In election campaigns, it is often the rich who run for office, and they often claim they will do things that will favor the working poor. Certainly a concern for the poor is something America learned through Christianity. Who among the rich and powerful will most help the poor is always part of the election debate. Historian Peter Brown summing up Christian attitudes of leaders for the poor in the later Roman Empire offers a different way to measure the concern of the rich and powerful for the working poor. Christianity certainly proclaims and believes that God loves the poor, and that we are to imitate Christ. So what if the rich and powerful would imitate God, what would their concern for the poor then look like? Brown answers:
“If the rich and powerful were ‘like God’ to the poor, then they must learn to be like a God who had opened himself up entirely to human suffering and who was ‘naturally’ capable of compassion for fellow human beings. They must show the same degree of condescension and of fellow feeling for the poor.” (Peter Brown, Poverty and Leadership in the Later Roman Empire, p 104)
To imitate God for Christians means not simply to reach down to the poor and drop a coin in the beggar’s basket. It means to reach down to the poor and embrace them and lift them up as a equal, to see in them the image of God and to live with and for them.