‘Ban Your Neighbor as I Have Banned You’ | Sojourners

‘Ban Your Neighbor as I Have Banned You’

Then the righteous will answer him, saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?”And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matt. 25:37-40)

Vast numbers of Christians — particularly white evangelical Christians — are endorsing policies that directly hurt the hungry, oppress the stranger, exploit the naked, withdraw aid from the sick, and isolate the imprisoned. Which begs the question: How did American Christianity become so anti-Christian?

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these. (Mark 20: 30-31)

Many followers of Christ have become so uncomfortable with the idea of loving their neighbor that they’re going out of their way to prevent people from becoming their neighbor in the first place — by deporting and banning them.

Worshipping a God of truth while actively supporting — or passively ignoring — a deceitful and destructive ruler is appalling. How can a person read Bible verses about serving an omnipotent God who promotes hope and love, yet continually endorse political actions and rhetoric that are full of fear and hate?

Additionally, you cannot reconcile the simultaneous claims that Jesus is the Prince of Peace yet advocate alongside the president for an even bigger military, or declare Jesus is the Great Teacher but want to cut educational resources for the poor, or trumpet Jesus as being a healer but espouse policies that take health care coverage away from the vulnerable.

All sorts of theological rationalizations have been used for not following the example of Jesus when it pertains to loving refugees, immigrants, the poor, oppressed, abused, and burdened. And despite boldly promoting Scriptures that mention being “subject to governing authorities,” many will coincidentally avoid the countless ones that require subjecting oneself to the ultimate authority of Christ.

Because when the lepers were banned and deported beyond the walls of ancient cities, what did Jesus do? He healed them.

And when the Samaritans were vilified as evil terrorists, what did Jesus do? He built relationships with them and revealed their humanity.

And when people tried to alienate and create animosity towards the Gentiles, what did Jesus do? He publicly embraced them.

And when people wanted to punish a woman for “breaking the law,” what did Jesus do? He defended her.

And when people were considered social outcasts and “unclean,” what did Jesus do? He accepted and empowered them.

The excuses for not following Jesus are numerous, but the most devastating condemnation is that when we fail to be like Christ, we fail to love. Because while Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors (Mark 12:31), many are blatantly refusing to do so. 

If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? (Matt. 5:46)

Christians who refuse to break rank from their political tribes and social circles at the expense of refugees, immigrants, the sick, the poor, the uneducated, the maligned, and the outcast are prioritizing carnal hopes rather than divine promises.

From a completely secular standpoint, this is normal and even socially acceptable. But for people who claim to follow Christ, our mindset should be heavenly and not earthly because the Gospel isn’t meant to create a nice 401K, or increase the economy, or protect the interests of our national agenda. 

Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys (Luke 12:33).

If we truly believe that eternal treasures are stored up for us in eternity, then American Christians will surely go down in history as being the richest on earth but the poorest in heaven. Because during a historic time when the world’s most vulnerable are in grave need of hope and help, those claiming to offer spiritual salvation are refusing to save on earth those who are most desperately asking for it.

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you (John 15:12).

The point of Christianity is to love God and love people. How did Jesus love us? He sacrificed everything for us — to the point of being crucified on a cross.

We must all ask ourselves this important question: Does accepting refugees and immigrants, giving aid to the poor, providing health care to those who desperately need it, and defending the oppressed fall within the meaning of “as I have loved you”? God help us.

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