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Ever notice how some in the Christian community pride themselves on not being political? They let it be known they don’t care about the debates, and they’re certainly not excited to have a discussion about immigration policy. At times they seem giddy about not being informed, as if the ideological slant of Fox news or MSNBC excuses us from never having to try. I find this to be especially true of the Sunday service. I get it—Sunday morning is about the proclamation of the gospel, and the pulpit is not the place to spout ideology. However, the preaching of the gospel should challenge our ideological leanings precisely because the gospel is fundamentally political. When I say this people get upset—they accuse me of being a liberal, having a liberal agenda, or being in love with Obama. Just because I think the gospel actually matters for how we live in the world? Because I believe we are called to be a people who seek peace and justice? Because I believe Jesus meant it when he said the two greatest commandments are to love God and love our neighbor?
Sometimes I wonder if the church needs to get more in touch with its Jewish roots. We’ve been grafted in to the people of Israel; the law and prophets are God’s word to us just as they were God’s word to Israel. It might do us some good to remember two pillars of Old Testament Jewish faith have to do with giving alms to the poor and practicing hospitality. Let’s read deeply from Leviticus and Deuteronomy. If we lived an Old Testament faith we would be duty bound by God to seek justice for the poor, the “alien”, the widow, and so on. The prophet Amos, for example, is upset because the people of Judah and Israel have forgotten what it means to live as God’s people. The Lord is about to punish the northern kingdom because they “sell the needy for a pair of sandals” and “trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth”. They “push the afflicted out of the way” while they party in the temple of the Lord. The Lord laments how the prophets were not listened too. “And I raise of some of your children to be prophets and some of your youths to be nazirites. Is it not indeed so, O people of Israel?” (2:11) “But you made the nazirites drink wine, and commanded the prophets saying, ‘You shall not prophesy” 2:12)
Which begs the question: Where is the prophetic word of God today? Where are those who call for justice for the oppressed? Have our churches become nothing more than grand monuments to ourselves, with our doctrinal towers and over-spiritualized worship? Have we turned sin into such an abstraction, such a personal, moral, issue, we’ve rendered it meaningless? Maybe it’s time to hear the call of the Luther who tells us to “sin boldly”, to refuse to frozen by moral imperfection, to hear the concrete call of our Lord to follow, to love, and to suffer.
I know there are members of the Christian community who have heard the call—people from every walk of life, and every part of the ideological spectrum. These are people who see beyond the rhetoric and the labels to encounter the flesh and blood persons made in the image of God. These are people who seek the justice of God, who seek the kingdom of God, who see beyond themselves, and their limited experience of the world. These are people who embrace the God who comes to us in our neighbor.
The time has come for the Christian community to tear the muzzle off, to tell the ideological bullies that their time is up, no longer do they get to be the gate keepers and power brokers. The time has come to proclaim the gospel, to trust in the power of God’s salvation by living a life of love and justice. God’s kingdom does not come by our effort, but God entrusts us to become signs and markers of the new humanity, the new creation, revealed in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The time is surely coming, says the Lord, when the one who plows shall overtake the one who reaps, and the treader of the grapes the one who sows the seed; the mountains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and the shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyard and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit. (Amos 9:13-14)