"Jesus did not come to start a religion."
For the past eight weeks, our church has been discussing that idea. Or, more accurately, we have been discussing how to incorporate Jesus's teachings into our daily lives.
The words are Mike Slaughter's. From his book Renegade Gospel: The Rebel Jesus. And it is edgy enough to get us to start thinking about our role as followers of Christ within our little community in Mexico.
Here is the rest of that quotation: "Instead, the rebel Jesus came with a renegade gospel to start a
revolution that would be propelled by a countercultural community of
people on Planet Earth. And you and I are invited to be a part."
Taking that path is not easy. After all, it was Jesus who instructed us to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, to make the alien a guest, to clothe the naked, to care for the sick, and to visit the prisoners. "Whenever you did these things for one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did them for me!"
As a church group, we have discussed the complexity of helping neighbors in need. The concern about causing damage while trying to help. Or trying to discern whose needs are genuine. Or simply trying to create some form of priority criteria in showing Christian charity.
But, as Ronald Reagan once famously said: "They say the world has become too complex for simple answers.
They are wrong. There are no easy answers, but there are simple
answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally
Whenever we discuss those side issues, we cannot ignore Jesus's clear directive: we are to help those in need -- out of our love for them, and out of our love for God. Or as the Reverend James Forbes wittily put it: "Nobody gets into heaven without a letter of reference from the poor."
I have taken on a personal project. Not to get a letter of reference. But to share some of the grace that God has shown to my life.
Two years ago, I met Ozzie while he was working as a waiter. We went from waiter-customer to acquaintances to friends.
Even though he was born in Mexico, he spent most of his life in The States -- until he was deported five years ago.
He left behind an American wife and two small children. A daughter and a son. Other than a brief visit with his family in northern Mexico a year ago, he has been separated from them. He could not go north, and his wife had concerns about moving to Mexico.
But I have never heard two young people more in love than these two were. Shakespeare could have written them into a new play.
Through a series of events that appeared centrifugal at the time, circumstances changed. His wife decided she would sacrifice her concerns in favor of moving the family to Mexico.
For anyone who has pulled up stakes to move with two small children, you know the impact the move can have when financial resources are scarce.
This is where I came in. I was impressed enough with this love story to offer some of my resources to rebuild a family that was torn apart by tragedy.
Trying to re-build a family here in Melaque is going to be difficult enough without worrying about the financial impact it will have on their combined resources. I cannot relieve daily life stresses, but I can take that card off of the table.
And because no one is perfect, there are individual problems that they will each need to deal with.
Some of my friends have raised some very practical concerns. For my financial and personal well-being. All of them mean well. And their analysis may turn out to be wiser than my own. After all, it was Jesus who also said: "[B]e as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves."
But I tend to agree with what Anne Lamott wrote in Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace: "[Jesus] made a point of befriending the worst and the most hated, because His message was that no one was beyond the reach of divine love, despite society's way of stating the opposite."
My friends have raised fair questions about whether my help for this young family is really going to help them. That I am just exacerbating some of the issues they face in their lives.
Maybe they are right. Maybe there are neither easy answers nor simple answers in life.
But my heart tells me I have made a correct moral choice. That love offered never returns empty.
After all, Jesus did not come to form a religion, but to start a revolution. And I am happy to grab a musket in that cause.