Upon my return from India with Compassion International, I was reeling a bit, wondering how to share what I had just experienced. It was truly the most overwhelming and life-changing span of days outside of the birth of my son. I didn’t need to find a way to sum it all up.. I needed a starting point.
On the drive home from SFO, after an almost 30hr travel day from Kolkata, we pulled up at a red light where I saw, stuck on the car in front of us, a bumper sticker reading “So many Christians, so few lions.”
I’d found my starting point.
The predicate of the bumper sticker was that Christians, as a group, ought to be fed to the lions. Unfortunately, there are just too many Christians to effectively do so. So I got to thinking: If we want to eradicate Christians, we would have to do it in a more organized manner; we’d have to line us up and toss us in a few at a time.
Which leads to the question “Who would go first?”
The easy target would be the Catholics, who are often the focus of severe cultural critique, even by their own Christian family. Of course, by throwing all the Catholics to the lions, we’d be eradicating members of the most charitable organization in human history… yet that wouldn’t be the major obstacle; the major obstacle remains the sheer number of Catholics. So, in the interests of expediency, perhaps we ought to begin by tossing in the small group of Catholic nuns I met in Kolkata who, as common practice, walk around the block upon which their convent is situated and pick up abandoned infants from the street and then nurse them back to health to the best of their ability. This would include the infant child I almost stepped on with my own feet, left covered in a pile of rags with only its tiny hand exposed. Perhaps we ought to begin with that group of Christians.
Or perhaps we move on to a different institution and begin by tossing in any of the Protestant pastors I met in India who, supported by Compassion’s Child Survival Project, facilitate programs for pregnant mothers and their children, regardless of the fact that neither those women nor their husbands attend those churches much less tithe to keep those churches running. You see, most of these women are from Hindu and Muslim families and have no interest in Christianity per se. They are also, in large part, members of India’s Untouchable caste; a people who are regarded as sub-human by the dominant forces in their culture. They are regarded as next-to-worthless beings whose only hope is to die and return on as a member of the higher castes. Yet, these Protestant pastors believe that all people are children of the Father and therefore worth helping. Particularly, they believe that motherhood is a sacred vocation and worth investing time, finances and resources.
We could begin with these pastors.
Or perhaps we could begin with any of the Christian men and women who, along with WIlliam Wilberforce, launched and sustained the first abolitionist movement. Or any of the Christians who have launched and are sustaining the second great abolitionist movement, happening right before our eyes.
Of course, I am assuming that the maker of the sticker and the driver of the car it was stuck on would not want to begin with anyone on the above list. The work of the lives I’ve mentioned is far too good to throw away… or at least good enough to keep them from being thrown away first. Rather, I imagine they’d suggest beginning with someone more like me; someone whose life is more compromised. Someone who has injured people with his expression of faith or at least used his faith as an excuse and coverup for having injuring people; in a word: a hypocrite.
But, if we decided on throwing some lesser member of the Christian Family to the lions, I believe we would have a problem..
I believe firmly that, as we drug some lesser sister or brother to the pit to be consumed, one of our greater sisters or brothers would intercede and demand that they should be taken instead. They would do so for the very reason the do the great works of compassion and justice that would otherwise qualify them for exclusion from being thrown to the lions; they are Christians and are compelled by the Person of Jesus Christ both externally and internally.
You see, the Christians I know and have personally met who do these compelling and moving works do not do so simply because the work needs doing; they do so because they have followed Jesus into such work. They are compelled and inspired by the teachings and spirit of Jesus to care for those He called “the least.”
So, It strikes me that if we want to throw “the Christians” to the lions, we might as well begin with the best among us and, with them, the work of their lives. In my experience, why I do what I do makes what I do sustainable. When the thrill of doing a good work wears off (and it always does) my reason for doing it remains. I join my greater sisters and brothers in acknowledging that I do what I do because I am compelled by Jesus Christ.