It’s no wonder that so many have sought spiritual guidance apart from the Christian churches they were raised in – after all, just look at the Christian landscape. Today, being a “Christian” seems to be more about political power, anger, resentment, hostility towards others and cruelty.
From the individual, to the organized Fundamentalist Church today, this is a behavior pattern (not simple mistakes) that vexes many of us who search for truth.
In my book, Spirit of the Anti-Christ, I talk about this very subject. Why are there so many anger and hostile people in the Christian church today?
It’s not hard to find examples of this behavior, just turn on the news and watch who supports Donald Trump (the most angry of our political candidates.) Look at the likes of Franklin Graham (Billy Graham’s son) who demands we get involved in yet more wars to destroy and obliterate Islam. Then we have the talking heads, such as Bill O’Reilly, who speak not of the doctrine of Jesus, but of our need to protect our borders, protect our wealth, protect our people, protect our resources. But protect from who? From those who were not gifted with a birth within our borders (i.e. non residents/non-citizens/strangers/outsiders.)
What Did Jesus Say?
In the following sections I’ll quote passages where Jesus clearly taught about how we are to behave one with another. If each Christian in this country strived to be like this (yes we all make mistakes, but if our earnest goal was to follow these teachings) the world would be a far different place.
Give Unto Others
In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus relays a story of return of the King. In the story He illustrates how we are to behave with those others in the world:
31 “When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. 34 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? 38 And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? 39 And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ 46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” RSV
Some legalists among the Christian faith, will point out that Jesus says “as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren…” Brethren being the keyword here, they might suggest, “Jesus is instructing us only to care for Christians.”
The idea of your neighbor, or brethren, or whom you should help is discussed in Luke chapter 10:
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered right; do this, and you will live.”
29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, 34 and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii[d]and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed mercy on him.” And Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” RSV
The “Good Samaritan” teaching is very interesting. Today it’s hard for us to really grasp what it was to be a Samaritan. Consider however that for several hundred years there was a feud between the Jewish population of Israel and the Samaritans.
Perhaps a better relationship would be that of a rich man, such as Donald Trump, being aided only by one person – an illegal immigrant, or perhaps a Muslim refugee. That would be a modern analogy of the Good Samaritan.
The question remains, “Who is the Neighbor here?” Both sides of the story teach what a neighbor is. For the Samaritan, he see’s someone that should be his enemy, but he chooses to care for him… the rich man becomes his neighbor. For the rich man, the Samaritan should be his enemy, but he’s the only one who comes to his aid, so for him the Samaritan is his neighbor.
Regardless of which side you are on, love the other. If you are an immigrant feeling vexed by the statements of Donald Trump, love him. Pray for him. Have only the best of thoughts towards the man – this is what it is, to be a “good neighbor,” and likewise, if you are a political person who dislikes immigrants or refugees – love them. Pray for them. Care for them. This is what it is meant to be a good neighbor.
Perfection of Giving (The Widow’s Mite)
At this point, we know that Jesus expects us to give food, drink, help, love and compassion to others (not just Christians) – but to what extent? He describes what perfect giving is in Luke Chapter 21:
He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury; 2 and he saw a poor widow put in two copper coins. 3 And he said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; 4 for they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all the living that she had.”
The Difficulty of Being Rich and Godly
Wealth is a fixation of the televangelists today. How often is it that we hear about a televangelist who lives in luxury that would put Donald Trump to shame? Yet, the very teachings of Jesus discuss these dangers.
Money itself isn’t the problem, but it is a tempting trap. When one attaches to money or possessions, such things rule the person. This is covered in the passage about the “Eye of the Needle” in Matthew Chapter 19:
16 And behold, one came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which?” And Jesus said, “You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have observed; what do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.
23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” RSV
How to Treat…
By now we have seen the calling for helping others and the danger for helping ourselves. But more remains. Jesus instructed His followers on how to treat even the most difficult of people. consider the following teachings:
In Matthew Chapter 5, Jesus instructs the following commandment:
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; 40 and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; 41 and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. RSV
There are many teachings here in Chapter 5 of Matthew. The passage above is about how one should treat challenging/difficult people (such as enemies.) Jesus says in in verse 39 that instead of retaliating with violence for violence we should instead turn the other cheek. Further he says that if we are sued for one thing, give more and if we are pushed to do something – excel even better.
In verse 43, Jesus tells us specifically how to deal with an enemy – Love them. Love the enemy and pray for those who persecute us.
What is a stranger? A stranger can be a new visitor to your church. It could be someone who is interested in joining a service… or it could be someone seeking asylum from their country. It could be someone seeking aid and comfort in your nation or community.
A stranger is anyone that feels (or is treated) that they don’t belong.
Jesus deals with this topic in the first quote of this post (Matthew 25:31-46.) Rather than requite the entirety of it here, I think this one passage will suffice:
35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me… RSV
Not to Be Concerned For Ourselves (Have Faith)
While Jesus commanded we give to others, He also suggested we not care for our own possessions and things.
In Luke Chapter 12, Jesus tells us to not be afraid of those who can kill the body:
4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has power to cast into hell;[a] yes, I tell you, fear him! RSV
Further in Luke Chapter 12:
6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. RSV
When it comes to wealth we see many warnings from Jesus. There’s the warning about the rich and the eye of a needle. There’s also this passage in Luke Chapter 12:
13 One of the multitude said to him, “Teacher, bid my brother divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or divider over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take heed, and beware of all covetousness; for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully; 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones; and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” RSV
But perhaps the most inspiring teachings on detaching from wealth comes from Matthew Chapter 6:
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust[c] consume and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust[d] consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. RSV
Although specific to taxation, the following passage in Mark has a theme: Give to the world what is the world’s – and focus on obtaining that which is the eternal Kingdom of your Father in Heaven…
13 And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Hero′di-ans, to entrap him in his talk. 14 And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true, and care for no man; for you do not regard the position of men, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? 15 Should we pay them, or should we not?” But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a coin,[a] and let me look at it.” 16 And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” 17 Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were amazed at him. RSV
Do Not Worry
Jesus taught us to strive to not worry, nor be anxious. He taught that God provides, but that we also will die. He told His very disciples that their lives would be hard – but to trust in the real Kingdom – the Kingdom of God as their reward.
In Luke Chapter 12:
22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat, nor about your body, what you shall put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a cubit to his span of life?[b] 26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin;[c] yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass which is alive in the field today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O men of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be of anxious mind. 30 For all the nations of the world seek these things; and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his[d] kingdom, and these things shall be yours as well.
32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. RSV
Being a True Christian
In regards to how to treat others, Jesus’ teachings could be summed up as follows:
- Do not store up riches in this world that passes away
- Instead, put stock in those riches that are eternal
- Give to others in Food/Drink, Clothing, Medical Aid and compassion
- Do not take or ask for much – Trust in God to Provide
- Do not worry about the nation you live in
- Do not get involved in the things of the world (politics, etc.)
- Love your enemies
- Pray for those who use you
- Be a servant to others, but seek no one to serve you
What if every church and every Christian in this country attempted the above? How would the world be different?
Here’s a few of my ideas:
- We would see an end of the angry Christian
- We would see love and compassion given to our enemies, instead of condemnation and war
- We would see an end to country politics being the great influence upon church goers
- Christians would work more on themselves
- People would listen more and talk less
Why Give? (If it isn’t a complete solution to suffering)
One question that might arise, is why give in the first place? After all if Jesus is right that storing up things here in this world will cause suffering, why give? Giving food to the hungry just makes them hungry tomorrow.
The act of giving, is VERY important, because it not only helps someone now – more importantly it helps the GIVER. A person who makes excuses to not give (“He’ll use my money to buy drugs,” or “If you feed the homeless they just flock around you like pigeons”) has a hardened heart. Their ego nature is filled with their own problems, and they can’t see others yet as equal to themselves.
When we give with a pure heart, we open our heart and mind to the will of God. God shines through us, and we feel great. We begin to transform and become more Christlike.