April 6, 2017

Do you remember in the late 90s, the popularity of the phrase “What Would Jesus Do?” There were wrist bands and books and even a cookbook claiming if you would eat as Jesus ate then you would lose weight and be healthy. There was a national campaign against SUVs saying Jesus would never drive a “gas-guzzling  SUV.” This remains relevant today, as Christians try to understand what side of the issues Jesus would lean toward. What would Jesus do? What would He eat?  What would He drive? What would He say about healthcare or any other issues our nation struggles with?  And, while I believe we can look to the Bible for guidance in all areas of life, there will always be issues that will divide Christ followers.  With all that is going on in our world today, it is so easy to divide the world into “them” and “us”. This division is so dangerous. Whenever you lump people together as “them” versus “us,” it is easy to act out in prejudice and hate. It becomes easier for us to hurt one another.

Just three things I would like to mention today about this division and how we can remain one as people of faith!

First of all, do not give into hate; strive to see all people as individuals, as children of God, even those you disagree with! This applies to social media as well as real world interaction with others! Even with the election behind us, I am surprised to see such hate on social media. It is a reflection of our need to see one another with eyes of love and understanding.  When we come to know one another as human beings, this is ultimately where world peace will be found.  We know Jesus to be the prince of peace, and as we approach Palm Sunday, we will remember that Jesus rode into Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, riding a donkey. Have you ever wondered why he was on a donkey? In that time, if a king came riding in on a horse, he was going to war; however, if a king came riding in on a donkey, he was coming in the name of peace. Jesus was making an intentional statement and setting an example that we can still follow today. Let us take a moment to fill our hearts with peace!

Second, after Jesus arrived in Jerusalem on a donkey, one of the few stories that can be found in all four gospels is that of Jesus driving people out of the temple.  This story, obviously, made an impression on all four of the gospel writers! During that time, people were coming for the Passover to worship in the temple and bringing sacrifices. You could bring your own lamb from home and offer that as a sacrifice, but it had to be reviewed by temple inspectors. Funny how the lambs brought from home were never perfect! Of course, when this happened, you could purchase a “Grade A temple Inspected” lamb for four times the price! On top of that, you would pay the temple tax. You couldn’t pay in Roman coinage; you had to pay with a shekel, Hebrew money; and the exchange rate was outrageous. The poor and weak were coming to worship God, according to the Law of Moses, only to be fleeced and held back from worshipping God, while others were making a buck! Jesus was outraged by this and He went to the temple, grabbed a whip and began to drive them out, turning over the moneychangers’ tables saying, “My God’s house is a house of prayer, and you have made it a den of thieves.”

There are times when Jesus turned the other cheek and other times when he stood his ground and in this example, drove them out of the temple.  It was when people who had power were hurting the poor,  that Jesus stepped in. When people of position take advantage of the weak it is always our responsibility to speak up for those who cannot defend themselves. We can disagree on many subjects but treating people with dignity, respect and fairness is never an option. We have to make decisions today and we can ask God for discernment in the moment. Sometimes right and wrong is crystal clear, but often there are not always clear cut answers. People of faith will often stand on both sides of a question and believe so strong in what they feel. We will always disagree on so many things and that is ok.

Third what I would encourage you to remember is that there are people all around you who disagree with what you believe!  It was John Wesley who said, “Nobody has all the truth If you love Christ and you love your neighbor, then give me the right hand of fellowship.” That is, let us respect one another, even though we may disagree with one another. I think it is so very important that we show respect for one another even though we, as people of faith, may disagree with each other on the long list of political issues that exist right now.