What if the answer to our unhappiness, anxiety, diet-related disease and sickness, stress, depression and loneliness was to follow a completely different Way, Life and Truth?
What if the answer to all that ails us, confuses us, keeps us up at night, worries us and causes us to live in fear was to follow a different Way, Life and Truth?
What if the answer wasn’t more tinkering with the consumer lifestyle but to walk away from the consumer lifestyle altogether and follow a different Way, Life and Truth?
What if the answer to the emptiness of consumerism was to quit being a consumer?
What if the answer to our political and moral disagreements was to quit participating in them?
It seemed that Jesus ran into a person who was doing pretty well. Unlike most people that came to Jesus to be healed, it appears this man was not suffering from crippling anxiety, depression, fear, worry, guilt, shame, pain, sickness or disease because his greatest concern had nothing to do with right here and right now. Rather than coming to Jesus for help, he came to Jesus with a question about what he must do to have “life of the Age” to which Jesus responds “sell all he owns, give to the poor and come follow him.”
As I thought about this response, I have to assume that Jesus spoke truth to this man about what would give him both the “life of the Age” and what would be the best way to live on earth. Jesus’s way, life and truth to being perfect and being rich (the man was rich) was, “If you wish to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have a treasury in the heavens, and come follow me.”
Jesus what? How about more bible studies, more quiet times, volunteering and praying. How about more rules? You want me to sell all I own and give it to the poor- are you a socialist-you have got to be kidding.
Jesus’s answer to all of life’s problems were always quite simple and always extreme. “Sell everything, pick up a cross, turn your cheek, give your cloak, be like a little child, be weak, blessed are the poor, find the lost one, love the little children, help orphans and widows and love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” (church you have over 500 orphans now waiting for help)
Jesus had a lot of nerve to demand so much.
If you read The Bible, you’ll see that the creator of the world came to earth and lived in contradiction to man’s religious interpretations, man’s ways, man’s common sense, man’s political agendas and man’s understanding of success. He lived in poverty. He lived in humiliation. He lived in service to others. He gave his entire life for his neighbors. He hung with the wrong people. Then allowed himself to be killed for his enemies. If that wasn’t enough, of all the tragic things that Jesus saw, healed, responded to and concerned himself with- none were supporting or participating in man’s ways or man’s truths to life.
How can Jesus tell us that the answer to living on earth is to sell all we own, give it to the poor and follow him or to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and love our neighbor as ourselves. (If you look closely- these two things are the same thing.)
I wonder what would happen if the “church” stopped participating in politics and took seriously the call to love our neighbors with more than bible studies, church services, daily devotional, thoughts and prayers and sermons but with feeding, clothing and helping the less fortunate.
What if we used those big church buildings for free preschools, schools, daycares and places for all kinds of ways to help people struggling with addictions, mental health issues and sickness and disease. What if churches were hell bent on helping to their neighbors remember what God’s love sounds like, taste like, smells like, looks like and feels like. I bet you’d see not only people change but you’d see communities change.
Jesus obviously thought the greatest, easiest, simplest and most powerful way to defeat evil was to love. Is his example not enough to convince us today?
Interestingly enough, Henry David Thoreau believed that slavery, one of the greatest evils, would end quickly if people stopped participating in the system. “I know this well, that if one thousand, if one hundred, if ten men whom I could name,–if ten honest men only,–ay, if one HONESTman, in this State of Massachusetts, ceasing to hold slaves, were actually to withdraw from this copartnership, and be locked up in the county jail therefor, it would be the abolition of slavery in America. For it matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what is once well done is done forever.”
I do believe that if we stopped participating in and we walked away from the world’s ways, truths and consumer life’s that even if the situation didn’t change…we would change and we would definitely change the situations that we are currently in.
As I am confronted by my own participation in the things that consume my time, energy and money, I am looking for the Christians who have walked away and are busy feeding, clothing, visiting, helping and healing creatures and creation. As always, I am drawn to this imitator of truth.
The Mad Farmer, Flying the Flag of Rough Branch, Secedes from the Union
From the union of power and money
From the union of power and secrecy,
From the union of government and science,
From the union of government and art,
From the union of science and money,
From the union of genius and war,
From the union of outer space and inner vacuity,
The Mad Farmer walks quietly away.
There is only one of him, but he goes.
He returns to the small country he calls home,
His own nation small enough to walk across.
He goes shadowy into the local woods,
And brightly into the local meadows and croplands.
He goes to the care of neighbors,
He goes into the care of neighbors.
He goes to the potluck supper, a dish
From each house for the hunger of every house.
He goes into the quiet of early mornings
Of days when he is not going anywhere.
Calling his neighbors together in to the sanctity
Of their lives separate and together
In the one life of the commonwealth and home,
In their own nation small enough for a story
Or song to travel across in an hour, he cries:
Come all ye conservatives and liberals
Who want to conserve the good things and be free,
Come away from the merchants of big answers,
Whose hands are metalled with power;
From the union of anywhere and everywhere
By the purchase of everything from everybody at the lowest price
And the sale of anything to anybody at the highest price;
From the union of work and debt, work and despair;
From the wage-slavery of the helplessly well-employed.
From the union of self-gratification and self-annihilation,
Secede into the care for one another
And for the good gifts of Heaven and Earth.
Come into the life of the body, the one body
Granted to you in all the history of time.
Come into the body’s economy, its daily work,
And its replenishment at mealtimes and at night.
Come into the body’s thanksgiving, when it knows
And acknowledges itself a living soul.
Come into the dance of the community, joined
In a circle, hand in hand, the dance of the eternal
Love of women and men for one another
And of neighbors and friends for one another.
Always disappearing, always returning,
Calling his neighbors to return, to think again
Of the care of flocks and herds, of gardens
And fields, of woodlots and forests and the uncut groves,
Calling them separately and together, calling and calling,
He goes forever toward the long restful evening
And the croak of the night heron over the river at dark.
Copyright Wendell Berry