What is most important to you? Family? Good health? What values drive your everyday decisions to do the things you choose to do? Love? Fairness?
In other words, why do you do the things that you do?
Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers write, “Our values are the rocks that should serve as our foundation—helping us weather all the controversy, change, and challenges of current events.” Do you agree? If so, is this how you choose which candidates you vote for, or do you simply choose by affiliation to a political party?
I know, it’s complicated. We’re basically a two-party system regarding the vast majority of election outcomes. Even when there are more than two choices on the ballot. So sometimes we’re faced with either compromising our values or voting for a split ticket.
Political parties are handy shortcuts to supporting the side that best represents our views. But isn’t it crossing a moral line once we use a political party as a shortcut to exploring and living by the values we choose to uphold?
“Politicians shouldn’t determine our positions and values,” writes Sarah and Beth. Instead, “our values should determine the policies and politicians we support.” But instead, our choice of political party becomes “cheap imitations of core values,” and we often “use them as a shortcut for our own soul-searching and analysis.”
Let’s explore this assertion further.
As Christians, we claim that our values come from scripture. But do we sometimes follow political candidates that lead us onto a totally different path than we claim we want to be on?
“What should I do?” is a question that most of ask God from time to time. So when I finally realized that my life was way off track, the version I asked was, “What do You want from me?” And I got an answer I wasn’t expecting.
One day Jesus was asked one of those edgy questions that cause politicians to redirect and answer with soundbites. But Jesus does the opposite. He first asks His interrogator their opinion.
In Luke’s telling of this story, Jesus is approached by an expert in the law who hopes to trip Him up with a politically hot question. The question of God’s favor is a tricky one. What must I do to ensure I’m pleasing God and can anticipate eternal blessing?
What do the Scriptures say? How do you interpret them?
Jesus asks his interrogator how he interprets what it says in scripture about this question. And the man responds that we must “‘Love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind; and Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” “That’s right,” Jesus replies, “Do this, and you will live.”
Of course, it doesn’t end there. A follow-up question that dives into how Jesus sees this mandate getting lived out in day-to-day life comes afterward. “Who is my neighbor?” the man asks. The answer Jesus gives illustrates how our Christian values should inform our choice of candidates we support and how we vote on resolutions.
In this case, Jesus takes us on an adventure into everyday life to illustrate neighborly love with a story. A man is walking on a rather dangerous road. He could be any place where safe outcomes are uncertain. More importantly, the “road” is also a metaphor for the choices each of us makes. The specifics of the story are less important than the illustration.
The man is attacked, robbed, and left. Two different people see the man in distress and choose to ignore him. Fortunately, a third person goes to the aid of the person in need. “Which one was a neighbor to the person in need?” Jesus asks.
And, like the lawyer interrogating Jesus we have similar questions. What does it mean to love our neighbor as ourselves? Who is our neighbor?
In this story, the person in distress and the person who helped were strangers with no apparent commonalities. Two walked away when they saw a person in need. Who gets your vote if these three persons were running for council in your ward?
Before you answer, assume that the person who helped is not affiliated with the political party you ordinarily support.
Choosing which candidates get our vote is essential. But just as necessary are the issues that we want our elected officials to address. If helping our neighbor in distress is a core value, we should know what help looks like. And shouldn’t we expect our elected officials to feel empathy for persons in distress?
In a Harvard Business Review article, Dr. Marc Harrison describes how the pandemic revealed the obvious — our healthcare system isn’t working for the vast majority of us. In his article, the doctor offers five priorities for restructuring U.S. healthcare. And preventative care tops his list for taking intentional steps toward effective healthcare.
Fortunately, healthier choices rank at the top for preventing chronic illness for most of us. Unfortunately, too many of us continue to make choices that negatively impact our health. But our healthcare system doesn’t get a pass in choosing prevention over treating illness. At the core of our healthcare system is a focus on treating rather than preventing illnesses.
Healthcare is expensive in the U.S., but preventive care reduces this cost dramatically.
Dr. Harrison’s second priority addresses the most obvious shortcoming in our healthcare system. Covid-19 hospitalization rates and death rates were substantially higher for non-white patients. Systemic racism creates a complex web of disparities exasperated and made evident by the pandemic.
Research has discovered that there are “social determinants of Health” that, at first, don’t appear to be related to health. For example, where we live plays a significant role in our need for and access to healthcare. Where we live is the road we’re traveling, and our health outcomes are directly related.
Beth and Sarah offer a challenge to consider. “How would the world view the church in particular if it heard people of faith express an interest in ensuring access to good-quality health care at fair prices? When we lead with the values that inform our faith—compassion, forgiveness, and love—we enter into even the most emotionally charged discussions with a new perspective.”
Why does Asbury do what we do? Why did we invest in creating a place for people to connect?
First, we did so because we believed that a lack of connection was at the heart of the problems that plagued our community. Research shows that broken relationships with God, each other, ourselves, and the planet are the root causes for keeping persons impoverished. Scarcity flourishes in a disconnected society. And scarcity promotes disconnectedness in the way that a contagion infects a new host.
But is connecting neighbors really our what rather than our why? Why are we trying to connect with neighbors?
When asked what he needed to do to gain eternal life, Jesus answered the question with another question. What does it say in scripture — how do you read it? “Love God and love neighbor was the short answer.
We do what we do because we believe that loving God begins with loving each other. And we choose to show our love by addressing the insidious root causes for communities lacking resources: a lack of connection.
Why do you do the things you do?
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A reminder that we publish this newsletter that we call the Circuit Rider each week. You can request this publication by email. Send a request to connect@FlintAsbury.org or let us know when you send a message through our website. We post an archive of past editions on our website under the tab, Connect – choose Newsletters.
Content for this series is based in part on:
Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth A. Silvers. I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening): A Guide to Grace-Filled Political Conversations. Nashville: Nelson Books, 2019.
Marc Harrison. “5 Critical Priorities for the U.S. Health Care System.” © Harvard Business Review, December 15, 2021. Retrieved from: link