Monday, August 31, 2009

Loving Enemies

I teach a Bible study class at my church for young professionals. In reality, I moderate a discussion time because the class members are generally very open and the dialogue is good. We have been working our way through the Sermon on the Mount. This past week we made our way to that difficult passage about loving your enemies.

Matthew 5:43-48 (NIV)
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

In Jesus’ day the command to love one’s neighbor would be understood by a Jew to refer to another Jew. It does not really sound that much different from our day. We tend to love our family, our friends, people like us, and those who help us. Jesus response was, “What’s different about you? Everyone does that! Even people who do not believe in God love those groups!”

I don’t know about you, but I think this is one of Jesus’ hard sayings. Love your enemies? That does not seem right at all. I think we sometimes confuse love and like. We really do not have to like someone or agree with them in order to care about them. If we care about them we act in their best interest. Christians are seen to be sons of the Father who is in heaven when we allow his love to be expressed through us. God’s love does not show favoritism. God’s love is shared with friends and enemies alike. God always acts for the good of every person.

Jesus calls us to live in a radical new way. This new way of living is only possible as he possesses more of us and our lives reflect more of his character. In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote, "Do not waste your time bothering whether you 'love' your neighbor act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less." May God grant us a the grace to love our enemies.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Faithful Reform in Health Care

August 20, 2009 - Statement by Faithful Reform in Health Care

140,000 people of faith participate in historic call with faith leaders and President Obama

The following press release was prepared regarding the conference call held with faith leaders from across the country on Wednesday, August 19. I participated in the call. Check out the report of the call below.

Cleveland, OH - An estimated 140,000 people of faith listened to a conference call with faith leaders and President Barack Obama in an historic 40-minute conference call on Wednesday afternoon. Sponsored by the Faithful Reform in Health Care Coalition and more than thirty other religious organizations, the call was part of the continuing massive mobilization of people of faith around the issue of health care reform. The focus was to energize faith advocates around the moral imperative for making REAL reform happen this year.

Faithful Reform in Health Care member organizations were well-represented on the call, including a denominational executive, local clergy, a health care professional and people of faith victimized by our current health system. All who spoke addressed the urgency of moving forward together for a health care future based on our shared faith values. Call participants were urged to encourage truth-telling, to model civil discourse, to maintain a steady moral drumbeat for reform, and to lead in hope.

The Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), emphasized that we have the moral vision and the policy expertise to make reform happen, but not the political will to succeed. She emphasized how important people of faith will be in creating political will by engaging with our members of Congress in the coming days.

Congregational pastors, priests and rabbis reported the work that they are doing to engage their congregants and communities in health care reform and reminded us about how intimately our lives are connected to those who suffer in our current health system. A Muslim physician reminded us how difficult it is for health care providers to do their work in our current system.

President Obama and the White House Domestic Policy Director Melody Barnes addressed concerns, most notably, clarification of the President's priorities, issues around cost, abortion funding, and conscience protections for health care workers. They both emphasized how very important the faith voices will be in making health care reform a reality this year.

President Obama concluded the call with the reminder that "men and women of faith have shown what is possible when we are guided by our hope and note our fear." People of faith have historically been at the forefront of social reform in our nation's history, and that hope-filled leadership will be no less important as we work for health care reform.

Faithful Reform in Health Care coalition members and their congregations will be among the leaders in follow-up activities by raising a moral vision for our health care future the weekend of Aug. 28 - 30 in Health Care Sabbaths, Candlelight Vigils and other public events that will be held across the country.

The link to a recording of the call is available at here.

Contact Rev. Linda Hanna Walling, Faithful Reform in Health Care, 216.325.0010.

Faithful Reform in Health Care is the largest interfaith coalition of national, state and local organizations and individuals working for health care reform in the United States. It is the collective voice of faith communities committed to a vision for a health care future that is grounded in their shared sacred values.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Caring for the Health of Everyone

Everyone is aware that our nation is in the midst of a great debate regarding the future of health care in our country. I am sure we would not all agree on the appropriate strategies to fix the problem, but I think most of us would agree we have a real problem.

I serve on the board of Missouri Impact, an ecumenical and interfaith legislative advocacy network for social justice. I also serve a chairperson of Missouri Christians Against Racism and Poverty. Both organizations are giving their primary focus to the health care debate. The members of Missouri Impact, out of our various faith traditions, have declared our conviction that health care is basic human right and that it is a moral imperative to advocate for quality, affordable, health care for all with particular concern for the most vulnerable.

The following facts speak to the urgency of this debate:
• almost 50 million Americans are without health coverage
• as 14,000 Americans are losing health care coverage each day
• additional thousands are being denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions
• over 20,000 people die each year for want of health care
• a major cause for bankruptcy is personal and family medical debt

I realize the issues are complex and many of the solutions are costly, but I find it very difficult to believe we cannot find a solution. As a Christian I believe every person should have access to quality, affordable, heath care.

It would be impossible to read the Gospels and not be aware of the compassion and concern Jesus had for all types of illness and health problems. In Matthew 14 the scripture says, And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed. In Matthew 15 it says, Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them.

I come to the health care debate seeking to have the same type of compassion and concern that Jesus expressed for all people. I believe God’s people need to be a part of the debate. I believe we should be looking for solutions which are compatible with our beliefs and convictions.

Missouri Impact is urging people of all faiths, and people with no religious affiliation who possess a concern for justice and the common good, to join us in telling our members of Congress to approve legislation which gives all people the opportunity to choose an affordable private or public health insurance plan.