I am a wife…a mother…a grandmother…a minister…a poet…a musician. All of these parts of me make it possible for me to connect with others in various ways. I can see others who share one or more of those same roles and have at least some appreciation of how they have the same needs and concerns I do.
But recently I find myself shaking my head and asking myself why there seems to be such a disconnect between what we (all of us) say we believe and how we see–and act toward–others.
I saw someone saying that while they were sure the Pope reads the Bible, he must not understand it, because there isn’t any place in the Bible where we are told to help the poor. I hear others calling for a wall to be built in order to somehow protect us from people who are seeking a better life for themselves and their children. Others call for removal of programs that have been safety nets for those in need. Still others act–and speak–as though selfishness is a virtue…and that those who have less don’t deserve any better.
Really? I can think of several places in the Bible that would contradict those philosophies:
1 John 3:17-19
How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’
Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
In my own faith tradition, we have been given recent counsel as well that is pertinent:
God, the Eternal Creator, weeps for the poor, displaced, mistreated, and diseased of the world because of their unnecessary suffering. Such conditions are not God’s will. Open your ears to hear the pleading of mothers and fathers in all nations who desperately seek a future of hope for their children. Do not turn away from them. For in their welfare resides your welfare.
If I call myself a follower of the one who was called the Christ, then I cannot ignore those in need. I am aware that there are issues we need to deal with regarding immigration, safety net programs, fair wages…but I have to also be willing to see “the others” as my brothers and sisters…children of the same God who created me.
There is an old rabbinic story in which the rabbi asks, “Children, how can we determine this moment of dawn, when the night ends and the day begins?”
One person responded, “When I see the difference between a dog and a sheep?”
“No,” said the rabbi.
A second person asked, “Is it when I can see the difference between a fig tree and grapevine?”
“Please tell us the answer,” said the students.
The old rabbi responded, ‘You know when the night ends and the day begins when you can look into the face of any human being and have enough light to recognize that person as your brother or your sister; when you can say, ‘I see myself in you.’ Up until that time it is night, and the darkness is still with us.”
How much longer before we see the dawn?