I read about the Rolling Jubilee the other day. Essentially the Occupy Wall Street people are taking advantage of the fact that fancy financial people buy and sell debt for pennies on the dollar in order to make a profit and are raising money to buy debt at this rock bottom price, and then forgiving it.
This news from the twitter-verse left me equal parts excited, and sad. I think the idea is brilliant. $25 buys $500 in debt and they are going to change people’s lives forever. This is awesome. But I couldn’t help being sad. Why had the church not thought of this sooner? Aren’t we supposed to be in charge of the Jubilee? Isn’t Jesus described as the ultimate Jubilee? Isn’t buying people’s debt and then forgiving it forever the most obvious metaphor for the cross we have?
Somehow I think people would like getting a note in the mail explaining to them that the debt they thought they would die under has been permanently forgiven and an explanation of how much greater Jesus’ gift to them is a little better than receiving a tract in place of a tip at the end of a Sunday shift.
I spent much of my teen years learning about how to be “counter-cultural for Christ.” One of the only times I was disrespectful to a teacher was when I was “defending Genesis.” The only time a teacher held me after class was when I did not think abstinence had been adequately represented as a viable birth control option in my health class and I said as much. (It wasn’t and I think I was right, but still that isn’t the point.) What a fool I was. What a fool I was taught to be.
I’ve been taught that as the bride of Christ, the church must stand out from the world, we must make sure that the differences are stark. But that isn’t what the Bible says about it. The Bible says that the church is different than the world, like red is different from blue and sea is different from land. When doing what it is called to do the church is different because the world has no interest in being that radical. Radically gracious, radically giving, radically forgiven, the world doesn’t want in on all that self-sacrifice.
When I was learning about the ways to defend my faith and wearing my “Heaven Yes, Hell No” t-shirt to school, we used to sing a song adapted from a psalm.
Ain’t no rock, gonna stand in my place. As long as I’m alive I’ll glorify His holy name.
Psalm 118 tells us that the rocks and the trees will cry out if we don’t and sometimes I wonder if that isn’t true for more than just praising the name of Jesus. Debt forgiveness, orphan care, taking care of the least of these. These things are the legacy of the church, what the church was originally known for.
In college I was a registered libertarian. I thought that the government should get the heck out of social welfare. That was the churches job. Now, I suppose I am a theoretical libertarian. I just don’t trust it in practice. I don’t trust the church to step up.
I worry that the church gave its legacy away, traded the chance to care for the least of these for the opportunity to explain why Biblical principals are superior. Neglected defending the defenseless for being right. We have spent generations praying “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” and never once have we corporately attempted to forgive debts.
If rocks and trees cry out when we neglect to praise our God, does the Lord hand out pieces of the churches legacy? Does He find ways for his face to be shown, even when we aren’t showing it? Because there is a secular group rolling out a Jubilee, and I am sad that the people who believe in the ultimate Jubilee didn’t think of it first.