Tag Archives: mercy

Who Is My Neighbor?

There’s a new Golden Rule in some parts of America, and it goes something like this:

“Do unto others according to the amount of taxes they pay to your government.”

I saw a link on my Facebook feed where a Tea Party group is enraged because illegal immigrants were given government EBT cards to purchase food. Various groups scream on social media with headlines designed to inflame instead of inform.

“Those are taxpayer dollars!”

“We have vets who go homeless while illegal immigrants are housed. It’s not fair!”

All this (predominantly Right-Wing) fury makes me wonder.

I think of someone the Right often claims as one of their own: Jesus. Specifically, I think of when the lawyers and religious leaders came to Him asking “What is the most important commandment?” The story is captured in Luke’s Gospel (chapter 10, starting in verse 25ish)

He boiled it down to “Love God with everything, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

One of the lawyers looked for the loophole in this broad and sweeping command. Luke writes, “He, wishing to justify himself, asked ‘Who is my neighbor?'”

Great question. Jesus answers with the story of the Good Samaritan who encounters a victim in need. The Samaritan goes out of his way to take care of someone his culture said was his enemy. Jesus asks, “So who was the victim’s neighbor?” The answer the lawyer gives is: “the one who shows mercy.”

I for one would like my government, my society, and my country to be known for mercy.

The argument I hear is, “Well, why not let citizens be charitable instead of giving away tax dollars and American money to all these people?” It’s the same argument for doing away with or cutting back welfare and other forms of aid to the poor. Why can’t we let individuals and faith-based organizations give and serve, so that our government can use the money to take care of America’s other pressing needs?

Sure! That would be great… if enough people were doing it that government didn’t have to step in. But that’s not happening. Not enough individuals or charitable organizations are stepping up to the plate. So it’s either let people suffer because they’re not Americans, or because of their supposed and presumed bad life choices, or because hey life sucks and not everybody wins.

Or we can show mercy.

Mercy is costly. Mercy takes away from our resources to meet the needs of another. Mercy doesn’t focus on who “deserves” it.

Yeah, it’s your tax dollar. Sure, there’s a lot our government could do better. Of course I want immigrants to follow legal methods. No, when you boil it down to an overly simplistic question, I don’t think it’s fair that a veteran might go homeless while someone who’s not even a citizen gets cared for. Sure, I do wonder whether we’re feeding people we’ve detained while sorting out what to do with them, or handing over a bunch of electronic money without any concern for who we’re giving it to.

But Jesus didn’t say, “Suffer the law-abiding citizens to come unto Me.” He didn’t tell a tale of the Good Taxpayer who ensured his denarius was spent only on his nation’s citizens. I have a hard time picturing Christ flipping tables where detained illegal immigrants are being served food, or chasing the immigrants out of Wal-Mart.

And I remember the symbol of hope Ameica is to many on distant shores (and across distant borders). The plaque on the Statue of Liberty doesn’t say, “Give me your wealthy, give me just your best and brightest, give me those who have no needs and no worries.”

It doesn’t say, “Give me your tired, your poor, your outcasts… so I can send them back, rejected.”

There are better ways, perhaps. Reforms are needed, and a balance has to be found between a secure border and an open welcoming society.

But I feel like this pic from the Left calls the Right out on a political and philosophical disconnect.


Let us not be those who, wishing to justify indignity and indifference, ask “And who is my neighbor?”

The Mirror

For a Monday Morning Snack, here’s a short piece about mercy and judgment.

The Mirror

I looked out the window at the world, angry at all the injustice.

Then I looked in the mirror, ashamed at all of my own.

I looked out the window at two men in love, and my religious beliefs rose in offense.

I looked in the mirror, saw how little I love, and I was humbled.

Outside I saw greed ignore need and I was enraged.

Inside, I saw my own selfishness, and I was appalled.

I looked out the window at passion paraded and praised, and I stood in judgment.

I looked in the mirror at my lust and desires, and I cried for mercy.

I looked out and saw people reject God’s word, and I thought them foolish.

Then I saw my life contradict my professed beliefs, and I was disgraced.

I looked out the window at everything wrong, and asked, “God, what are You going to do about this?”

Then I heard Him respond, “I gave you a mirror.”

Morning Snack #2

35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? – Romans 8:35-36 NASB

Fig Newtestaments, maybe?

I’m thinking of this verse, pondering the greatness of the love of Christ, and remembering the past/present/future style of the first Morning Snack.

There’s nothing in my past that can disqualify me.

“While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us…” Romans 5:8 (and here’s the passage in the Message).

“…anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone…” 2nd Corinthians 5:17 (MSG)

If God showed us such love when we were His enemies, cut off from Him by our sins… what makes me think He’s going to not accept me now that I belong to Him?

There’s nothing in my present that can separate me.

“I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” – Hebrews 13:5 (NASB, but here’s the Message again)

“I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” Galatians 2:20 (here in context)

You can’t get un-crucified. There’s no take-backs. If you came to Christ, He is in you, and God has a “No Return” policy.

There’s nothing in my future that can overwhelm me.

“In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NASB)

“Greater is he who is in you than he that is in the world.” 1st John 4:4 (NASB).

God grants us grace that trains us to say, “No” to sin and He limits the strength of the temptations and trials we face.

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. – Romans 8:38-39. 

Think of the Children

I’m usually a pretty calm person, especially when it comes to dealing with other people. It takes a lot for someone to really get under my skin.

I do have my moments. Technology that doesn’t do what it’s supposed to, for example, is like turning on a flamethrower in my chest. (I’m looking at you, Microsoft products, with all the ways you try to ‘help’ me by complicating the simplest tasks.)

My dog peeing everywhere, just brazen and unashamed. Yeah, that gets me ‘perturbed.’

But mostly, I keep calm and drink my coffee.

One thing that does get on my nerves is when people spew venom in the name of Christ.

I really hate it when they use children as their excuse.

I really, really hate it when they look right past their own faults to point at the faults of others.

You can’t expect mercy for your sins while proclaiming judgment on everyone else’s.

(I probably hate that because I’m often guilty of that myself.)

So… at some point or other I got signed up for a “defend marriage as one man and one woman” page on Facebook. I only recently noticed some of the stuff they post in pursuit of their cause.

I’ve gotten into it with the faceless individual(s) behind the page. Every now and then, someone says something completely asinine, and I feel compelled to share a reasonable voice with a logical counterpoint to the ignorance. It would be one thing if people were having thoughtful discussions and clarifying how their beliefs intersect with government and freedom and tolerance and all that. Most everyone I know is willing to admit we may not all agree, but we can disagree in a civil manner and hopefully all learn something from the debate.

Not everyone seems so inclined.

This little tragedy of grammar and graphics got posted on my wall today:

I’m not posting this because I agree with the image. First off, I can’t agree with incorrect word choice and terrible cut-and-paste graphics…

I don’t know why, but I happened to read the ten comments on the picture.

It was like a religious frat party, with people giving each other textual fist bumps by reminding everyone about God’s original plan for marriage and how sad it would be when the child eventually says, “I wish I had a father.” Someone ridiculed the smiling faces, conveying the tragic nature of this hypothetical union and its dangerous impact on the child’s development. Someone simply responded with, “Oh, barf!!!!!”

I’ll leave aside the fact that there are children being raised by gay couples around the world and not all of them are collapsing under the burden of self-loathing or grief. Both sides will point to various “experts” with studies that “prove” that gay couples raising children is “no harm done” OR there is irreparable damage. Whatever. Let’s just agree that there are a lot of kids out there who are going to grow up with two mommies or daddies (yes, this is a proper time to use the plural ‘daddies’).

And they’ll be just fine.

There was one voice of reason, who made the outrageous and satanic comment that “Making fun of gays is not going to help. This is a serious issue and a heated debate which deserves a thoughtful response. Insulting people is only going to burn bridges.”

One voice out of ten.

You can’t hear my sigh, but trust me, it’s a long one. (My wife can attest to this.)

The response from the page?

“We don’t believe putting adult lusts above the needs of children deserves consideration.”

Those dirty gays, sacrificing the souls of impressionable young kids on the altar of desire! /sarcasm

Full disclosure: I’m Christian, if you didn’t get that yet. I believe what the Bible says, though I understand a lot of it comes down to interpretation and theological debate. And the Bible seems to clearly identify homosexual activity as a sin.

But that’s not all it addresses.

What do I mean by that? I’ll let my response on Facebook to that picture speak for itself:

“Putting adult lusts above the needs of children is terrible, but people do it all the time. It’s just their sins are heterosexual. Or perhaps just gluttony, or alcoholism. Maybe it’s simple neglect. Maybe even it’s how some parents worship their work or ministry by devoting all their time and attention to those things while forsaking their responsibilities to their children.

“Maybe it’s the arrogance of adult Christians who forget that they’re looking down on the needs of some children out there, children who think they’re gay, who know they’re different from most everyone else, who absolutely know without any doubt that the Church is the very last place they’ll find love or acceptance (and I don’t mean acceptance of sin, but acceptance of them as a human being worthy of Christ’s sacrificial love expressed through us).

“Maybe our need to communicate how disgusting homosexuality is gets in the way of God’s desire to communicate to THEM how incredibly powerful and merciful and life-changing His love is, and maybe it gets in the way of His desire to communicate to us that in His holy sight all our sin is just as repulsive and ‘barf-worthy’ as theirs. ‘Love the sinner, hate the sin’ doesn’t mean much if we don’t do it.”
I don’t want to abuse God’s mercy or call sin ‘righteous.’ That’s not within my purview.

I haven’t torn out any passages in my Bible that claim homosexuality is a sin.

The difference is that I’m paying attention to the rest of the passages too.