I had hoped to post this as a video. I even recorded about 30 minutes of video and tried to edit it — it was awful. Not the quality of the video, but the quality of the content.
There is something tricky about presenting issues like social justice. It’s tricky because we don’t listen to each other anymore. We don’t spend anytime listening. We might spend time with our mouths shut in a conversation, but too often we’re just preparing what we are going to say next when the idiot “across the aisle” finally shuts-up.
I guess that’s why I want to do “Wednesdays with Walter.” I want to see if we can still listen…. I want to see if I can still listen to someone with whom I disagree.
In the introduction to “The Social Principles of Jesus,” Walter says, “[This book] does not undertake to furnish predigested material, or to impose conclusions. It spreads out the most important source passages for personal study, points out the connection between the principles of Jesus and modern social problems, and raises questions for discussion.”
Are we still capable of doing that — reading together, exploring connections between the source of our convictions and the real life problems in front of us, and engage in serious discussion about the most important questions facing us.
I hope we can.
I hope I can.
Walter breaks “The Social Principles of Jesus” into four sections. The first of these four sections is “The Axiomatic Social Convictions of Jesus.”
If you’re not sure what “axiomatic” means, don’t sweat it — I had to look it up to make sure myself. It means that these are self-evident — they are the “duh” principles of Jesus. They are obvious by just looking at his life and ministry. For Walter, he wants these to be axiomatic — self-evident — in the lives of followers of Jesus as well.
The first of these axiomatic social convictions of Jesus is the “Value of Life. This is the first chapter of the first section. Each chapter is broken down further into 7 daily readings and then some concluding thoughts by Walter.
Take a minute to read the first and second day readings for the first chapter:
As I read these two Biblical stories in close proximity, I was convicted about the sacredness of human life in the story of the child and the story of the sick. Walter raises questions for his own day, but his placing these stories in such close proximity raised questions in my mind about our own day and problems facing us within our own society. And this is where it gets tricky.
Are you willing to listen?
Are you willing to hear the voice of the other?
Are you willing to see the axiomatic social convictions of Jesus and allow them to challenge you regardless of where you stand — theologically or politically?
If Jesus saw “something heavenly in children, a breath of the Kingdom of God,” then what should our response be to the 600,000+ unborn children who are aborted in the United States each year? How should we respond in the ballot box as well as in the pew?
Some have probably stopped listening.
Others may be saying “amen” and asking for more, but the more that Walter provides — the more that is part of the undeniable, axiomatic social conviction of Jesus — asks us to consider the care for the sick — especially the sick among the unwanted.
If Jesus is so moved by the humanity of the leper that he stretches out to touch him, what should our response be to those in most desperate need of health care in our country — the uninsured, those with pre-existing conditions, and even those here illegally? We may be tempted to say that this is the role of the church and the individual. But if we truly live in a country where the government is of the people, then shouldn’t the government be an extension of our convictions of care for the least of these? How does this affect our view of the current debate over health care?
It surprised me that in two very short pages, Walter Rauschenbusch is able to confront and convict me from the “right” and the “left.” Basically offend everyone! Is this the offense of the Gospel of which Scripture speaks?
I hope that you will continue to join me for more Wednesdays with Walter.
I hope that you will leave comments and join the conversation.
I hope that we will be able to listen to one another as we explore together the social principles of Jesus.
Check out my website for more about Kerry Bender — www.KerryLBender.com