Taking care, in my last post, not to suggest that I am exhausting the entirety of reasons for the apocalyptic tumult our nation and the world is undergoing just now, I have, nonetheless, featured the greed of the rich, the proud, and the powerful and the subsequent mistreatment of the poor and needy with biblical support as at least one key element. It is time to take Jesus more serious than we have before. He is not just some bumper sticker, tee shirt, or jewelry decoration on our lives; he is the very source. And, AND, and he is the way of life as well – life abundant.
It doesn’t take much searching of the Word of God to find God’s special care for the poor and needy – the most vulnerable people among us. It doesn’t take much searching (though it does require breaking through our own denial) to see that care for the poor is not primarily a matter of “fixing” the poor (as in “effective” charity) but rather a matter of making changes in the rich, the proud, and the powerful.
In light of all this wake up call which overwhelms the world, I point readers now to repentance. What does that look like? Well, let’s talk about it. I want to hear from you. No doubt thoughtful responses from other disciples stand to enhance this post.
That said, I nonetheless have an idea I want to share – perhaps just to get this started. I got my idea from God. I have talked about it before, but hopefully the world is in a better position to see with open eyes and to listen to God as we collectively fall to our knees than we were in recent years when we were driving distracted to all manner of distracted ambitions. Here is the idea I offer:
Forgive the Debt
Pretty simple right?
You would think that such a “Christian nation” as ours and the thousands upon thousands of pastors daring to stand up and give voice to God’s Word before their flocks each week that it might have made bigger headlines. So maybe it’s not so simple. Or maybe we have been living in denial and very double-mindedly. Thus, I am thinking more the latter.
This notion, the key feature of biblical Jubilee, dates back to Moses in Leviticus 25. And while it appears the people of God BEFORE Jesus never actually observed this God-given celebratory practice, you would think that those of us “in Christ” after having believed in the resurrection of Jesus would find this practically second-nature – especially considering that Jesus characterizes his whole mission with it as he introduces his “earthly” ministry with it in Luke 4.
For those of us “in Christ,” THIS IS WHO WE ARE! THIS IS WHAT WE ARE ABOUT!
So… why is this not who we are? Why is this not what we are about?
Consider it carefully.
I posted a while back (seems like two years or more now) and told a story from 2008-09 about a gathering of Christians for lunch at a restaurant after worship one Sunday. One of the ladies in that gathering worked as a loan officer at a local bank. She was dealing with a down economy on the one hand, but had repossessed some construction equipment from a man whose business, she believed, had tanked due to no fault of his own.
That “no fault of his own” part was the part that won him sympathy with this loan officer who was feeling spiritually burdened by the fact that she was doing her job by repossessing on the defaulted loan. She felt deeply conflicted over it. She had exhausted every tactic she could find to avoid it, but she still felt troubled in her spirit over this, and so she shared the story with those of us Christians gathered at the table to share a meal just after an hour of worship.
Turns out she was not seeking advice; she was seeking validation. And that is what she got. Lots of sympathy both for the man in default and for her just doing her job. Yet at this table surrounded by Jesus-people sharing a meal and having just come from an hour of worship together, not one person there gave voice to Jesus’s own mission statement or how that might impact this poor man’s life and our world. Not even just for hypothetical consideration!
When I gave voice to it, I was immediately shot down. The proverbial wagons circled, and the oxygen I gave to God’s Word on this matter was suffocated just as fast as it could be.
I was amazed at the response I got on the blog just talking about it much later, in what by that time amounted to a hypothetical idea. That woman seeking validation that day was making decisions on the fly, feeling alone in them, and thus might be pardoned for being on her own learning curve. But those of us so far removed from the heat of the moment still could not imagine a bank officer forgiving the debt. The biggest argument was that it was not her money! She was accountable to her boss!! And thus she was just doing her job!!!
That was the excuse the Nazis gave at Nuremberg too.
We Christians believe in resurrection! We believe that this is our Father’s world!! We believe that man, that woman, and that construction equipment all really belong to God to begin with!!!
The real question isn’t “Whose money is it?” but “Who’s the boss?”!
The bank works for Mammon. Mammon rules the world in debt-creating, debt-collecting, whip-cracking debt. There is fear and oppression in it and it rules the world accordingly. The idea of Jubilee and debt forgiveness only dawns on the people of God at the defeat of empire – Egyptian empire. In ten plagues, God judged Pharaoh is not in charge of this world after all, and as Israel leaves Egypt on its knees in smoldering ashes, the idea that in God’s world the debt gets forgiven was born in human imagination!
We are there again today.
Back in 2008-09, the economy stumbled – stumbled badly, and required a monstrous “bail-out.” But no one dared imagine that we would cancel football for the year. No one dared to imagine we might cancel all of sports (including the Olympics) and all of music concerts and Broadway shows and air travel and churches shutting down too. But we see it now!
Now we have an opportunity to imagine our world differently. Actually, we always did, but given the apocalyptic curtain raising on the futility of empire we have before our eyes right now, it is like eating the fruit from the forbidden tree and having our eyes opened or like breaking the bread with the Stranger at Emmaus and having our eyes opened. The world is NOT what we were making of it. It does not have to be like this. In fact, it never really even could, though our imaginations were trapped.
Let us REPENT now. And let us forgive the debt.
Talk to me…