I saw this posted on Facebook:
Apartheid was legal,
The Holocaust was legal,
Slavery was legal,
Colonialism was legal.
Legality is a matter of power, not justice.
I am not sure of the point of this meme, but it got me thinking. For one thing, power and injustice don’t always go together, but there is certainly a strong correlation between the powerful and injustice to the powerless.
In that context, think about these words from the most famous sermon given by Jesus:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Jesus was not talking to the powerful in this sermon. He was preaching good news to the poor. He wasn’t urging the poor, the downcast, the meek to rise up and riot or challenge the power of the powerful. He was telling them they were blessed, for great is their reward in heaven!
Jesus was telling people to look beyond their existing lives and to consider eternity.
Jesus disappointed the Zealots of His time by not advocating for or leading the charge in the takeover of the Jewish homeland and the immediate ouster of the occupying oppression of the Romans. Instead, He came purposefully to be obedient to the Father and to die on the cross, and He urged His followers to follow His example and His words.
So what does this mean to Christians in the United States? Are we blessed?
I guess it depends on what it means to be blessed.
We think we are blessed. How many times have we heard people say how blessed they are for the things they have, and the conveniences they have and the security they enjoy? We think of these things and having abundant food, comfortable homes, a loving family and many, many other things that characterize our lives in this country as blessings.
But, if we look at the list of things Jesus called blessings, they are all absent from our lists. We consider ourselves blessed, but our blessings don’t match up to the blessings Jesus described.
Could it be that we are focused on the blessings of this world and not on the blessings of heaven?
Is it possible that we are already receiving all the reward we will get?
Will there be any reward for us in heaven?
The fact is clear that “we” in this country are on the side of the rich and powerful. We do have many poor and powerless people in our midst, but most people reading this piece, including me, are not in that category. So what do we do with these words Jesus spoke?
Well, we shouldn’t condemn ourselves, if we are in Christ. But, we need to take these words to heart and respond accordingly. Anyone who loves Jesus keeps His words; anyone who keeps the commands Jesus spoke abides in Him. If we want to love God and abide in Him, we must take His words to heart.
We can do this both in our individual lives and in the things that we stand for. We can take it upon ourselves to help people in need and to participate in organizations that provide for the needy. We can also advocate for the poor, the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the prisoners and the strangers among us – those people Jesus told us to respond to.
The meme in the beginning focuses on institutions that were once legal, but are now seen by a majority of people as immoral and unjust: apartheid, the Holocaust and slavery. Think of yourself back in those days, and assume you are in the position of the majority who were in power in those countries at that time, where would you fall on those issues?
Before you answer, the chances are high, statistically, that you would be in support of those institutions or would be indifferent to them. Chances are very, very low that you would take a stand against the majority. But, if you did take a stand against the majority, you would be on the side of morality and justice and history.
So, today in the United States, we face a moral dilemma. Areas of the world are being torn apart by war and the worst atrocities that man has ever committed against fellow man. The victims of that violence and evil desperately need a place of sanctuary, and the United States, the wealthiest and freest place on Earth, could be that place of sanctuary.
We the people control whether these people have sanctuary with us or must fend for themselves, and probably die, on their own. We elect the leaders who pass the laws, and we can hold them accountable for the laws they pass and enforce.
What side of history should the followers of Christ be on?
Should we be on the side of protecting our own turf? Or should we on the side of helping the powerless, the strangers, the homeless, the downtrodden – the modern refugee?
 From the Sermon on the Mount Matthew 5:3-11
 Isaiah foretold that the Messiah would preach good news to the poor (Isaiah 61:1), and Jesus said that is what He came to do. (Luke 4:18)
 John 5:19 (“I have not spoken on my own, but the Father who sent Me has commanded Me what to say and how to say it.”); John 8:28 (“I do nothing of my own initiative….”) Philippians 2:8 (“He humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on the cross”); and Hebrews 5:8 ((“He learned obedience from what he suffered”)
 Matthew 16: 24-26 (“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”); Luke 14:27 (“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”); John 14:23 (“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word….”); John 15:10 (“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my live….”), for instance.
 Luke 6:24-26 (““But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.”)
 Romans 8:1(“There is no condemnation now for those who are in Christ.”)
 John 14:23
 John 15:10
 Matthew 25:33-40 (“And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 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, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 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.’”)