Last week I was on my way to the local hot springs pool for my regular watery workout, and I came to the corner of two county roads. I stopped and was going to turn right when I noticed a car across the intersection facing me that arrived at the corner at about the same time. That car’s turn signal indicated it was going to turn left in front of me. Since I was turning right, I actually had the right of way, but I waved to the driver in the other car to go ahead of me. I yielded to the other driver.
When I arrived at the pool about 15 minutes later, I was surprised when a woman, who also works out in the pool at the same time, said to me, “You know, you had the right of way back there!”
I had no idea it was her in the other car. I said, “Well, I thought you arrived at the corner a split second before me!” She answered, “That was a nice way to begin the day,” and then punctuated it with, “a decent and Christian thing to do – thank you!”
Since I have a metaphorically oriented mind, her comment got me thinking to the point I was compelled to blog. Of all the road signs that there are to help regulate traffic, for me the yield sign best symbolically represents the attitude in which Jesus mentored his disciples.
Repeatedly, in the gospels, Jesus yielded to those who had been run over – run over by religion, the political-economic domination system, or just life itself. For those that religion had rejected or quarantined whether it be for being ritually unclean, a Gentile, a woman, a child or a sinner, Jesus yielded and wrapped the rejected in inclusive love that conferred dignity and acceptance. When religion placed ritual observance and dogma over compassion and well-being, Jesus yielded to compassion. Jesus advocated for economic justice when he chastised and challenged the rich and powerful to yield to the needs of the poor. The wealthy he engaged in the gospels represented an oppressive system that gave all the power and advantages to an elite few.
It seems to me that, to a great extent and far too often, much of today’s Christianity scarcely resembles this characteristic so prevalent in the life of Jesus. Since Constantine legalized Christian worship through the Edit of Milan in 313, Christianity, down through the ages, has often been comfortable aligning itself with power and privilege and has failed to yield to the needs of the poor, marginalized and oppressed, and even used religion and invoked the name of God to justify injustice and violence.
In our polarized day and age of issues like the growing disparity of wealth, cuts to a wide range of benefits for the poor, human rights, health coverage, minimum wage, nutritional programs, climate change, corporate exploitation, and a myriad of other issues, I wonder what Jesus would have to say? Based upon the Jesus of the gospels, he would teach his disciples, once again, to yield to the needs of the poor and powerless, practice inclusive love and advocate for social justice for those from whom it has been withheld.
Of course, the church is supposed to be the living “body of Christ.” Why then are so many ecclesiastical expressions of Christianity so largely silent in the face of these great issues and do not yield to the needs of the vulnerable and oppressed, but instead yield to the self-indulgent agenda of the powerful and the elite? There are those who speak up and out, but there is also the reality of a great Christian silence and indifference.
If Christianity is going to be relevant to today’s world, those of us who name ourselves after Jesus must commit to yield as he did. Only then will the church that is named after him begin to resemble him.