“Why does political ‘stuff’ have to get talked about at church? I come to church to hear God’s word; I can get enough of the other stuff the rest of the week. Shouldn’t church just be…well…church?”
My father, who was a full-time minister in my faith tradition, had a saying that the responsibility of the church was to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
I’m not sure we’re really accomplishing either of those responsibilities very well today.
There are a lot of hurting people who would like to find a place where they are accepted, loved, and told they are people of worth. Unfortunately, far too often when they step into a church, they are told that they have to change…that their lifestyle keeps them from being loved…that God hates who/what they are…and they leave feeling worse than when they come.
And those who are comfortable far too often find themselves able to nod in agreement when they hear words that confirm that their comfortable lifestyle is proof that God loves them and what they are doing meets with God’s approval.
Too often church means we close the doors on the world as it is and the rest of the week, making a nice, safe shelter for us and those we like and agree with.
But those of us who claim to be followers of Jesus need to take a closer look at this one we follow.
He started out his public ministry by quoting an older prophet (Isaiah 4:18-19 CEB):
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me to preach good news to the poor,
to proclaim release to the prisoners
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to liberate the oppressed,
and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
When his followers asked him to teach them to pray, he included this as part of his prayer (Matthew 6:10 Good News Translation):
may your Kingdom come;
may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Both of those teachings sound to me like we have some major responsibility towards those we share this earth with.
And there’s an even clearer message. Many of us who claim to be followers of this Jesus may be surprised when we face him. Here’s what he said about that (Matthew 25:31-45 The Message):
When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.
Then the King will say to those on his right, “Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:
I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.”
Then he will turn to the ‘goats,’ the ones on his left, and say, “Get out, worthless goats! You’re good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because—
I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.”
Then those ‘goats’ are going to say, “Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?”
He will answer them, “I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.”
So…should church just be…well…church? If that means that it calls us to care for our brothers and sisters, whether they are in our social circles or not…whether they are the same religion…whether they are the same color…sexual orientation…gender…race… whether we agree with their politics or not, then I’m for that kind of church!