Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Try Loving Your Neighbor (a.k.a. Get a Clue!)

I wish I could say that I was surprised after reading this article on yahoo news about worker's share of national income plummeting to record lows.  I'm not!  Nor are many people around the country surprised by this report.  This is the reality that main street is living with on a day to day basis.  Some refer to this as "class warfare"-the rich get richer, the poor get poorer and those in between are sliding down a slippery slope.

It's not a new concept.  Look back in history at Egypt, Rome, France and even during Wesley's lifetime in merry ole England.  People get wonko when "religion" starts talking about "matters of state" but you need to realize that many of the things that "state" is concerned with are the very same things that "church" is concerned with as well.  The bottom line acid test question-do you love your neighbor as yourself?  Government is supposed to exist to protect the rights the governed.  Church exists to teach people to "love your neighbor as yourself" because God loved you first!  Different sides of the same coin.

Wesley did not shy away from this by any stretch of the imagination.  Not only did he preach on it; the various societies set up prison ministries and Sunday School in order to teach the children who worked in factories how to read-just to give you a couple of examples!  Wesley believed that the inward change of heart was reflected in an outward change of action.  The more love you have, the more you want to share that love with others in practical ways. 

I think the problem we see today is that too many people think they "deserve" something.  On one end of the spectrum you have the philosophy of I worked hard, I earned this, I deserve what I buy, own, etc.  On the other hand there are individuals who feel they are entitled, life has been hard, it's o.k. if I work the system.  Then you have folks in the middle-they would just like to have what they need and they are willing to work for it and they are willing to help others along the way.  Not all rich are greedy.  Not all poor are trying to milk the system.  Not everyone in the middle is willing to lend a hand.  But let's face it, this is typically how the discussion is framed which is a sad commentary on the state of civility and honest conversation! 

Jesus said in Luke 12:48 "...From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." 

Wesley in his sermon "The Law Established Through Faith-Discourse One" talks about how people who are saved by grace suddenly think they do not have to follow the same rules as before because anything goes. 

"...Is your conscience as tender now in these things as it was then Do you still follow the same rule both in furniture and apparel, trampling all finer, all superfluity, every thing useless, every thing merely ornamental, however fashionable, underfoot Rather, have you not resumed what you had once laid aside, and what you could not then use without wounding you conscience And have you not learned to say, "O, I am not so scrupulous now" I would to God you were! Then you would not sin thus, "because you are not under the law, but under grace!"

In other words the Grace of God that kept you humble has exited the building of your heart!  Suddenly, you're a Christian and you do what you want to do, when you want to do it, how you want to do it and you don't worry about anyone or anything else because "you're under grace, not the law!"  Hogwash!  If you truly understand the concept than you KNOW that you are called to a higher standard!  That's the point that Wesley was trying to make in his sermon-don't use grace as an excuse. 

There is nothing wrong with working hard and providing for your family and giving them what they need!  We cross the line when we feel that we have no obligation to help others.  How different would things be today if we had the courage to reach out to others to assist, guide, mentor?  How can we go wrong in loving others by giving them a sense of hope and in some instances, real, tangible assistance? 

There are individuals and groups that put their money where their mouth is and practice what they preach.  More are needed!  Let's humble ourselves and use our resources to reach out to our neighbors.  It's painfully obvious that change is not going to come from Washington D.C.  Real change will come from you and I and a lot of other individuals around the country "loving our neighbors" and making our communities better, stronger places for everyone!

It's time for a little humble pie and a whole lot of loving our neighbors!

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