loving our neighbor as ourselves (politics, health care and abortion)

A question: Is politics and political considerations a place at all for the consideration of loving our neighbor as ourselves? This is the second commandment like the first and greatest commandment, to love God with all of our heart, soul, strength and mind. And yet when I hear politics expressed by Christians, it often doesn’t have anything to do with this, at least not directly.

Political considerations are complex and a quagmire if one completely sells out to this or that position. It seems to me that the only thing we’re to be sold out to as followers of Jesus is the grace and kingdom of God come in him. We have to be careful not to buy totally into any ideology apart from that, I would think.

I am struggling lately on the health care issue. Not because I don’t have a rather clear-cut idea of what I ought to do now, concerning it. Nor because I don’t have a view. I have both, even if humble and not set in stone on either side. In other words, even though I think I may be basically pointed in the right direction, I also think I have plenty to learn, and that there’s plenty of room for improvement as to how it should be done. As well as thinking that we have to be careful in this present existence and world not to expect too much of anything, and to expect problems, sometimes serious, at nearly every turn.

I believe people of their own free will should help the poor. But I also believe that any good society will have a systemic push in that direction. The poor were helped with laws in Israel’s theocracy in the Old Testament, such as leaving some of the harvest behind so that they could glean what was left. And the debts being canceled in the year of Jubilee. No society is a good one if it’s all about everyone looking out for number one. Or even simply for their families. As if personal responsibility, as important as it is, trumps everything else. It doesn’t. In fact what trumps everything else, once again, is what Jesus said is the first and greatest commandment and the second like it: To love God with all one’s heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love one’s neighbor as one’s self.

Now how that is worked out in the politics of the world certainly can differ. Political entities can and should help encourage private donations. Unless one is libertarian and believes government should not be involved in much of anything at all, except perhaps the military in the national and police in the state and local levels. With societal matters looked at in a different matter.

As for myself, I think we should push for certain basic justices in society at large through government, one of them being universal health care. Christians should raise their voice to enact good legislation. And we need to live with both the inevitable imperfection of what will be incomplete with sometimes misguided laws in place. We must remember that just because a law is the law of the land such as abortion, that we as Christians live by another law, that of Jesus and the Sermon on the Mount. So that we don’t support abortion. But even on that issue, we work to reduce their number with the hope that they will someday be all but gone, even in this society.  For those who want to cut them off completely now, a worthy goal (and I applaud and would want to help where I can in that), there must also be set in place policies which help prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place, as well as helping those who are pregnant, especially the poor and those who are young to carry their babies to full term. Making adoption more accessible to good families would be one important help to that end.

For me it’s not a case of either/or, but and/both. We need to give generously and wisely in helping the poor in our world and in the world at large. And we need a society which not only encourages that, but has laws in place to foster and actualize helping the poor. For example to have the basic health insurance everyone else has. The “Health Savings Account” pushed by the Republicans may be a no-brainer for personal and family considerations (even as it may not help the cause for the poor, who could not benefit much if at all from such an option). But we in Jesus are called to a different consideration and ethic entirely. A love which embraces our neighbor as ourselves. Which is particularly concerned for the poor, for those in need. Even as we continue to pray: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

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