Love the idiots

Published 4:45 pm Friday, February 8, 2019

By Nathan Decker

I’m not a political Christian; for the most part I allow people even their vain, earthly rights. And I certainly don’t see anti-Christians as bad or evil (as if they actually have the power to pose any kind of threat against God Almighty), but rather complete idiots I was commanded to love.”

– Criss Jami, “Healology”

Jesus didn’t give us much choice. We are called to love them. THOSE people … the ones we look at as if they are from Mars. The people we disagree with about border security and immigration, yep … Jesus said love them. The folks who seem to have drawn a tight circle around their tribe, their brand and their beliefs excluding and judging us every step of the way … Jesus said love them. Atheists, agnostics, church Nazis, antichrists and even Uncle Bill — Jesus said love them. There is no category of human being who has done something so horrific that God’s love isn’t offered to them in grace. Because of this, we are also called to love them.

A few years ago I taught at a leadership conference in Cambodia to clergy and lay leaders. I had never been to Cambodia before, but it didn’t take long to realize that the leaders of the church in Cambodia hated the Vietnamese government. Since the fall of Pol Pot in the 1970s, Cambodia has essentially been a puppet state of Vietnam. These young men and women had pride in their history, their nation and in the Khmer people. Such small steps separate patriotism and pride from nationalism and racism. Walking through a market, I watched as our translator made a face at someone walking past.

“He’s Vietnamese,” she said, “he’s stealing our jobs, our identity, our heritage.”

That night, I was teaching about translating the context of the scriptures into our own context. The Scripture was the story of the Good Samaritan. Maybe it was meddling. Maybe I have an ego (I know I do). Maybe it was Jesus, but something sparked within me to say, “If I were a Cambodian preacher, I’d preach this story as the Good Vietnamese, because Jesus is trying to get us to widen our circle to include those we want to exclude.”

I stopped speaking as an older man stood up. His presence brought silence. In addition to the respect for an elder, his age forced us all to listen (70 percent of Cambodia is under age 30). He picked up the cane he was using to steady himself and pointed it at me and said a word that even I could understand without translation. “Amen.” He said it over and over again and then went into a spontaneous sermon on love (that I did have to have translated).

Jesus doesn’t give us much choice. You can call my faith fake. You can say it’s a dead tradition and useless religion. You can even say I’m crazy to believe God would speak through a book written 2,000 years ago. That’s OK, I love you still. Because my Lord said we’re all God’s children. Because Jesus loves me, and I’m unlovable. Because Jesus loves you, and the Good Samaritan is the story of my worst enemy doing something amazing. We are called to love. After all, it’s what Jesus would do.

Jesus said, “What do you think? Which one of these three was a neighbor to the man who encountered thieves?”

Then the legal expert said, “The one who demonstrated mercy toward him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

– Luke 10:36-37