Letter from My 48th Year (Jan 15)
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” — Galatians 6:2
I’ve been particularly aware over the last couple of years of the many times in the Bible in which we are challenged to care for each other. In both the Old and New Testaments there are hundreds of verses—like the one above from Galatians that popped up in my Bible app yesterday—that call for us to care for the poor, the widows, all those who are vulnerable among us.
Yet every day we hear and see politicians and religious leaders who call themselves Christians do whatever they can to destroy the fragile social net that’s left in the U.S. and/or to support the actions of those who do not take seriously the charge to “love one another as I have loved you,” as Jesus said.
Perhaps it’s a problem of language. In the New Testament, those who accept that Jesus is the Messiah, the son of God, and decide to model their lives after his are called “followers of the way.” I’m not sure when “Christian” became shorthand for the longer phrase, but perhaps that was an egregious mistake. To identify oneself with someone’s name is not necessarily the same as striving to live as they did. Just look at all the people whose actions reflect racist attitudes—whether in micro- or macro-aggressive ways—who are solemnly sharing the words of Dr. King today as if saying is believing.
To believe in an ideal is not the same as living the ideal; you can be a Christian without actually following the way. You can tweet “my prayers and thoughts are with the victims of [X]” without actually stopping to labor before God in prayer about X. This is perhaps the biggest disservice lip-service Christians have done to humanity, devalued the power of prayer.
I’ve been thinking about who Dr. King was. Yes, he was a Civil Rights leader. Yes, he was an orator and a defender of the rights of the disenfranchised. And yes, he was even a man who didn’t always rise above the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes. But he was also a man who grounded himself in prayer, who worked on his relationship with God as the foundation of all the world-changing he was to undertake. He was a man who followed the way of Jesus even unto his death. To which I say Hallelujah and Amen and thank you for your example.