James Wright, Local Columnist: We must begin to love our neighbor

I was at a community meeting where we were planning how to give some helpful devices out to members of the community. As we planned, some of the people began to say, “I don’t have one of those things, give one to me first.” I remarked to the person sitting next to me, “This is why communism doesn’t work. It has good ideals, but it ignores the root problem of human nature.”

People criticize capitalism because it focuses on the holding of private property as idolatry. Progressives model socialism as the way of the future for us. Karl Marx, the founder of communism, said that socialism was just an intermediate step on the way to communism. And communism is the forced equalization of all people.

Marx envisioned the creation of a new individual who would be free from selfishness, greed, envy, laziness hatred, and fear. Everyone would partake of the resources of wealth just as we all breathe the same oxygen. As each individual realized his desires, he would contribute to the well-being of others. “From each man according to his ability, to each man according to his needs.” Sounds like utopia, right?

The trouble with Marxism is that it ignores human nature, the physical and mental diseases that plague us, as well as personality faults that we cannot remove. The Bible records after the great flood in Genesis 8, God said that “Every inclination of the human heart from childhood is evil.” Jesus said that out of the human heart comes, “evil thoughts — murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander.”

Marx thought that human nature could be reformed if we just supply the common person with the basic needs of food, clothing, shelter, and education. To free the world from capitalism, society needed revolution. The rich bourgeois needed to be swept out of the way by the workers, or proletariat. This is where the students of Karl Marx became subhuman. In the Soviet Union it was men like Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin. In Cambodia is was Pol Pot. In China it was Mao Tse Tung. History shows that they oversaw the slaughter of millions to make way for their “perfect society” which never emerged.

Jesus had another way for society to be transformed. He said, “Do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you” (Luke 12:29-30).

It is not our task as Christians to re-engineer society, to take from some people and give to others, and if they will not give, then to imprison and starve them to death. We are to be careful about our own desires. We are to care for other people. We are to show them how to earn a living. We are to pay our workers a good living wage. We are to help the weak, the sick, and the mentally ill. We do not ignore them or seek to eliminate them. We do not eliminate the unborn or elderly because they are an inconvenience. We are to love them. Because they are precious to God they are to be precious to us.

Last weekend we saw two more mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton perpetrated by young white males. In reaction some call for gun control. Some call it racism. But there is something more seriously wrong with our society. There’s a loss of community, a feeling of alienation, and there’s mental illness, genetic or developed, that’s left undiagnosed and untreated. So we live in fear of another mass shooting. Where will it be next? Do we dare travel, or go out to the shopping center or the theater? Do we all arm ourselves to the hilt? These are not acceptable answers.

The answer is to change the very foundation of our society. To stop calling religion the cause of evil and recognize that it’s the lack of religion that harms us. True religion. The love of God for all people, and the love of all people for all other people. Some have fought wars in the name of religion, but this is not true religion. Religion is the love of God for people, not the murder of one group by another.

“Fear not,” says Jesus, “for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Matthew 12:32). In Jesus, we have all we really need. Jesus gives us peace with our creator, our Maker, who wants us to receive his love and love him in return. In order to love Him, we must begin to love our neighbor. Communism sees religion as the enemy of the people, but it ignored the problem in the human heart, where greed, hate, and violence come from.

Jesus was love wrapped up in human body. He thought nothing of his own preservation, but offered himself up for us on a cross. Through his sacrifice we are freed from our guilt. We are empowered to fight back against the evil of our human nature, the greed, hatred, murder, adultery, false testimony, that lives within us. We are remade in the image of Christ to be an agent for change in the world, one person at a time.

We are under no delusion that Christianity will overcome all the evil in the world. Our Lord said that in the end times things would grow worse and worse, until finally the end would come. In the mean time we are to work for Him though love for God and love for our neighbor.

No Christian should ever take up arms against another person. Not in the name of Jesus. You may have to do so if you are told by the government to defend the innocent and preserve peace. In that case you are serving your government, which God has established. Be we are never to take the law into our own hands. Those who do so bring such tragedies upon us as we are witnessing today.

To combat violence in our world we must reach out with the hand of love in the name of Jesus. We must raise children and youth to love and respect all people and to serve others and work to improve our communities. That begins with diligent study of the Bible. It is reinforced as we show them how to serve other people through service and as we deal with conflicts in the home through love.

You can see that we have much work ahead of us. But this is our joy. It is how we will continue as a society until the day when Jesus returns. So let us pray for our leaders, that they may guide our nation, state, and cities. Let us live our lives in peace with hands and feet moved by love for our neighbors.

As Jesus said, “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast.”

Communism is not the answer, nor is its little sister, socialism. Both have killed millions because they overlook the root problem of sinful human nature. Capitalism is the best system we have right now. But it can only survive on the charity of individuals and the ability of us to recognize the sinful nature inside each one of us and fight against it. Then we will be ready for the kingdom of heaven.

You may think that this approach is futile, that so few people will do it, something needs to be done by force. We may be little, but we are the flock of the good shepherd. God will have His way. His power is immeasurable. His will is irresistible. Look how the kingdoms of man rise and fall before Him! “It is your father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” This takes us to Jesus’ cross and empty tomb. That’s how much the Father wanted us to have new life in His kingdom, to live as children in his family. Life in the kingdom is God’s priority for us. As we receive this gift of grace day by day, it is also our priority.

Dr. James Wright is the pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Altamont