Jesus asked, “Do not even pagans do that?” It was supposed to show that some of the things we Christians do aren’t anything special. That’s what “even pagans do that” was about. But what about the times when pagans do good things that even Christians don’t do? What kind of questions should we be asking ourselves when we’re in that situation?
For some context, here’s the full passage I’m talking about.
Love for Enemies
Mt 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
So Jesus is saying that loving our friends is something even pagans did. Jesus calls us to go beyond that, and love people even people who are our enemies.
But what about when we don’t even love each other? Like in one Christian not showing love to another Christian?
For instance, what about this. I recently read a theory on the placement of those huge statues on Easter Island. From Fox News Science, in an article titled Easter Island discovery: Experts solve ancient monuments mystery, we read the following:
The famous statues, or moai, are supported by monumental platforms called ahu. Researchers, however, have long wondered why the monuments were placed in specific locations on the island.
Now, a team of experts has harnessed spatial modeling techniques to work out the relationship between ahu construction and natural resources on Easter Island, or Rapa Nui. They discovered that the ahu were built near freshwater sources, which are limited on the island.
So far, maybe not that big of a deal. It’s like having a sign that says “rest stop at next exit” on a freeway or parkway. But it goes on.
“The monuments and statues are located in places with access to a resource critical to islanders on a daily basis–fresh water,” said Terry Hunt of the University of Arizona, in the statement. “In this way, the monuments and statues of the islanders’ deified ancestors reflect generations of sharing, perhaps on a daily basis–centered on water, but also food, family and social ties, as well as cultural lore that reinforced knowledge of the island’s precarious sustainability.”
Hunt noted that the island’s culture of cooperation can explain how the islanders survived for centuries despite limited natural resources.
Now it’s turning into something of a bigger deal. Cooperation. Survival. And they managed to live on that island with scarce fresh water for at least hundreds of years. And these were, obviously, pagans. I say obviously because of the act of deifying ancestors. Clearly, that’s not Christian.
So – in this scenario, Jesus would say that Christians are to at least do this much.
Worldwater.org has a website that includes something called the World Water Chronology. Most of these are outside North America. Given the locations, it’s tempting to conclude Christian against Christian isn’t happening in water “wars”.
And yet, these things happen here in the U.S. as well. The Huffington Post has an article titled, Water Wars? Here in the US?. Among others, they include this:
The Republican River flows through the states of Colorado, Nebraska, and Kansas, but sharing the river has been a recurring political dispute for decades. In the latest chapter, the Special Master overseeing an agreement forged in 1943 recently rejected a request by Kansas to punish Nebraska for using too much water. Kansas asked for $80 million from Nebraska for violations of the Republican River Compact of 1943. The Special Master agreed that Nebraska farmers violated the compact in 2005 and 2006 and took 71,000 acre-feet of water too much, but only proposed awarding a payment of only $5 million. He also denied a Kansas request to shut off water for some Nebraska farmers along the river.
So yes, these things do happen here. The individual participants in these U.S. water wars may or may not be Christian. However, in a country where such a large percentage of the population claims to be Christian, it’s inconceivable that none of them are Christians. It’s more reasonable to believe that a fair percentage of the people involved do claim to be Christian.
What happened to Jesus’ words, If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Where is the love? I mean, of course, the kind of love Jesus spoke of. Even the pagans on Easter Island were able to live together with scarce water resources. It’s even possible that fresh water was one of the main things that held them together in that spirit of cooperation and mutual needs.
But we have God. Not a false god of deified ancestors. But the real God that created us. And we can’t even get along as well as the pagans? Rather than get together for mutual aid and survival, we even fight wars over scarce resources.
I can tell you some questions that Christians need to ask themselves in this scenario. Am I really Christian? Do I really believe what Jesus said? Do I live my life like I believe what Jesus said? Or does all that go out the window as soon as I leave church. And that’s assuming going to church even happens.
No wonder people feel like Christians aren’t any different. Too often, we aren’t.