Pastor Shawn Hannon
Hope Lutheran Church Arcade, NY
After a historically long stand-off, the longest shutdown in government history is finally over; at least for now. For over a month our politicians were grid-locked. They tossed around their threats and demands painting themselves into corners. Fortunately for us, the paint dried, and we’re told they are heading back to the table. But this post, despite its start, is not about the politics of the shutdown. What I hope we are all paying attention to is the effect of our politics on the poor.
This government shutdown did not resolve a thing, and it’s very difficult to identify a winner. It is, however, very easy to see who lost. Nearly 1 million Americans were asked to work without pay for over 30 days while their bills, mortgages, car payments, daily expenses, and creditors kept calling. Among them, those paid the highest price were the ones that could least afford to: the poor. We cannot let the good news that the government is open, distract us from the reality that that same government played politics with the lives of the people it is called to protect and serve. And while most of America was either unaffected or able to manage, the poor were affected the most. For Christians, this cannot be.
After Paul’s transformation from a persecutor of Christianity to its fiercest champion, he was asked to sit before some of Jesus’ disciples so that they could help him discern exactly where he was called to serve. He recalls the story in his letter to the church in Galatia. In chapter 2 of the letter he says that recognized the call and grace he’d been given, they agreed he was called to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, and then they asked him one thing. Want to know what that one thing was?
“They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do.” (Galatians 2:10)
One thing: remember the poor. Too often we forget the poor. Too often our decisions, our policies, and our politics forget the poor. Too often the most vulnerable in our society, those who can least afford to, are asked to pay the highest price.
When Jesus returned to his hometown early in his ministry, he spoke at the temple (Luke 4). He spoke of release to captives, sight for the blind, freedom for the oppressed, and a whole year of the Lord’s favor. Those realities he proclaimed were “good news for the poor.” He borrowed the words from the prophet Isaiah and he chose them carefully. Good news for the poor.
When it comes to the next government shut down, and there will be another shut down… or when it comes to the next policy in general, may we remember one thing. For the Christian it is not our principle concern to be on the right political side, but on the side of the poor. The world forgets the poor and plays politics with their lives. The gospel, on the other hand, starts with them.
For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Scott and Pastor Shawn’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.