Do Unto Others
Reports from the recent presidential election results indicate that approximately seventy-seven percent (77%) of white self-professed evangelical voters supported Donald Trump, chief anti-masker. It is no surprise that Christianity Today and National Geographic surveys from June and October, respectively, indicate that this segment of the population is, together with Catholics, ranked at the bottom in peoples’ willingness to mask up. Many, through their devotion to propaganda TV and Radio, viewed the pandemic as a fake/overblown political ploy to defeat their candidate, convinced that the whole Covid-19 story would disappear following the election. Instead, several weeks after the election and entering the new year, as the lame-duck President held unmasked rallies to reject the election results, and megachurches ignored or fought public gathering restrictions, the Nation’s Covid-19 statistics have exploded in terms of infection, hospitalization, and deaths. At this point, for every one thousand Americans alive today, more than one American has died from Covid-19 directly or from complications associated with it. The Nation is reaping what it has sown and there seems to be little regret or remorse from those who have been outspoken and so integral to the resistance of protective measures – many of whom claim to be Christians.
As I’ve written before, the current reality depicts the state of American Christianity – a nationalistic, cultural movement for many, as opposed to a personal relationship with our Lord and Savior. The crass, uncaring behavior of social Christians on the pandemic front has stained the genuine Christian faith, having appropriated Christian vocabulary and used it as a political sword, rather than a soothing salve for the soul. Nowhere is that more apparent than Oklahoma, where we nearly have a church on every corner and pride ourselves on being the heart or buckle as it were, of America’s Bible Belt. And yet, the collective selfishness of a largely Christian-claiming populous has boldly chosen self over others throughout the pandemic, leading us to the top of the national charts in per capita COVID-19 statistics – the bad numbers, the sad numbers, the “it didn’t have to be this way” numbers.
If there were ever a moment for Christians in America to put their faith on display, to exemplify the character of their Lord and Savior, it certainly would have been in the midst of this national (and global) tragedy. Instead, it appears that the pandemic has shed light on the magnitude of false faith that exists here. The human tragedy has exposed a devastating spiritual catastrophe – that many, if not a majority, of self-proclaimed “Christians” in this country, do not know Christ, and unless that changes, they will perish in eternity having misled themselves and those in their sphere of influence.
So, what are genuine Christians to do? LEAD! Lead with what matters most - not in political activity, not in advancement of constitutional rights and privileges, not for the flag, not with protests or anti-protest protests, not in conspiracy theories, not in mean memes, not in social media rants, not in the victim olympics, etc. – but with Christ! I know what many of us are thinking: “I’m no preacher,” “I don’t know my Bible well-enough,” “I’m not very good with words,” “I don’t have time to [fill in the blank here with anything in the service of God we are avoiding],” and on and on. Those things may very well be true (or not), but if we genuinely belong to Jesus, we have the power of God within us through the Holy Spirit to lead with Christ, following His commands and putting Him on display for all the world to see. And all God requires of us in our conduct with others is to practice the foundational Christian ethic that sums up the entirety of scripture: to treat people the way that we would want them to treat us (Matthew 7:12, NASB).
Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15, ESV). Pretty straightforward, right? Those who belong to Him strive to practice His commands. Immediately thereafter, He promised us eternal empowerment to choose righteousness over sin, when he said, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of Truth …,[i.e., the Holy Spirit]” John 14:16. Jesus went on to elaborate that: “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in Me, and I in you. Whoever has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”
Paul elaborated on the power and purpose of the Holy Spirt to the Church at Galatia:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-25, ESV)
In short, according to the Word of God, genuine Christians have the desire and supernatural ability to follow the Word of God and keep His commandments. And within the Word of God, Jesus sums up the entirety of the principles contained therein with this statement: "So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12, ESV). This is an extension of the 2nd Commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18, ESV). As Paul explained,
9 For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself.". 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:9-10, ESV).
In describing those who belong to God and those who do not, John said,
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:7-12, ESV).
In fact, repeated throughout the New Testament is the principle that Christians love one another, which Jesus explained would distinguish Christians from the world,
34“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35, ESV).
And while our priority as Christians is to look after one another within the body of Christ, which serves the dual role of witnessing to the world and fulfilling the work of the Church within it, Jesus’ command that we treat others as we wish to be treated, grounded in the 2nd Commandment to love thy neighbor, extends beyond our brothers and sisters in Christ. Recall that, when asked by a lawyer to define “neighbor,” Jesus shared the parable of the Good Samaritan in which a priest and a Levite bypassed an injured man on the roadway, but a Samaritan came to his aid. This exchange between Jesus and the lawyer followed:
36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?". 37 He said, "The one who showed him mercy." And Jesus said to him, "You go, and do likewise." (Luke 10:36-37, ESV).
Saints have a tremendous opportunity to distinguish true faith from the fake faith with our devotion to Jesus’ command that we treat others as we desire to be treated. Apart from the Vine, we can do nothing, but if we are indeed branches grafted into the Vine, we will bear fruit (See John 15:5). Moreover, whatever we do in word or deed, we must do it all in the name and furtherance of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (Colossians 3:17). And love, Christ’s self-sacrificing love, must be preeminent in fueling our conduct (1 Corinthians 13:1-13).
We must reclaim what it means to be a Christian from imposters by living out our faith through our commitment to the ethic our Lord and Savior called us to follow. So as the pandemic rages, the vaccination effort lags, and fake Christians grab the headlines in devotion to self, may God, through His Spirit, empower genuine members of the faith to lead, to “go and do likewise,” to manifest the love of Christ as a fruit of the Spirit, to love thy neighbor as thyself, to treat others as we would have them treat us, and may the cause of Christ be advanced such that false faith and absent faith are exposed, so that conviction, repentance, and genuine commitment to Him may follow.