It’s interesting to me that in America we pride ourselves on the separation of Church and state, yet they really aren’t … and both suffer from it. Now, this is just a quick hit of me trying to encourage us to greater care and compassion, so please keep that in mind. 🙂 It’s interesting to me and really quite sad that in my many years of churchgoing I’ve never heard a sermon on the 10thcommandment, you know the one about NOT coveting, being greedy, or jealous. The problem with preaching that message is that the U.S. is in many ways founded on and run by coveting what others have/wanting to have as much, if not more, than them, accumulating more and more wealth/stuff (greed), and not liking it when the “Joneses” get ahead of you (jealousy). We need look no further than our commercials and advertisements to see this is true.
Capitalism/consumerism is the fabric of our society, and in many ways this mentality flies in the face of what it means to follow Christ. It seems to me if the Church were truly separate from the state, pastors would feel free to preach this message and critique our nation … yet virtually none do! To put this in a positive light, the opposite of coveting is contentment. Jesus asks us to be SO content with what we have that we generously and gratuitously give our time, energy, and wealth to help benefit others, especially those who are struggling, hurting, or marginalized.
Something that’s both amazing and troubling about Christianity is we have thousands of denominations, each of which believes something slightly different. My point here is that a hallmark of Christ followers is that we feel free to disagree with each other, which I think is a good thing … mostly (we’ll get to that below). 🙂 I say this because while this freedom to disagree has been a trait of our faith since beginning, for the first 200+ years of Christianity there was essentially universal agreement that nonviolence is part and parcel to what it means to follow Christ.
Jesus lived a loving, nonviolent life and told His followers to love their enemies, turn the other cheek when struck, and pray for those who persecuted them. You literally have to dig and stretch to even make a small case that Christ approves of violence. While Jesus is explicitly pro-peace, America is clearly pro-war. While the U.S. isn’t unique in this, we have military bases in SEVENTY OTHER COUNTRIES, spend more money on our military than countries 2-8 in the list COMBINED, and you get the point. Here’s my positive point on this: War and violence will NEVER stop/end war and violence. The only path to peace is peace. The Way of Christ is peace. The world needs this message now more than ever.
This leads me to what I see as a third core message of Christianity that can greatly help and heal us: Unity. In the Gospels we see Jesus leading 12 disciples who fall all across the spectrum when it comes to politics, economics, religiosity, and so on. In the Book of Acts we see disagreements between Church leaders. In Paul’s letters we see him eloquently proclaim that under Christ there is no difference or distinction between gender, race, status, and so on. Jesus’ longest recorded prayer, which culminates in John 17 prays for us to be united amidst our diversity and known for our love.
Unity isn’t uniformity, it’s difference with harmony, understanding, and curiosity. It’s a core part of following Christ and I think, along with nonviolence and contentment with what we have, we need these messages more than ever. What do you think?
Grace and peace,