By Stephen Mattson 1-25-2017

For the last few years Christians have been singing worship songs that include lyrics like “ keep my eyes above the waves, when oceans rise …” and yet have rejected refugees who’ve seen loved ones die beneath waves, who themselves have literally struggled to keep from drowning in oceans. Those American Christians — particularly white evangelicals — continue to sing the words: “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders …” but fail to realize the shameful irony that they’re largely responsible for refusing shelter and opportunity to some of the world’s most helpless and oppressed people.

This represents a predominant theme of Westernized Christendom: proclaiming Christian rhetoric while actively — or passively — practicing the opposite in reality.

Because while the gospels instruct followers of Christ to help the poor, oppressed, maligned, mistreated, sick, and those most in need of help, Christians in America have largely supported measures that have rejected refugees, refused aid to immigrants, cut social services to the poor, diminished help for the sick, fueled xenophobia, reinforced misogyny, ignored racism, stoked hatred, reinforced corruption, and largely increased inequality, prejudice, and fear.

If Christians refuse to help and actually use their political advocacy and opinions to further hurt refugees, immigrants, women, foreigners, minorities, the poor, the oppressed, the persecuted, the sick, the LGBTQ community — and aren’t abiding by the golden rule of loving their neighbors as themselves, then who exactly are Christians supposedly loving?

What benefit are Christians providing their communities, and what good are they contributing to the world around them? Because in America, it appears that the sole purpose of Christianity is to selfishly protect people’s own self-interests instead of sacrificially serving others.

The election of President Donald Trump has proven that numerous Christians are more worried about power, influence, and control than the gospel messages of humility, generosity, ministering to others, and love.

Of course there are exceptions, but it should be sobering for Christians to realize that that many who claim to follow the Prince of Peace, the Healer, the Light of the World, supported policies that are bringing darkness and pain to so many people.

These presidential orders, which will refuse help to many of the world’s most vulnerable individuals, are what many Christians voted for. This is the fruit of their political labor, but it’s not the Fruit of the Spirit. In fact, love, joy, peace, happiness, and self-control are notably absent from the current administration.

The gospel of Jesus has been traded in for a narrative of fear. But the Bible keeps reminding us to right the course:

Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause. (Isaiah 1:17)

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matt. 25:35)

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. (Lev. 19: 33-34)

Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him. (Prov. 14:31)

Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Prov. 31: 8-9)

But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? (1 John 3:17)

Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. (Jer. 22:3)

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” (Zech. 7:9-10)

By these standards — and by the ultimate example that Jesus himself set for us by example — mainstream Christianity in America has failed. It looks nothing like Jesus.

But the reality is that following Jesus is extremely hard. It demands giving away your most prized possessions and abandoning your biggest fears. So while there might be political, economic, financial, and safety reasons for implementing policies that harm people and refuse them help, there are certainly no gospel reasons.

Nobody understood this better than the early church. Those first Christ followers who refused to bow to the emperor and go along with the policies of the Roman government. For them, they gave everything — to the point of being persecuted, arrested, tortured, and eventually martyred — for the purpose of serving Christ and serving others, the result of choosing to dedicate their lives to the truths of Jesus rather than the ideals of the ruling empire.

The question is, will American Christians ever learn to do the same?

Stephen Mattson is a writer who currently resides in the Twin Cities, Minn. You can follow him on Twitter (@mikta) or on Facebook.

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