“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit.” (John 10:1)
Boy. I bet Bernie Sanders would really dig the description of the early Christian church we find in the first lesson appointed for Easter 4, Year A (Acts 2:42-47). If you read verses 44-45, it looks pretty much like these guys were socialists. Look: they had no private property, they all contributed as they could to the common purse, and they took what they needed from it. Sounds great—even Utopian, right?
Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for this system described in chapter 2 to fall apart. By chapter 6 some favoritism started to creep in, and the disciples had to create a sort of ecclesiastic bureaucracy to address it. I don’t consider myself an expert on world economics, but it seems to me that a totally socialistic system—one where the government controls the means of production and the distribution of wealth—will always, in this sinful world, become corrupt. By the same token, a totally free market system—in which everyone looks after their own interest and the only law is supply and demand—will quickly turn into a giant game of Monopoly in which a few will win and everyone else will lose.
But it’s not the system that’s important, is it? What matters is our motivation for supporting a system. When we enter into a social relationship, we’d better be sure we’re entering by the right gate. And that gate can only be Jesus Christ (John 10:9).
In times of crisis we look for leadership, but as Christians we’ve already found our leader. He’s the one hanging on the cross. In him we see the greatest depth of love for all people. We see sacrifice and forgiveness and hope beyond our present alienation. We see how deeply we each are loved in spite of all our mistakes and shortcomings. And we hear the command to love others as He has loved us—in humility, generosity, and forbearance.
Any theory or institution we put our trust in is mere idolatry unless it is born of the law of God and the gracious love of Christ fervently embraced in our hearts. There is only one gate to enter, the gate which acknowledges Christ’s love of all people—even those with values and cultures different from our own. Any other system is empty hubris or greed and will ultimately wound and destroy. Jesus told us to strive first for the Kingdom of God and its righteousness, and then all will be added to us (Matthew 6:33). If we look to him, no one will hunger. He’s the Good Shepherd. All the others are poor copies or impostors. We know what he’d have us do and who he’d have us be. It’s up to us to do and be it.
God’s peace to you. Thanks for coming by this week.