This is my first week out of a pulpit in decades. A few weeks ago, I wrote about my change in status. I’m no longer a pastor in a congregation. Now, I’ve become a district superintendent of an area. In my case, the area is King County and the assignment is to supervise the mission of the United Methodist Church.
Part of that mission is to bring healing and hope, especially to the poor, the vulnerable and to those whom others abuse. For Christians, a bias toward the poor is the very heart, core and center of the faith. After all, our leader was himself embedded among the poor. At a minimum, what this means is that a church without relationships with people on the downside of life is no church at all. It might be a nice do-gooder society or a pleasant social club, but that isn’t the same as being followers of Jesus. It isn’t the same as being, as the church claims it is, the living re-presentation of the historical Jesus in contemporary clothes.
To be Christian is to be in solidarity with the poor. Those of us with property and cash need to share it. Those of us with access to privilege and status need to use that access to open doors for those who have been shut out. Those of us in positions of authority and responsibility need to use those positions to empower those who lack the capacity to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. These are the imperatives of Christian faith. Christians have no choice but to enhance and serve the lives of others. There is no Christianity without solidarity with the poor. It really is as simple as that.
Solidarity is not charity. It is good to give and to do nice things for others. But the solidarity I’m talking about is relational. In other words, to be Christian is to actually know those who are poor, vulnerable and abused. It is to befriend others, to eat with them, to share stories and laughter and tears. It is to know names, and to find time to hang out together, to truly care for the well-being of the other.
Soup kitchens and shelters are great, building low-income housing is fantastic, hiring the unemployed is celebratory, but solidarity is deeper. Solidarity is the next step. Solidarity is to see Jesus in the eyes of the one toward whom you are charitable. And when Jesus is seen, transformation occurs. Desires and consciousness are changed. Indeed, healing of the soul begins.
This is the true revolutionary insurrection. This is how peace, reconciliation and justice are given birth. It is in the simple yet profoundly human decision to befriend the victims, to see the world from their perspective, to refuse to scapegoat or to judge others as the enemy. To see Jesus in the other is the fulfillment of Christian faith. Everything else is just bullshit.