Jesus a Socialist?

by Rector Jim Murphy

Do you remember the “WWJD” bracelets? The acronym was short for “What Would Jesus Do?” Those who adorned themselves with one of the bracelets were implicitly reminding themselves and all who took notice, to ask themselves that question before making any decision. I wore one of those wrist bands and it was the cause of much soul-searching thought on my part and of not a little discussion with others. It is a worthwhile question for anyone to ask especially if they desire to act in concert with the Lord and Architect of the universe.

In light of the decidedly socialistic trajectory imposed on our nation by the regressive left, I was recently asked a WWJD? type of question. “Do you think,” the inquirer wanted to know, “whether or not Jesus had a socialistic trajectory (tendency) or a mindset that was guided by a socialistic ideology?” After giving the idea some prayerful thought and asking myself, “WWJD?” I was persuaded that Jesus would find the idea of imposed socialism repugnant.

If we correctly understand “socialism” to be a political and economic system characterized by increasing, centralized, collective ownership and further, by growing government control or influence in the day to day lives of its citizenry, then the Lord was opposed to it.

You see, Jesus was all about equality and freedom, he was decidedly against the imposition of anything. “Come unto me, ALL who are weary…, and I will give you rest.”(Matthew 11:28, NIV, emphasis added) Herein we can learn that the Lord of all creation was invitational rather than impositional and that his invitation was made to all comers. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that WHOEVER believes in him… shall have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NIV, emphasis added) Again, the Savior of the world is a confirmed practitioner of equality and an advocate for free choice. He didn’t want followers who had to believe in and follow him. He wanted those who desired and decided to believe and willingly follow of their own free will.

The fact of the matter is that our almighty Father had many thousands of years of experience with imposed regulations given to mankind. He knew that the two didn’t work well together, that commandments and laws couldn’t succeed where human beings were concerned, if they were simply imposed from above (pun intended). Maybe God was from Tennessee because he knew that “volunteerism” was the only way to go.

There are no circumstances in history or in the Bible where someone could build a case for God as suffering from a decidedly socialistic mindset. He was always clear. Yes, by all means, he had a heart for the poor, the children, and the aliens. He wanted his people to look out for the welfare of the marginalized, but he wanted the individual to DESIRE to do so from within their changed hearts. Therein they would be bearing the image of God, living according to his priorities, his heart.

And that’s where God looks, at the heart. Do we have it in our heart to help thus and such? Has our heart been changed to be like our Savior’s, an out-reaching heart of love, yearning of its own accord to touch the lives of the less fortunate? King David was known as a “man after God’s own heart” because he was changed (repentant) after his acknowledgement of a sinful past. David changed and followed the Lord of love thereupon, willingly.

Jesus, the God who is love, led the way by example, not coercion. “Greater love has no one than this,” Jesus said, “that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13, NIV) He voluntarily laid down his life on the cross for any who would believe. As he had taught his disciples, “…and I lay down my life for the sheep… No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.” (John 10:13, 18, NIV) He did everything willingly, from a heart of love. Nothing was imposed upon Christ and he would have no part of imposing something on someone else. He was looking for an individual, personal decision wherein the disciple chose to lay down his own life.

Was Jesus a socialist? He never was or will be. The household (economy) of God doesn’t work that way. His way is love, through a changed heart, that wills to sacrifice one life for the benefit of others, thereby bearing the image of God in our lives. Next time when you face a perplexing question, ask yourself, WWJD? and go from there.

 

 

Originally published in The Highlander, November 2013.