One argument I often hear against Christianity is that Christianity is a form of escapism for the marginalized and the weak; that when you look at the majority of those that become Christians, particularly in the New Testament Bible, many of them were outcasts from society, helpless and poor. Jesus associated himself with these these groups of people for a reason, and not because they were “easy” to convert, but because of their hearts. He knew they would have no other idols to distract and blind their hearts from seeking what they truly want and need (1 Chronicles 28:9; Proverbs 21:2). Materially yes, it is exceptionally hard for those that are wealthy and powerful to enter the kingdom of heaven, e.g. the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) which is summed up perfectly by the last verse: “But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead.’” But, not all that were marginalized accepted Jesus, and those of high influence in society (wealth), power (political/military), religious and academic institutions, etc. also came to know Christ– for all things are possible through God which we see the conversions of any being as miracles (Matthew 19:24-26).
Jesus being the perfect model for Christians whom meeting suffering face on and dwelling among it actually sets an example for His followers to do the same. Bodies of belief like Buddhism do in fact attempt to form a way for escapism where Siddhartha, known as Buddha, attempted to reach “Nirvana” and escape suffering. Hinduism offers a path to enlightenment by reaching a state of their conscious called “Brahman,” to escape the cycle of death. It’s written that before His crucifixion, Jesus sweated drops of blood, which is biologically possible when a person undergoes severe stress. The torture and shame He went through leading up to the crucifixion was of the deepest pain physically and mentally–it’s a wonder how Jesus was able to carry the cross when there was barely any more blood and strength left as even crowds scorned him along the way–how demoralizing and dehumanizing that must have been. We then finally get to the crucifixion which is supposed to be the most painful and excruciating form of death ever invented by man. And with his dying breath he cried out an Old Testament prophecy in Psalm 22: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” Later in the Psalm David writes: “14I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. 15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. 16 Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. 17 I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. 18 They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” This was clearly a prophetic song as this would never happen to a king like David to begin with, but we can clearly see in text alone how void, empty, and lonely it must have been where Jesus was. He literally broke and poured himself out for you and me (Matthew 26:26-28).
Jesus being fully God, was born into royalty and extreme poverty, chose to live and walk among the marginalized living a life despised and hated, all the way up to his death where He willfully went through the pain and punishment we as sinners should have undergone instead. No where do you see “escapism” in the life of Jesus and no where in his teachings do you see him telling others to do so. He did provide a new way that did not require Gentiles and Jews to follow all the laws of the Pharisees for He said “for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” That may be the only closest thing to “escapism” as even you and I would not have been able to follow the laws of these Pharisees. He lived out the Kingdom of God, acting in love in every intentional step He took and taught about the mysteries of the Kingdom, that all who received Jesus as Christ and obeyed his teachings can enter and live out Kingdom lives. He shows us a simple way to know God, but simple does not always mean easy as Jesus says in Luke 14.
If you look at Christianity today in America, one can see how an outsider looking in can come to a conclusion that Christianity is indeed a way of escapism. Suburbia with all its material comforts and havens might be argued as a physical manifestation of escapism. The comforts and trappings of bubble wrapped communities put greater inertia for believers to overcome the even greater coefficient friction between comfort and obeying the commandment to love and disciple. We learn in Luke 10 that our neighbors aren’t just those physically in our proximity, nor are they those with the same beliefs, culture, status. But we see many who faithfully steward the many blessings we enjoy in Western society and serve as salt and light as well. More recently, the late Margaret Thatcher, the “Iron Lady,” was a great example of a woman who feared the Lord and stewarded the gospel. She is known for restoring prestige and honor to Britain taking it from economic and military lethargy to once again a competitive economy and reckoned power and did so by conviction without compromise. Her boldness and courage and can be summed with her famous quote, “the Lady’s not for turning.” God indeed has the power to restore us to the glory that we were made for; Margaret Thatcher’s work provides the world a glimpse of the redemptive power of God even in State and politics.
So you see at every point in Jesus’ life He himself showed humility, meeting every bit of suffering head on, experiencing it to the very depths himself, but even through that He was triumphant through the resurrection. He was able to display absolute power through complete and total weakness. As Christians we need to ask ourselves, where is the suffering–it could be in our families, friends, our neighbors–and run towards it instead of pretending that we recognize the shallowness of our own problems and leave it at that. It pains me to even put these thoughts into “ink” as it solidifies and reminds me of my many shortcomings, and the perfect example that Jesus led.
In His Grace.