by Mark Sandlin
In response to my last article, “10 Things You Can't Do While Following Jesus
,” I was accused multiple times of being political. All I was trying to do was follow Jesus. So, I thought it'd be interesting (and generate tons more hate mail) to show what a list would actually look like if I were being political intentionally. Like the first list, this is not a complete list but it's a pretty good place to start.
There will be those who comment and send me messages berating me for “making Jesus political.” It's okay. Fire away. Jesus didn't worry much about stepping on political toes and the Bible insists that governments be just toward the least of these (the books of the prophets alone make this point very clear). Frequently, people who are the most vocal about not making Jesus political are the same people who want prayer in school and laws based on their own religious perspectives. By a happy little circumstance that brings us to my list: 10) Force your religious beliefs and practices on others.
One of the strengths of the faith Jesus taught was in its meekness. The faith he taught valued free will over compulsion – because that's how love works. Compelling people to follow any religion, more or less your personal religion, stands over and against the way Jesus practiced his faith. If you are using the government to compel people to practice your spiritual beliefs, you might be the reason baby Jesus is crying. This does get tricky. There is a difference in letting your beliefs inform your political choices and letting your politics enforce your religion. This article is about the first part. 9) Advocate for war.
There's a reason why he was called the Prince of Peace. Sure, you can quote, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword,” and even two or three other verses but they don't hold a candle to the more than fifty-some verses where Jesus speaks about peace and peacemaking. It's funny how things keep coming back to love but it needs to be said, it is way far away from loving a person to kill them. I guess there's a reason why we say, “God is love.” In the end, love wins. 8) Favor the rich over the poor.
This is actually related to #4. Favoring the rich over the poor is a slap in the face of Jesus, his life and his teachings. In terms of the teachings of Jesus, it is bad enough when we allow the rich to take advantage of the poor, but when we create laws which not only encourage the behavior but also protect it? Well, let's just say it becomes crystal clear how ironic it is that we print, “In God We Trust,” on our money
I wish for peace. Real peace. If only for a moment.
I wish for that space
to open up
here on Earth,
so that the fullness of that moment may be known -
so that humanity may experience, if only for a moment,
what it means to love –
I wish for us to drop our pretenses
and our need to manipulate others.
I wish for us to find our way past
our games of one upmanship
and to a place where equality reigns-
not because we are
equal in all things,
but because we are
equally loved in all things.
I wish for that moment of peace,
experienced around the world,
that in that moment,
in that gifted space,
humanity might see the value
of all life -
that we might see past
that all our false measurements of value
if only for a moment,
be wiped away
and, in that moment,
we each see clear to the heart
of each other.
I wish for a moment of peace
to break out upon the world,
if only for a few breaths,
to strip away our false gods of power
to pull back the curtain
on the falsehoods that divide us
and pits us against each other -
that the judgments and convictions
that trap our souls
would be released
as we exhale in those moments of peace
and be replaced with the makings of peace...
I wish that we would carry that moment
with us -
that we might
lavish in its comfort,
grow in its freedom,
be enriched in its wisdom,
be joyful in its protection
and be at peace.
that we might extend that moment
into each of our relationships -
that we might trust each other more,
hurt each other less,
accept each other for who we are
and not what we wish each other to be.
I wish for you.
I wish for me.
That is my birthday wish.
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A prayer submitted by Kimberly J. Edwards:
I find myself heartbroken
by the hatred I see all around me.
So I ask that I may never forget :
That behind every brown, yellow, red, black or white face, there is a family like mine, and souls trying to live in a world that often tells them they are less than or unworthy, aliens that are not wanted. May I never lose sight of the soul behind each face, the souls of Your children.
That behind every homeless person there is a story that may be so familiar to me as to be uncomfortable. May I never be comfortable until there are no more homeless faces seeking a kind word, or an opportunity, or just a smile and a little love.
That I never forget the truth of Your gospel, that storing up riches here, withholding from others out of some misguided sense of superiority or right to judge, that treating any one of Your children as unworthy to come to Your table is not the Christian love You came to teach us.
That I count as treasures the friends who stand beside me, encouraging, loving, supporting and accepting me, through word and deed. Sometimes just being available, sometimes through prayer, sometimes through sacrifice of their own. Let me never take them for granted, and always see them as the blessing You meant them to be, and do my very best to love them as well as they have loved me.
That when I see actions or hear words that mean harm to the 'other', to never stand still or be quiet in the face of injustice, cruelty, racism, to call out behavior that seeks to harm my neighbor. To always see in each face the potential of a child of God no matter how I might disagree with their manner or actions. To protect those who are being shunned, criticized, or even threatened because they are considered different.
That I appreciate the love and devotion shown to me by my pets. The unconditional adoration that radiates from the soul of our animal friends is surely sent from heaven, through souls that speak a different language, one of complete acceptance. It is no small thing for an animal to love a person. May I always remember those gone on to You to await our reunion.
That I see and cherish each small blessing, from a spontaneous hug given by a grandchild, to a moment of clarity when I realize that my grown children love and understand me despite my obvious imperfections, a gesture or look from a husband who shows devotion and commitment each day, an unexpected phone call or card from someone reminding me that I matter, to the sunset, birdsong, moonlight, joyous bark or laugh that sweeten my life.
That I never find myself so blinded by my illness or difficulties that I forget those around me, and around the world, who hurt, hunger, shiver, grieve and strive for rights denied them by oppression and greed.
That I take every opportunity to let the wonders of Your creation heal and uplift me. Knowing that something as simple as sunshine on my face, sand and waves under my feet, regal treetop canopies, a bird in flight or the beauty of horses galloping across a field can be proof of Your love for Your world.
That I always, always remember that color, creed, faith or none, accent, sex, age, language, dress, orientation, hairstyle, home, or financial status has not one thing to do with the worth of anyone to You, and to follow your example.
That above all the chaos and upset in this world, You gave us the greatest Gift the world has ever known. You loved us then, and love us now, that much. May we all continue to grow and journey toward the greatest we can be for You, and because of You.
That I do all I can to give my children an grandchildren an example of the power and light of Your love in my life. That I always do my very best to be a light for Your world, to honor and respect each individual I meet, no matter our differences. That I grow into the person You wish me to be.
Good and gracious God,
This time of year,
despite all of the presents we give,
it is sometimes too easy
to get caught up in ourselves.
In the 'joy' of shopping,
the 'love' of all the seasons' festivities,
the 'peace' of settling in by a fire
while the Christmas Tree
helps light the room,
the 'hope' of what we might receive.
Change our hearts O God.
Not in a way that devalues those things,
but in a way that puts them into proper perspective.
This first day of December,
remind us that there are more important things in this sometimes broken world
with which to concern ourselves.
Today, on World AIDS day,
Remind us of the half a million children that were born with HIV\AIDS last year alone.
Remind us of the more that 2,000,000 children living with AIDS and
the 33,000,000 million people living with it.
This time of year,
despite all the presents we give,
it is sometimes too easy to get caught up in our selves.
Let us revision the joy, love, peace and hope of Advent.
May we find the joy you intend for us
in doing something that makes someone else's life better.
May we share the love you extend to us
with those whom society continues to ostracize due to fear and ignorance.
May we offer the peace you give to us
to the entire world by living in ways that confront dominance and marginalization
by living in ways that do not accept that some people are not given
what they need to live healthy lives
by speaking out and speaking up
against systems that continue to ignore those in need.
May we share the hope of Advent
with those who must at times find it particularly difficult to hold on to hope.
Teach us that we can achieve all these things,
not just in the presents we give,
but with our presence as well.
Let us stand with all of our brothers and sisters
over and against the powerful governments and businesses
that treat them as if they were pawns in a game,
ready to sacrifice them for the good of Kings and Queens.
On this World Aids day,
we ask that the joy, love, peace and hope
that waits in the wings of Advent
may break forth upon this sometimes broken world
and that we may be part of the spark
that brings that fiery Spirit
to realization here on Earth.