Monday, September 8, 2014

What Would Jesus Do?

I am a Christian and a follower of Christ. All of my moral instruction during my formative years was centered on the Bible - especially the teachings of Christ. I was fortunate to have parents who taught me the spiritual lessons I needed as a basis for moral living while supporting a secular education.

 I graduated second in my class at Shawnee High School and received a full tuition scholarship to Kentucky Southern College (now a part of the University of Louisville System). I graduated after three years with honors and a secondary teaching certificate with endorsements in history and English. I went on to get my MSW from the Kent School of Social Work in 1986 with a 4.0 cumulative grade point average and induction into Phi Kappa Beta as a result. I had a distinguished teaching career as well as rearing two successful biological daughters and working with four adolescent girls to advocate for them to help them achieve a better life for themselves than the hand they were dealt. Much of this was because of the lessons I remembered from my Sunday School training.

In "Ethics for a New Millennium" the Dali Lama speaks of the need for a spiritual revolution in the world. He thinks the decline in church involvement, especially in the United States, has led to a decline in the moral life taught by the various religious movements. He sees this as a prime reason for the continual warfare in the world. Believing this, I have returned to a study of the lessons I learned in Sunday School as I try to understand and advocate for an end to war. My current concern is America's continual involvement in supporting both with weapons and soldiers the constant killing in the Middle East. Since I grew up with Jesus as my role model, I have looked for answers into what he would suggest we do there to bring an end to the violence and promote peace.

When I delve into the Bible I try to understand what Jesus taught his disciples about why he came into the world.In Chapter 5, verse 17 of Matthew, Jesus is reported to have said "I did not come to abolish the laws of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. . . not even the smallest detail of God's law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. . . the Kingdom of Heaven."

 The apostles were charged with bringing his message to the Jewish leaders after his death. The apostle Matthew records not only Jesus' birth and life but also his message from his oral teachings to his followers. In Chapter 5 of Matthew he takes the commandments issued under the old laws (before Christ) and explains a new morality based on love and forgiveness - which is the message of the cross and why Christ died. Christ died not so soldiers would rise up and overthrow the Roman Empire, rather the apostles were to go and bring the Good News to the people of Rome about a new way of living based on love and forgiveness.

In my Sunday school lessons, I remember studying the "new law" that Christ taught which was to put an end to the law put down by Hammurabi and was used as the system of justice that led to the beheadings and stonings so prevalent during his time. It was "an eye for an eye." Matthew wrote in Chapter 5 Verse 28 "Ye have heard it said, 'an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say, do not resist an evil person. If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat too. If a soldier demands you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don't turn away from those who want to borrow."

In Verses 43 and 44 of Chapter 5 "You have heard the law that says, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say 'love your enemies.' Pray for those who persecute you! In that way you will be acting as your Father in heaven. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that."

I realize we have separation of church and state in this country, but there are many who proclaim "one nation under God" and go off to war to defend God and country." If we proclaim "God is on our side" then we must adhere to the laws we believe in. Using the same techniques as those who kill and maim will not promote the "kingdom of heaven on earth." I am a Christian, I am a follower of Christ. I abhor bombings and slaughter everywhere. If God's kingdom is to be on earth then we must follow God's laws. We must be the peace we want to see. It begins with us. That is a difficult challenge for me and I have learned the only way I can do that is to surrender to God's grace and love those who are hard to love and forgive.

An urban myth tells of an African American woman in court. A racist teenager killed her twelve year old son. The evidence was overwhelming so the defendant's lawyer placed the murderer on the stand to tell of his life in the hope that he would receive life in prison rather than the death sentence.

At first the teenager was composed and spoke without emotion, the same emotionless state he was in when he pulled the trigger. But when he said that no one wanted him, that he had no mother, he began to cry saying how sorry he was for what he had done. His only excuse was that no one wanted him, and that he had no mother. From the back of the courtroom a voice could be heard over his sobs. "I will be your mother." The people in the courtroom turned to see the mother of the dead child facing his killer.

"I will be your mother. Until I die, I will be your mother. My son is gone, and so I ask you, will you be my son now?"

A simple "yes" transformed a courtroom that had previously been filled with hate. I want to say "yes" to love, to forgiveness and strive very hard to "love my neighbor as myself" whether it be the person next door to me or those across the world. I pray that love will replace hate and forgiveness replace revenge. When that happens, I believe the world will experience the second coming of Christ.

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