Was Jesus a Socialist?

“I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.” -Jesus (John 15:15)

The other night while in Washington, I had the good fortune of grabbing some tasty Mexican food with my brother.  While downing our fair share of chips and salsa, he began sharing about how he had seen someone wearing a t-shirt that said, “Jesus is a Socialist”….probably not a rare occasion here in the Pacific Northwest.  But this sentiment….is it accurate?  Does it have any real validity?

Let’s take a look….

The first thing we can look at is the philosophy of Socialism, which is a nutshell is, “What’s yours is mine.”  Historically this was enforced through coercion and threats of, if not actual acts of violence.  One of the most famous Socialist leaders, Joseph Stalin is said to be responsible for the deaths of between 20-25 million people.  Mao Zedong also a Socialist, can be classified as the largest mass murderer in history.  It is said that he is  responsible for 45 million deaths.

Now let’s take a look at Jesus.

The foundation of His message is “What’s Mine is yours.”  He came to seek and save the lost (see Luke 19:10).  He is responsible for the salvation of millions of people and the deaths of…well, nobody.  While he did encourage the rich man to sell everything he owned and give it to the poor, it was not under threat of violence.  Remember what the scripture says…

“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  2 Cor. 9:6-7

Without a doubt, God wants His people to be involved in charity and taking care of those that society often forgets.  However, He wants it to be done from the right heart and with the right intentions.

“We love because He first loved us.”  1 John 4:19

It is absolutely critical that the followers of The Way give and help the less fortunate.  It is in fact, evidence of our redemption in Christ…evidence of our very salvation….

“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?  If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?  Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.  You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!  But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?  Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?  And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it wasaccounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.James 2:14-26

Forced sharing of resources versus the fruits of the Spirit found in a generous giver.  One brings pain, suffering and death and the other brings freedom.  The conclusion is obvious and self evident.  Jesus was far from sharing Socialist ideals and those that would say otherwise are either naive or ignorant of both Jesus’ character and Scripture itself.

“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron”  Psalm 107:13-16

God bless, friends.

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A Stirring

“You’re a quiet guy but there is a lot in there.”

I was recently visiting some of my old stomping grounds down in West Hollywood, California.  Back in the day during my brief stint in music school when I was nineteen (and intermittently throughout the years), I used to go the rock clubs on the Sunset Strip.  The Whiskey, The Roxy, Gazzari’s….On this particular night, I was hanging out at the famous “Rainbow Bar and Grill” with an old friend from grade school that I hadn’t seen in a number of years, who also happens to live a few blocks away from their front door.

It was fun and energizing to be back in the area.  With all of the same sights, smells and music playing in the background, it’s so easy to flashback to past moments in time.  As I sat there at the bar, enjoying a fresh IPA, I began to think back on who I used to be.  I’m not embarrassed to say that it’s now so easy to see how lost I was in so many ways.  I had a spiritual foundation but my “anchor” was never holding me in one place, as I bounced around spiritually from one place to the next (which I know is not uncommon for someone in their late teens/early 20’s).  In the midst of the conversations with my buddy that night, I would sometimes see my “old self” in my mind’s eye (almost like an outer body experience in a sense), sitting in that same place but 20+ years earlier.  I could see my past intentions and my priorities clearly.  How I talked, how I thought about others, about myself, about perceived social status….all have changed so much.  So much in fact, that if I could sit down with the young, long haired rocker version of myself, I would give him a hug, tell him that I love him and give him a good talking to…both about what to do and what not to do.  I actually feel a lot of compassion for my younger self.  I guess it would be the same compassion I would feel for anyone that I could tell was broken inside (whether they know it or not).  We’re all broken after all. Thank God for His redeeming grace.

For much of the night, I continued to have parallel conversations.  One with my friend, one with God.  In the midst of this back and forth flow, the following verse flashed through my mind….

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.  The old life is gone; a new life has begun.”  2 Corinthians 5:17

God’s reminder was like someone turning on the light in a dark room.  <click!>

Look how far I’ve taken you…and I’m not done with you yet.

As I felt that initial surge of encouragement, my friend turned to me and said the words at the top of this page….”You’re a quiet guy but there is a lot in there.”  I would say that is definitely an interesting comment to come out of the blue….and even more interesting when coupled with the timing.

God was once again getting my attention.

I was caught up in this….“there is a lot in there.”  He was right.  There is a lot in here.  There is a lot in all of us.

God continued the process….there is a lot “in there” that people need to hear.  Not stemming from my own ego as much as I believe what God wants to speak through each of His kids….coming from our own unique hearts, heartaches, victories and circumstances.  Our brokenness can speak BUT our redeemed brokenness can speak even more clearly….and bring healing in both ourselves and in others, as those thoughts that are spoken (or sung, or written) will connect with and in the lives of those that hear us.   I believe that this, in turn, encourages our “hearers” to become speakers (in time) and to do the same in the lives of others.

“You are the light of the world.  A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.” -Jesus speaking to His followers in Matthew 5:14

So find your voice.  Believe what you have to say is valuable, because it is.  Your life is your story and stories are meant to be shared and learned from (if you’re a verbal processor like I am, you may be surprised by how just much you may learn).

And this, my friend, is how the light spreads.

“Come and see what God has done….”  Psalm 66:5(a)

God bless.

Choose to See

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to cause many ripples.”  Mother Teresa

Poverty.  This can mean many things to many people but most see it in a negative connotation.  However poverty opens up many doors we would never get the opportunity to walk through otherwise.  Let me explain what I mean.

Downtown Chicago, 2014.  It was late afternoon and I had just crossed the DuSable Bridge on foot and was taking in the sites of the famous “Magnificent Mile” on Michigan Avenue.  It was an extremely busy afternoon, the sun was shining and well dressed shoppers bustled about from shop to shop.  As I continued my walk through the endless stream of people, my gaze was drawn downward.  Sitting on the sidewalk by one of the many concrete planter boxes that line the street, was an African American woman who seemed to be in very dire straights.  She was by herself and not asking for help but instead stared at the ground, despondent and weeping.  I paused for a split second to take in the scene because it was so startlingly out of place.  Person after person continued to walk past her…maybe hundreds or even thousands had passed her by over the course of the day.

Jesus said: ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.  A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.'”  Luke 10-30-32  

I made my way to her and putting my hand on her shoulder, I knelt in front of her on one knee, introduced myself, asked her name and inquired about how I could help.  With tears streaming down her cheeks she explained, “I have been sitting here all day asking for help and no one has even talked to me.”

“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody…I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty, than the person who has nothing to eat.”  Mother Teresa 

Over the course of our conversation and in the midst of the passing crowd I was able to pray with her, speak the Fathers’ truth into her ear, that she was deeply loved by God, listen to her story and help her in a practical way.  I believe the Lord guided the conversation that day and He (not I) get any and all the credit.  I am just grateful for the opportunity to have played a role in what He was doing in her heart and life at that moment….what an honor.

“‘But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him….Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell….?  

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.'”  Luke 10:33 & 34, 36(a) & 37

Poverty is all around us.  Not just physical poverty but also spiritual poverty, as could be reflected by the multitudes who passed by the woman in need that day.  There is a direct correlation between the depth of our walk with God and how we treat those around us, especially those who can do nothing for us.  I believe my “chance” meeting was actually a “divine appointment” where God, in His great wisdom, had a guy from Oregon be in that place at that time to give a specific word of hope to a soul who needed to hear it.  The Good Shepherd is always searching….

You and I have countless opportunities (I know that I have also missed many of these) to reflect the light and love of Jesus in this dark world.  If you choose not to, heir of God through Christ, then who will?  “You are the light of the world.  A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they  may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Matthew 5:14-16 

Be sensitive to the promptings of the Spirit in your life and don’t let the fear of being “different” keep you from obeying His direction.  The blessing of stepping out in faith in this manner can be as rich for you as it is for the person you’re speaking with.  Train your eyes, mind and heart to see Jesus Himself in their faces and remember His words, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, YOU DID FOR ME.” (emphasis mine)  Matthew 25:40

Be ready.

“Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken.”  Rich Mullins