The Draw

shepherdsIn a 2008 Christmas message delivered via the BBC, a prominent world leader had this to say:

‘…Jesus the Son of Mary is the standard-bearer of justice, of love for our fellow human beings, of the fight against tyranny, discrimination and injustice…If Christ was on earth today undoubtedly he would stand with the people in opposition to bullying, ill-tempered and expansionist powers…If Christ was on earth today undoubtedly he would hoist the banner of justice and love for humanity to oppose warmongers, occupiers, terrorists and bullies the world over…If Christ was on earth today undoubtedly he would fight against the tyrannical policies of prevailing global economic and political systems, as he did in his lifetime…’

Who was it? None other than former Iranian President Ahmadinejad!  An ironic statement by a man whose country executes converts to Christianity, but nonetheless true.

Jesus was not a freedom fighter, in the common sense of the term; he calls his people to love, not hate, to peace and suffering, not violence. But he also calls us to stand with the poor and oppressed, to speak out against injustice, to expose evil, and to change the world through the power of the gospel, prayer, and unselfish service to others. What the Iranian president said in effect was, “Hey, Christians, Jesus stood for justice and against oppression. Why don’t you?”

Yes, certainly, one may make the case that Jesus calls his disciples to patiently endure injustice committed against themselves. But does he call us to adopt the same attitude toward injustice committed against our neighbor, the poor and weak, even an enemy?

We must remind ourselves that in taking on human flesh, God did not choose the soft, well-washed and perfumed pink flesh of the Roman court. He chose the brown skin of a Palestinian Jew, of an occupied nation that had long known oppression and the lash. He chose the rough and dirty skin of a poor and common carpenter, and on the night of his birth, God first revealed himself, not to priest or king, but to shepherds, a class looked down upon even by the great unwashed masses.

Sure, we could point out Ahmadinejad’s hypocrisy –provided we acknowledge our own– in which case, I guess you could call it a draw.

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