Two Brief Thoughts before I begin:
1) I wrote this in the wee hours of the night a few nights ago in my bed, on my iPhone.
2) Allow yourself to be changed. Allow yourself to grow. If you are set in your ways or are all out for this side or that side, then you should: stop, breathe, and remember that there is more than one point of view. We are imperfect beings who need to be challenged.
An excerpt from the Gospel of Matthew
27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."
Christ is the head and the authority of the Church. Not the President. Not Franklin Graham. Not the Constitution, nor the Bill of Rights. Not Conan O'Brien. Not Adele. Not the Pope. Not George Washington. Christ alone.
Jesus commands us to love not only our neighbors but our enemies. That means there should be no one who is not loved.
He didn't recommend or suggest that we love our neighbors. He commanded it.
Jesus said the entire law hangs on this: love your neighbor and love God.
He broke bread with the most hated tax collector in town. As a Jew, Jesus sat at the well and engaged with a Samaritan woman - Jews and Samaritans didn't typically look at each other much less socialize. Christ reprimanded one of his closest friends when he (Peter) drew his sword to "protect" him. Jesus gave salvation to the criminal on the cross just before he died. Christ forgave the people who crucified him in His final moments of life...
These are just a few examples of how the Head of the Church leads the body.
I'm not making any political statements. I'm not joining in on the divisive speech that's been on social media nonstop since Sunday. I get it. There is great frustration. There is great anger. There is much sorrow and there is much loss. But are we presenting solutions? Are we solving anything? Are we helping the situation? Or are we stirring the pot, venting, and drawing lines in the sand?
I understand that it comes off as hypocritical to write this post while I'm calling out the rest of Facebook. So this can be your hopping off point. If you think know what I'm going to say and know you're going to disagree, then please don't feel any obligation to continue.
But hear me out on one thing. About once a year something happens that challenges me to my core. Perhaps a book I read, something someone said to me, a message or speech I listened to, or something that happened in real life.
I allow my perspective to be changed because Christ constantly challenged His followers to change. At no point did Peter, James, or John have it all figured out. If I think I've got it figured out or that none of my beliefs have room to change, then "woe, is me."
I refuse to tell people what to believe or how to live their lives. However, as a student minister I do my best to lead and show my students how Christ lived and how that affects and challenges us as His followers.
So if you are a follower of Christ, and you observe, study, and believe His teachings as truth, then you must lay aside your beliefs that have been shaped by your citizenship with this world.
If you want Him to build His kingdom, then yours must crumble.
It's easy to dislike or hate and it's easy to retaliate. It's reactionary.
Let us react differently than we have in the past.
Let us react the way Jesus did. With compassion. With understanding. With love.
I told my students a few weeks ago that people often act the way they do because they've been conditioned to act that way.
Simply put: a bully was bullied. By a bully. Or a relative. Or by bullied experiences.
Hurt people hurt people.
Hated people hate people.
Scared people scare people.
And so on and so forth.
Is this oversimplified? Perhaps.
Does it make it any less true? I don't think so.
Not to get super generic or Hallmark here but what if we reversed that mindset?
Loved people love people.
Is it not easier for you to love others when you feel loved?
Now imagine someone who doesn't feel loved. Are you able to love them? Are you able to love them before they hurt you? Are you able to love them after they hurt you?
Of course none of this is easy, but neither is following Christ.
Paul wrote in Galatians, "I am crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who lives but Christ in me."
How powerful that the man who wrote this passage and the majority of the New Testament was once a radical, religious terrorist who murdered Christians.
Yes you read that right. Paul (Saul at the time) was a devout Jew who arrested and murdered people who had a different religion than him.
Please don't tell me "there's no hope." Don't tell me "these people are brainwashed." Don't tell me that "they only respond to strength." Don't tell me, "We live in a different day and age than back then."
What was Jesus first primary teaching?
The Sermon on the Mount
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account."
You don't answer to me. You answer to the One who you claim to follow. You answer to the one commanding you to love your enemies.
From the moment Jesus stepped into His ministry to the moment of His death and beyond he taught forgiveness and love.
But He also taught us to renew our minds and that our lives are not our own.
My wife and I have been watching The West Wing and there's this brilliant scene in season one where the President's cabinet is arguing and fighting with each other and trying to decide what to do and who is right. By the end of the episode they realize that it's not about what they want, but about what the President wants. One by one they say, "I serve at the pleasure of the President."
As a follower of Christ I must remind myself that, "I serve at the pleasure of Jesus."
It's not my will be done but His.
Let us not forget what Jesus told the people on how to become a follower of Him, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Matt. 16.24)
It's easier to pick up your cross when you lay down your sword.
This is not about Orlando. It's about all of it.
“We must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.”