My parents accidentally raised a major nerd. Or maybe they did it on purpose the second time. Regardless, I’m one of the minority of the population who gets super excited about the book of Leviticus. Four years ago, I had a student who told me his bar mitzvah passage was from Leviticus, and I lost my mind in excitement as we nerded out over the passages describing how God gives us instructions on how to have a right relationship with him and others.
Very related: I led an all school assembly Friday and heard a chorus of nearly a hundred kids who’ve taken my class already shout that the purpose of reading the Bible is to foster loving relationships with God and other people.
I was talking to my parents last night about how they raised me not only to believe that statement but to live it out in every area of my life. That leads me to conversations with my former students who are American citizens participating in their first election where they can vote.
Before I explain my voting methods, credit to my parents here. My dad is the most generous person I’ve ever encountered in real life. He gives of his time and resources to help people love Jesus better and robs himself of excess to be the hands and feet of Jesus to others. My mom is the kindest person I know. She always thinks of others before herself. She makes sure everyone else is fed before eating anything herself and she finds out what other people need to see if she can give something to help them thrive.
So I try to be generous when I vote, and I try to think of others more highly than myself. Oddly enough, those are both biblical principles that my parents model for me. 2 Corinthians 9:11 and Philippians 2:3 are great starting places if you doubt me.
One of my students called me before casting her vote early in her state and was wondering about God's plan in all this. We talked about how regardless of the outcome, we can still be good representatives of God. We talked about how there's a lot of hyperbole out there about how you aren't a good Christian if you vote one way and you're going to go to hell if you vote for a certain candidate and all kinds of other unhelpful things. I can't predict the outcome of the US election, but I can tell you that people who voted for a variety of candidates read my blog (or at least used to). Four years ago I posted about how I want to model good behavior for my students because I'm a leader in the classroom and I was disheartened by a political leader choosing to mock and make hurtful comments unapologetically. I had surprising backlash from that post.
This year I'm going a step further. I'm going to Leviticus. Chapter 19. Verses 33-34.
"When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God."
Ok, there's a whole lot there I could get into, but I'm not going to. I'm just going to ask you if your actions - your votes, your words, your consumption of goods and services - are considerate of the strangers and the foreigners around you.
If you back up a couple verses, there's the mandate not to glean to the edge of the field that Ruth the Moabite benefits from generations later as Boaz the Israelite gives the poor widow a chance to feed herself and her mother-in-law. But I'm not going to go there. I'm going to go to Deuteronomy 15:11.
"For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, 'You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.'"
Are your actions - your tithing, giving, observance of regulations that inconvenience you on behalf of the oppressed - taking into account the needs of those at less of an advantage in life than you?
I don't have time to get stuck in the dozen or so different Proverbs that explicitly instruct us to care for the oppressed. Instead, I'm moving on to Isaiah 1:17:
"Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause."
That book is loaded - and I mean loaded - with call outs to the people of Israel who have ignored the law of Moses and become the oppressors of their own people as well as the foreigners in their land. The prophet really ramps up his criticism of the people through the book and tells of a coming judgment of the jerk faces as well as a Savior who will care for those marginalized people who the Israelites have ignored.
"The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, he has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives..." Fun fact, this beginning of chapter 61 of Isaiah is the very passage Jesus quotes at the start of his ministry in Luke 4.
Jesus cares a lot about the marginalized and the poor and the oppressed. Physically. Like, sure, also we are all broken people and need Jesus, but Jesus is calling out the scribes and pharisees and all over the place for not caring for the hurting people right in front of their eyes. Let's be intentional with our votes. Then let's not stop being intentional after that. Let's be intentional with the words we speak and the works we do every day to make the world a more Jesus oriented place.
Eight years in to full time ministry, I'm prepared for the backlash for this kind of post by now. I've learned that people take Jesus out of context and twist his words to fit their selfish gain, and I've learned that they like to attack me on occasion. People attacked Paul and Peter and lots of the other early church leaders; I'm in good company. I do, however, need to be intentional with the presentation of truth, and I fully recognize that I'm not always in the right. I need to always be on guard to make sure that I'm letting the Scriptures change me to be more like Jesus rather than trying to force passages to justify my positions. I've been memorizing 1 Peter 3:1-17 in The Message to keep myself humble (verse 8) and learn how to be a good representative of Jesus that invites other people to follow him (verse 1). The passage ends with this beautiful kicker: "Keep a clear conscience before God so that when people throw mud at you, none of it will stick. They'll end up realizing that they're the ones who need a bath. It's better to suffer for doing good, if that's what God wants, than to be punished for doing bad."
I have a whole lot of other things I could say about the value of individual and collective responsibility and action, but I'll leave you with this encouragement: "Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him and he with me" (Revelation 3:19-20).