“To feel guilt or not: that is the question.”
While perhaps not Shakespearean, that is the question many American believers have when it comes to where we were born and where we reside.
While growing up, my parents reminded my sister and me that we were fortunate to be born in the United States. Reflecting as an adult on those teachings after having traveled to other countries, I have come to believe they were more correct than they ever realized: We are fortunate to be born and live where we do.
But even within our 50 states, incredible levels of inequality exist. In fact, from county to county and even zip code to zip code within a county, great discrepancies exist as to income, education/educational opportunities, and resources, to name just a few.
In multiple examples throughout the New Testament, we see Christ offering food to the hungry, healing to the sick, and compassion to the less fortunate. So it’s reasonable to conclude that in following Jesus’s example we are to do the same, even in a world that tells us otherwise.
As modern demographics/research has continued to improve, we know that some zip codes have affordable food, housing, and access to various employment options. Others nearby may not have similar options. The same is true of health care, options for worship, life expectancy, and chances of being a victim of some type of serious crime: it often boils down to where you live.
So although we like to believe the mantra that everyone in America receives a fair shake, the data seem to suggest otherwise.
Because some of us realize how good we have it, I’m convinced there is a certain guilt that goes along with a relatively abundant life. Plainly put, we are aware that there are those around us who struggle to put food on the table and keep the lights on. Unless we’re wearing our “I’m oblivious blinders,” one doesn’t have to rely on pictures from a foreign land to see those who are the “least of these” affected by poverty right next door.
Our response, however, should not be one of guilt. Rather, we should put our “faith in action” through our churches so that our deeds match our rhetoric. May we look in the mirror and follow the example of Christ this summer by turning our misplaced guilt into much-needed action.