We Christians live a strange contradiction and I think social media simply exasperates the frenzy.
Christians boldly proclaim that our nation needs to fall back to Jesus. People right and left are gathering their guts to let everyone know they believe in Christ. Boycotts are being called on all of the businesses that belittle the reason for our Christmas season and Christians of all ages are positive that the squelching of the word Christmas is a sign of the persecution to come.
The end is obviously near.
I promise I am not simply being snarky here (although, I am mostly being snarky).
I think for the majority of nominative Christians, there is a sincere, passionate desire to boldly claim Christ within a culture that is obviously less than Christian. We recognize deep down inside, even if we have never opened a Bible or wouldn’t know the difference between content in the book of Joshua and Matthew, that this world does not reflect Christ.
The problem is, as Christians, we don’t quite know what to do about it, besides complain and proclaim, “WE ARE BEING PERSECUTED!”
There is something attractive about the idea of being persecuted. It means that somehow we are doing something right. It seems dangerous…but not too dangerous.
But in the same breath as we proclaim we are being persecuted because our disposable coffee cups don’t say “Merry
Christmas,” we are saying that we cannot take in refugees because they may pose a risk to our safety. That would be too dangerous.
We say this even though baby Jesus and his family were also refugees. According to Matthew 2 (also known as the Gospel because it proclaims the good news), because King Herod was afraid of the King of the Jews, he had all male babies in Bethlehem killed. Jesus’ father and mother had to flee to Egypt in order to save their baby’s life.
But the good news was that Egypt did not close its border because of the refugee problem. They were not turned back due to the safety concerns of the Egyptian people or scarcity concerns, worries about the lack of work, food and shelter. Luckily, the Egyptians did not send baby Jesus back to King Herod.
As we move into the Christmas season that has become permeated by consumerism and materialism (which is really the sin of greed in a Santa suit), do we dare remember the first Christmas?
Do we nominative Christians dare to remember that we believe God entered the world in human form, as an innocent helpless baby? A baby that was completely dependent on the hospitality and refuge of a foreign country.
Do we dare to dangerously recognize that Christ did not care whether or not anyone believed in him but cared whether or not they would follow him? Would they pick up their cross, a symbol of suffering, death and yes, persecution?
Do we dare to dangerously “love our enemies,” words straight from Jesus’ mouth? Which—I’m going out on another snarky limb here—suggests that we don’t kill them.
Do we dare adhere to the Judeo-Christian expectation of hospitality for the stranger and sojourner found in Leviticus 19:33-34?
We Christians love the idea that we are flying in the face of our popular culture. We love the idea that we are risking much to say we believe in Christ. But will we follow him? Will we give him a safe place to stay? Will we extend to him hospitality? Or will we tell him there is no room in the inn and wish him “Happy Holidays, baby Jesus,” because this is the Christ-less world we live in?
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.
Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’
And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,1 you did it to me.’Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’
Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46 NRSV)
Featured image from Jackie at Creative Commons.