure that many days I don’t even think about the words. I just recite them. When we do think about them, however, we come to realize that in their simplicity and profundity, in their direct and humble way of asking for what we need and desire, they can be the most important words we say that day.

And one of those petitions, with which we are all familiar, is “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” I’ve always thought I had at least a general idea of what those words mean, what they imply about how we live and the goals toward which we work. I thought they meant that since God is perfect love, that we should love as perfectly as possible, that since everyone is loved and accepted equally by God that we should accept and love everyone equally too. And even though Jesus, in speaking to Pilate, said that his kingdom was not of this world, I had assumed that we should make life on this earth — for everyone — as close to heaven as we, through the power of Christ’s Spirit at work in us, could make it.

But maybe not.

Last week a prominent Christian leader sought to make a clear distinction between our responsibility as individual Christians in relation to the heavenly realm and the values for which we work in the earthly realm. He said explicitly that public policy should not be dictated by the teachings of Jesus.

He continued, “There’s the earthly kingdom and the heavenly kingdom. In the heavenly kingdom the responsibility is to treat others as you’d like to be treated. In the earthly kingdom, the responsibility is to choose leaders who will do what’s best for the country.”

What this man is saying is that we live in two separate kingdoms and one has nothing to do with the other.

I’m trying to figure out how we can live as Christians and not do everything we can to use the tools of government, laws, courts, and public policy to advocate for the best possible treatment of everyone. I can’t get my head around how I can say I am a Christian and not argue for taking care of poor people, for ensuring health care for everyone, for advocating for a living wage for all workers, for railing against corporations that use tax breaks to line the pockets of investors while leaving their workers in poverty, for wanting laws and law enforcement that treat all people equally.

Someone please tell me how we, as a nation, can exploit the resources of our planet with careless disregard for the effect on the rest of the world, tell ourselves that personal behavior is irrelevant to political leadership, and that promises made to anyone who is not a citizen of the United States are worthless.

I’m still wanting to know how I can say I’m a Christian but remain satisfied with the vast inequities that are ever growing between the haves and have-nots of our country. I want to know if Jesus accepts the excuse that public policies that conveniently protect me and my family while penalizing others are not to be considered from my perspective as a Christian. I want to know if I said that I thought Jesus would be displeased with the state of the world and I thought politicians and other leaders should do something about it, you (yes, you) would say that Jesus ought to mind his own business.

Please tell me. I want to know.