John Quincy Adams once said that, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” The laws that are being called for to solve the problems in our society move us further away from both the kind of country our founding fathers wanted for us and the kind of people that Jesus wants us to be. Lawmakers cannot fix what is wrong with society today. Whether we are talking about gun laws or abortion laws, they cannot fix what is really broken — man’s heart. And one of the biggest reasons man’s heart is broken is because we are moving farther and farther away from the way Jesus taught us to live.
The book of Proverbs tells us that “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end leads to death.” And we, as a society, have convinced ourselves that our ways are better than God’s ways…
The apostle Paul summed up Jesus’ teachings like this, “The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” And yet loving others – especially those most in need of love — is a low priority for most of us because society measures us, not by how we care for others but by what we have, the status we have attained in our jobs and how much control we can exercise over others. We go out of our way to avoid our “neighbors” who are different – the homeless, the angry old man, those from different cultures, those who have mental issues — the very folks Jesus sought out.
Is it possible that any of those mass murderers might have taken a different path with their life because someone took the time to simply talk to them about their story?
Is it possible that a teenage girl might not get pregnant because a caring “big sister” gave her the confidence she needed in herself to choose a different path?
Or how about a conversation with a rich, corporate executive showing how the people who work for him are more important than the bottom line?
These acts of love will never eliminate all the shootings, the single-parent homes or abortions. Nor will they stop corporate greed. But they would make a big dent in these and other social ills in a way that legislation can’t. And they will multiply.
Everything we do — good or bad — causes a ripple that is felt beyond the persons that were directly affected. So whenever we lift one person up, that good will get passed on. And you can often change the course of someone’s life in a very positive way by the simplest act of love.
So what do we give Jesus for His birthday? Exactly what he asks for! In the book of John, Jesus tells us, “If you love me, you will obey what I command”. He wants each of us to exercise the greatest force in the universe — love — by focusing on the needs of others and lifting them up. This is not a “passive, Kumbaya, holding hands around the campfire” kind of love. Nor is it a “let me send a check” kind of love. This is a “getting personally engaged with folks who need to be lifted up — rich, poor, sick, healthy, white, black — anyone who is struggling” kind of love.
The political fights over gun control, taxes, abortion rights, etc. will and should continue. But if the majority of us simply give Jesus what He wants for Christmas — for us to truly love our neighbor — we will have a far greater positive impact on society than a thousand new laws.
Please don’t forget about Jesus as you hand out presents this year. After all, it is His birthday we are celebrating;
Dan Valentine teaches an adult Sunday School class at First Presbyterian Church of Marietta.