Our calling to a Gospel of hands and feet

Theoretical Christianity is utterly useless.

Riley Potter, Staff Writer

Sometimes, it really does seem like ignorance is bliss. When I was unaware of all the injustice and oppression that takes place all over the world, life was much simpler. I could go to the grocery store and buy whatever I wanted without thinking about the underpaid migrant laborers who most likely picked the fruits and veggies I selected. I could shop at retailers and get excited about a BOGO free deal without wondering if the clothes I just grabbed were made by child laborers. When I didn’t read the news, I didn’t have to see all the death and destruction happening around the world, and when I didn’t see all people as created in the image of God, I could dismiss those experiencing homelessness as an unworthy and unseemly burden. 

Life in our little bubbles seems tempting — it is known and it is comfortable. Why would we want to get out and hop into the messiness that exists everywhere else? The answer lies in the fact that we are followers of Jesus and we are called to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Second only to loving God, loving those around us is central to our lives and callings as Christians. Now, don’t get me wrong, good works do not equate salvation; however, it is precisely because of God’s grace that we must love others, and love them radically. 

The Gospels are full of countless examples of Jesus’ powerful and transformative love. He was not a passive individual. He lived as a poor Jew — a member of a minority group under the oppressive Roman empire. As Howard Thurman writes in his book “Jesus and the Disinherited,” Christianity emerged as a “technique of survival” for the oppressed, and Jesus lived in a “climate of deep insecurity.” 

Jesus — and, subsequently, God — is not neutral. Our Creator cares deeply about issues of social justice and is concerned with our lives as we live them, not simply with the salvation of souls. He sided with the poor and the downtrodden and actively resisted the pervasiveness of Rome. He rejected the standard practices of the day and called people to leave everything and devote their lives to him, to spreading the Word and to loving others. He rejected consumerism and our tendency to hoard possessions. He told his followers to love those who persecuted them. He fraternized with the outcasts, the immigrants, the unclean and the adulterers. He didn’t come to condemn or to judge but to love, and if Jesus’ main mission wasn’t to judge others, how can we think it is our place to determine who is worthy of God’s love?

Instead, we are to love — and love abundantly. Every person outside our door is our neighbor and Thurman describes neighborliness as “nonspatial.” We must meet our neighbors where they are and treat them with dignity and respect. We must be in awe of the fact that they, too, are beautifully made in God’s image. We are called to love and serve our neighbors, but we cannot do that faithfully if we do not know our neighbors or their life experiences. For this, we are ushered into lives of learning and exploring, existences not characterized by ignorance or fear of the “other,” but by curiosity, empathy and love. This is our mission: to be the hands and feet of the one who knows us each by name. 

It is also important to take care of ourselves. Burnout is a real phenomenon. No one should feel guilty in taking time to be alone, reset and remind themselves that we are merely vessels of God’s divine will and are not meant to do it all. We must do what we can with what we have and give the rest to God, knowing that he sees those we miss and loves in a way that is more encompassing than we could possibly imagine. Ultimately, we are all beautiful and beloved children of God and our identity rests solely in that fact. For that, we should give praise. We should extend the love we have received to the rest of the world and lead the charge for justice.

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Opinions expressed in letters and other editorials, unless otherwise stated, are those of the writers and not of The Horizon staff or the college collectively.

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