It’s the beginning of the presidential “race” in the US, and although I live on the other side of the world, the outcome is important for Aussies. (For a start, if America decides to have another war, odds are Australia might join them. 🙁 )
I have heard that Senator Ted Cruz (about whom I know almost nothing) was the first cab off the rank, announcing his intention to seek nomination for the Republican party while visiting Liberty University. (Ironically, the students were not at liberty to choose whether they could attend this event or not.)
That event would have been unremarkable to me, except that blogger and author Benjamin Corey wrote a blog about it, asking what Jesus might have said if he was invited to visit Liberty University. His comments were so powerful to me that I had to share it with you.
What sort of President would Jesus be?
Benjamin took various political statement I presume were made by Ted Cruz, and offered teachings of Jesus in the gospels (mostly from the Sermon on the Mount) to counter them. Here are a couple of examples:
“You have heard some of my opponents say that we must kill and destroy every last member of ISIS …. But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who hate you, so that you can become God’s children!”
“You have heard some of my opponents say there’s nothing wrong with a Christian being filthy rich, but I tell you: It will be easier for a camel to fit through a needle’s eye than it will be for a rich Christian to enter heaven!”
Non-violence (which flows out of his teachings on love) and the perils of wealth are two of Jesus’ strongest themes. How a christian country can have a high regard for military force and capitalism is not something I understand.
After 50+ years as a christian, Jesus teaches me something new!
Sometimes an idea hits you between the eyes and gives a whole new perspective on an issue. It doesn’t happen often enough, but when it does it’s a blessing.
This happened with one of Benjamin’s sayings.
Most of us would have heard of the christian bakers who refused to make a cake for a gay wedding, and may be bankrupted for their stand, which is illegal in their state, and another baker forced to make such a cake and report regularly to confirm that he is not discriminating unlawfully against LGBTI people.
Like other christians, I was disturbed by the force of law being used to make christians go against their convictions. Unlike most other christians, I could also see the other side of the question, the importance of removing discrimination.
And so I wondered what would be a fair resolution of this conundrum – until I read Benjamin’s assessment:
“You have heard some of my opponents say we must pass laws ensuring that we don’t have to bake cakes for gay weddings, but I tell you: If a gay person asks you to bake a cake for their wedding, bake them two!”
Suddenly it was clear.
I, and most christians, had framed this as a question of rights. But Jesus re-framed the question as one of loving service. Followers of Jesus should be willing to give up their rights to show love to others.
The Romans were hated enemies and their soldiers could require Jews to carry their gear for a distance, yet Jesus said (Matthew 5:41): “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” Don’t stand on your rights, don’t even do the minimum you can get away with, but show love by serving beyond what is asked of you.
The same principle can be applied here. As christians we need to refuse to actively go against God, but baking a cake isn’t a sin, so even if we disapprove of what someone is doing, we can still serve them and show God’s love to them.
This goes against the grain, I know, but Benjamin (and Jesus!) showed me that I was not thinking as Jesus thought.
Following Jesus means following his guidance
We are not legalists, and Jesus’ guidelines are not inflexible rules. There will always be times when one principle is contradicted by another. But where we can, we need to be doers of his words and not just hearers.
Unfortunately, some of what passes for christianity today is actually contrary to Jesus’ teachings.