We've looked at some difficult ideas already this week, ideas that run counter to what our world tells us is important. We started by recognizing that two ideas so important to our world - politics and economics - are two things that Jesus deliberately had very little to say about. And yesterday, we saw how the Christian community values poverty and how Jesus gave us no command at all to eliminate it, but rather, taught us how to honor it.
And what it all boils down to, for the Christian, is this: God has not called us to live in an economy, but to live in a community.
That's a tough pill for the world to swallow, but it's true. And the world would like to twist this to tell us that this, too, means God has called us to socialism, but those very things are incompatible. God has not called us to live in an economy (i.e. socialism) and socialism leaves a lot to be desired for this thing called "community."
God's economy (God's community) cannot be forced. You cannot just take from one and give to another and call it good. You cannot force someone to live according to a principle, even a principle that God has espoused. Just as you can't make someone stop sinning, you cannot make someone economically just.
God's economy runs on grace, pure and simple. There is something far different about a man who sees his brother in need and chooses to step into that void and offer assistance than a man who is deemed to have too much and is required, then, to give it to his brother.
God has called us to live with eyes wide open to one another...and to ourselves. He wants us to see each other, not numbers. He wants us to honor one another. He wants us to have a real perspective on who we are, who others are, who He is. He wants us to learn to live and to love like He does - graciously. And grace fundamentally requires inequality.
We hate that. We do. Our world hates that, and it has taught us to shudder at the notion of inequality anywhere. And the truth is that those of us who have ever been on the receiving end of grace, in whatever form, hate that feeling of inequality that makes us stand in need of it. We don't like having needs in the world. We don't like feeling our emptiness, our weakness, our void. On the other end, we don't like feeling "guilty" for having more, for having resources that others don't have. Inequality keeps us off-balance to the depths of our soul.
But it's supposed to.
It's supposed to because that's the only way we ever find grace. That's the only way we ever find love. That's the only way that we ever find each other in the way that God intended us to find one another. And it's the only way we ever find Him.
Inequality gives us perspective that we just couldn't have if everyone was on equal footing. It gives us the opportunity to learn from one another, and more importantly, it keeps us from putting too much emphasis on the wrong things. If we were to have one metric that guided our entire understanding of the world - let's say economics - then that would be all that we would ever see. But if we live in a world where that one thing is not the thing, where there are actually many things, then we get to learn something new from one another every day.
I get to learn from those richer than me what it means to be generous; I get to learn from those poorer than me what it means to be tenacious. I get to learn graciousness from both. I get to learn from those sicker than me what it means to be strong; I get to learn from those healthier than me what it means to be whole. I get to learn from those smarter than me what it means to be observant; I get to learn from those still learning what it means to be curious. Everyone in every place that is somewhere different than we are has something to teach us about...life. About love. About being human. About being faithful.
This is God's beautiful design for community. It requires that we are walking different paths from one another. It requires that we experience different things. It requires that we fight different battles and have different struggles and achieve different victories. It requires that we put emphasis on different things. Socialism....can never accomplish this. It can never make us the people - or the persons - that God has called us to be.
Only real community can do that.