Pastor Scott Hannon
St. John Lutheran Church Amherst, NY
What is the measure of faithfulness?
How do we gauge religiousness?
How can we tell who is a disciple and who isn’t?
Donald Trump has recently proposed a ban on Muslims entering our country. He has also promised to prioritize Christian refugees who want to come to America. Now I’m a pastor and I suppose I should be cheering such a declaration, but I’m not. Instead, I’m torn and confused and worried.
My first concern is theological. When we start to put Christians first we run the risk of abandoning who we are in Christ. See Jesus didn’t put some people before others. His ministry was not to Jews only or solely to the faithful. Rather, Jesus ministered to all people. In fact, he got in trouble for reaching across the boundaries and barriers constructed by the political and religious leaders of his day. Moreover, we ought not to seek a “Christians First” stance because in Christ we are all called to put ourselves last.
But beyond the theological reasons for why a ban on Muslims and preferential treatment for Christians is wrong, there is a whole host of pragmatic concerns. Namely, how do you tell whose a Christian? Is there a test? Is there are trait? Will we look for cross necklaces or ask people to recite the Lord’s Prayer? Do we really think that we can gauge the hearts of our neighbors to determine their religious loyalty? This sort of thinking is detrimental to discipleship because it pulls us our of the internal champers of the heart and places emphasis on irrelevant, external measurements.
In the prophetic book Micah God takes exception with his people. They have broken the covenant. They have abandoned the faith. They have sinned and fallen short. With the mountains and hills as witnesses God lays a case out before them. Condemned and seeking to show their faithfulness they respond to God asking for how they can demonstrate their faith. “What do you want from us?” they ask. “How can we show our loyalty? Do you want an offering? How about a calve? What about thousands of rams or a river of oil? How about our firstborn sons?” (Micah 6:6-7)
Like a Christian today who measures their faith based on their offering or some sacrifice they make, God’s people then seek to show their faithfulness in the easiest way possible. But their external demonstrations are not what God seeks. God replies, “This is what is required of you: Do justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly with your God.”
God’s response pulls us from the external and places us into the internal chambers of our hearts. We are pulled from our behavior on Sunday to our lives on everyday. We are invited to consider not just what we do for God, but what we do for one another.
May we begin to do justice for all people.
May we love kindness all the time.
And may we once again walk humbly (placing ourselves last and not first) with our God.
In the Way,
For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Scott’s past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.