Many people in our country, and especially in our government say that they are disciples of Jesus—but they just don’t get it! We don’t get what Jesus was about, what and to whom his mission was, and what his priorities were. We don’t get it! Our behavior reveals our ignorance of what following Jesus means, and it speaks much louder than the worshipful words we might use.
I’ve been teaching a Home Fellowship Bible Study on the Gospel of Mark, and one of the characteristics of his gospel is the multiple times that Jesus is exasperated and frustrated because his disciples just don’t get what his mission is all about. They just don’t get that his mission was to the poor, the outcast, the blind, the leper, the rejected by society, the tax collector, the sinner. This last session we read these words in Mark 9: 3-11 and discussed them:
“Then he began to teach them that the Son of man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and after three days rise again. He said all of this quite openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at the disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
Peter just didn’t get it! And neither did the rest of the disciples. So Jesus further taught them in these words: “He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers , let them deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? (Mark 8:34-37)
The disciples did not get that to follow Jesus meant to share his care and love for the poor, the homeless, the hungry, the bereaved, the rejected, the leper, the aged, the children. To follow Jesus was to take care of what we would call the “dregs” of society. WE STILL DON’T GET IT TODAY! To follow Jesus is to serve these who are created in God’s image, not to be served by them. To love the poor, not to shame them. And yet by our actions today many times we do just that—we shame the poor. This is especially true of our government at the state level. E.g.:
A recent article in the Wichita Eagle stated that one of the surprises that states have is the large number of people who enrolled in Medicaid, once it was extended in their states. Politicians quoted stated concern about the future costs of Medicaid, rather than being concerned how many citizens were without health insurance. They were concerned about money. We just don’t get it.
Scott Walker, Republican Governor of Wisconsin and a Baptist preacher’s son, insists his marching orders are from God. He wants to make it a requirement that anyone who applies for employment, food stamps, or other assistance programs would have to prove their sobriety. He says: “This is not a punitive measure. This is about getting people ready for work. I’m not making it harder to get government assistance. I’m making it easier to get a job.” Who is he kidding?? The aged and the disabled poor get a job??? He is a so-called Christian, who just doesn’t get what following Jesus is all about!
Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas, who styles himself as a born-again Christian, recently signed a bill that prevents welfare recipients from spending their assistance on “expenditures in a liquor store, casino, jewelry, tattoos, nail salons, lingerie shops, vapor cigarettes, movie theaters, swimming pools, cruise ships, theme partks, dog or horse racing, etc. etc. The act sets a $25 limit on withdrawals from ATM machines. The author of this bill that the governor signed is State Sen. Miachael O’Donnell, the son of a pastor who likes to mention Jesus when he explains his opposition to helping the poor. He recently told the Topeka State Journal “We’re trying to make sure those benefits are used in the way intended. This is about prosperity. This is about having a good life.” (But he’s not talking about a good life for the poor I might add!)
The late William Sloane Coffin sums it up well: “It is ironic to pray for the poor on Sunday, and spend the rest of the week complaining that the government is doing something about it.”
Pope Francis sees clearly that American Christians just don’t get it! He says “We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose.”
Far too many Americans who call themselves Christians are worshipping at the idols of money, self-gratification, and political power. We Christians keep re-electing the governors and legislators who take punitive actions against the poor, the aged, the sick, the children. So we must also say…..
SORRY, JESUS—-MOST OF US JUST DON’T GET IT AFTER ALL THESE YEARS!