December 13, 2015 by Ron Madson
I was a stranger, and ye took me in..”
–Matthew 25: 35
The first Christians who intimately knew Jesus and his chosen disciples practiced what they called “The Way.” It was a way of life with the only message being Jesus died and rose again as a sign and token from the Father endorsing His Son’s teachings and example for us to follow. Even as the Son became one with the Father, all disciples were invited to become “at one” with Him.
How could an obscure man who was executed by the political authorities in a small Middle Eastern country have a message that would forever change this world? The answer was demonstrated in the lives of those truly converted to His message for “they loved not their lives unto death.” As vividly depicted by Henry Sienkiewicz’s historical novel “Quo Vadis” this tiny sect of believers introduced on the world stage what Paul aptly described a “stumbling block to the Jews” and a “foolishness” to the world. Their foolishness was made manifest in their embracing, as Jesus did, the outcasts, the poor, even those rejected as sinners by their own faith community. In emulation of Jesus they renounced all forms of violence; they did not covet their own property but shared liberally with all—and their most unworldly trait was their willingness to love their enemies even to the cross. This was The Way. Their faith was not founded on a creed nor any superior claim to doctrinal purity, authority or personal worthiness—but a message manifested in perfect charity towards all mankind.
But perhaps the most singular trait found among the truly born again first Christians was their courage—-for they did not have “the spirit of fear, but of power and love.”
In moments of honest reflection I am fully aware that too much of my life has been and continues to be governed by fear, but thankfully at times through His grace I have known peace.
If I have learned anything from decades of this mortal experience it is how easily one can discern between manifestations of fear and the peace that replaces it when one commits radical acts of compassion in the face of fear.
Fear causes us to be insecure about what we have or do not have. We perpetually fear not having enough and keeping what we have. We invest in the world and the world returns the favor. Jesus invites us to “consider the lilies of the field” and to adopt the “fish and loaves” model of letting it all go rather than the mammon path of churning insecurity that is never satiated.
Fear causes us to create barriers between ourselves and the “others” that we consider unclean. Jesus invites us to have compassion for those that the world, communities, and even churches have judged, condemned and cast out.
Fear causes us to let legitimate fears rule our behavior, but more often indulge in irrational fears. Jesus invites us to take a chance on humanity in spite of our fears
In Hugo’s Les Miserable, Bishop Myriel invites into his home a known criminal—a powerful, desperate and intimidating man. When confronted with confirmation of a crime anticipated by those in his household, this man of God does the unthinkable and shows mercy to Jean Val Jean. For with this act this man of God transforms evil into goodness—
“I’ve ransomed you from fear and hatred.”
These past several weeks we have seen the face of fear that shrinks individuals, communities, religions, and even nations. These voices of fear need not be shared in this post, but we have witnessed how the spirit of fear translates into hatred as we have seen Mosques burned and Muslims assaulted in our nation. A well known leading political candidate and his sycophants, including self professed Christian leaders, have spurred such acts of retribution as they have vilified those that are suffering as they seek to flee to safety. I have no desire to share their venom here, but by contrast share this:
When fear is flamed, there are those that will cling more tightly to their fears, prejudices and even their guns, while others will seek to transcend their fears:
“For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Matthew 25)
May we like Bishop Myriel find the faith and courage to “ransom our own hearts from fear and hatred” through faith in Jesus—His Way, His Truth and His Light.
“Nisi Dominus custodierit domum, in vanum vigilant qui custodiunt eam,”