“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding;” Proverbs 3:5
It was dark as we headed to Rosendale, Wisconsin. Shadowy voids of farmland passed by, with the occasional flickering farmhouse lights to break up the lack of scenery. I stared out the window, with nothing to occupy my thoughts. Suddenly, we crested a mountain-like hill, and I stared straight ahead with wonder. Below me, the city of Fond Du Lac blazed with lights, appearing larger than reality. It was an amazing sight for a young girl growing up in rural Wisconsin. Not to disparage my friends who live in Fond Du Lac, but I no longer see this hill as one of the wonders of the world as did my nine-year-old self.
So often, our sense of reality is shaped by our experiences. At that point in my life, the farthest I had ever traveled was to Chippewa Falls in northern Wisconsin, and Milwaukee was the biggest city I had experienced. When our experiences are limited, smaller things seem larger. This distortion shapes our worldview and color our opinions. It also helps create divisions between us and others.
For two years, I have been wrestling with how my faith intersects with my political worldview. For years, I drank the Kool-Aid, believing that a certain party aligned more with the actions and words of Jesus. It shaped how I viewed marginalized people, immigrants, and issues like poverty. And as I listened to only one side of the debate, my views became more entrenched. I was convinced and spouted the dogma, without engaging in research.
But when the pandemic shut the world down and social justice issues came to the forefront, my beliefs were challenged. It was at this same time, that I was also reconstructing my faith. I examined my faith through the Bible, paying particular attention to the words and actions of Jesus and his followers. Jesus’ compassion for marginalized people jumped out at me. Time and time again, Jesus chose to spend time with those who society ignored, like the Samaritan woman at the well and the woman caught in adultery exploited by the religious leaders. His closest disciples were men and women who society didn’t hold in high regard: fisherman, prostitutes, and tax collectors. He broke social norms by elevating women through simple interactions. His followers carried on his mission by addressing how we should handle widows, the fatherless, and foreigners.
The more I pay attention to the life of Jesus, the more I desire to be like him. Last fall at a MOPS meeting, the speaker admonished us to pray, “Jesus, let my heart break for what breaks your heart.” Immediately, my mind jumped to Jesus speaking to his disciples about when the King came in judgment. He told the righteous, “when I was hungry, you gave me food, when I was thirsty, you gave me drink, and when I was a stranger, you took Me in.” The righteous were confused and didn’t remember seeing the King under those circumstances. But Jesus replied that when they did this to the least of them, the marginalized, they were seeing Jesus. Conversely, the King asked another group to depart, because they ignored those who needed food, shelter, and clothing for the same reason.
Jesus cares about those around us who are in need. He is not interested in my pontifications on my beliefs and philosophies on social justice issues. He wants me to act with compassion in tangible ways. He finds my excuses empty and stinky and finds my actions more representative of where my heart is. My compassion can’t be based on what I get from it, rather it needs to be done with a spirit of generosity. In 1 John 3:17, the apostle John asks how the love of God can be in someone if he or she doesn’t show pity upon others. In Hebrews 13:16, Paul reminds the church to do good and to share with others.
There are so many issues that break Jesus’ heart: domestic abuse, homelessness, rape, human trafficking, elder abuse, the foster care system, drug addiction, and so much more. It’s overwhelming and I sometimes don’t even know where to start. This month, I am spending some time in prayer, asking God to lead to me somewhere I can volunteer to help others, and then I will take my first step.
Additionally, I will continue to examine my views through a Biblical lens. There are a lot of Christians who are interested in social justice issues, and I need to open my previously closed mind to another perspective. I can do this through reading books and listening to podcasts that explain the other side of current social issues, including diving into the historical context.
So, where do I stand politically? How do I know where God’s truth lies when there are Christians on both sides articulating radically different points of view supported by scripture? Can Christians do good works and still be short sighted on issues of race, poverty, and immigration? How can I make sure I am not being deceived by one side or the other? And once I draw a conclusion or take a stand, what if I am wrong?
I don’t have answers for any of these questions. But I heard a thought attributed to C.S. Lewis that I have been unable to verify. The idea is to hold firmly to the truth we know today, but be humble enough that, when new information presents itself tomorrow, I can shift and be willing to change. I think it’s a good model to live my life.