It is always a temptation to preach the Gospel of Jesus in a selective manner. We sometimes want to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative; to such a degree that the message of Christ may become colorless and powerless. But the gospel is an integral whole with words of peace, as well as, words of fire with power to unite, as well as, the power to divide. Watering down Jesus’ words to render them palatable is a disservice to the radical life He lived and the radical message He preached. When you read, really read, the Gospels you should wear a seatbelt and a helmet. Jesus did not intend to stroke His contemporaries into placid contentment. His was a Prophet’s vocation and He spoke for God. Every moment of Jesus’ life, every word, every work, every parable was an invitation challenging the doubter to faith and the believer to commitment. Jesus caused people to think, to question, to evaluate and ultimately to accept or reject Him.
Many of us do not understand Jesus. Some of us have a sweet picture of Jesus, Jesus meek and mild in pastel colors. A nice man who would not and could not offend anyone; that is not the real Jesus, not the Jesus the New Testament tells us about. Many Christians have an incredibly shallow picture of Jesus’ message, something like-it is nice to be nice or please try a little harder to be good or caring and sharing are good ideas. Jesus came in His words to kindle fire on the earth, He came to bring division. The Gospel is not only meant to comfort; but also to blast us out of our complacency.
In His life on earth, Jesus experienced fully the pain of being unpopular. He suffered loneliness in Gethsemane. His suffering on the cross was a necessary result of the life He had lived. It seems that He never overlooked an opportunity to rock the boat or to make waves even when it meant unpopularity, division and danger. He never laid back and said nothing in the face of injustice. He never let bad things happen to good people.
It was in Paris during the Second World War: The Nazis had rounded up thousands of Jews. They took them to an indoor sports stadium. There were several thousand of them crowded into the arena, many children. Soon the facilities broke down and there was no water or food. A French stadium worker took careful notes of what took place, the number of people, how they were treated etc. He mentions that he fixed a little girl’s doll and she told him that she did not know why she was there; she had been a good little girl. They were brought to the stadium on a Wednesday and kept there until Sunday morning. Then the children were separated from their parents. Hundreds of children were put onto buses and driven through Paris to the train station where they were put on trains and taken to concentration camps. They were never heard of again. Is this too much for a Sunday morning with the sun shining? That Sunday in Paris was a sunny day also. People were on their way to church, both catholic and protestant, people lined the street and watched the buses go by. Everyone knew where this sad convoy was going. They made a sign of the cross as the buses passed by. After the war, the Christians of Paris asked themselves, “Why did we just stand by and let it happen? Could we not have left our churches and massed in front of the station? Even if we had just stood there to let the Nazis know that the rest of the world would know what they were doing?”
It is hard to know what any of us would do in a like situation when the risks to yourself are so great. Perhaps, the only answer is to ask the question, “What would Jesus do?” We know that He would do something, and His church can do no less. Even in a free country there will be times when as a church we will have to speak out and be ready to stand up for Christian principles. Even against the opinion of our friends and family and sometimes our governments. We are followers of Christ and share in His ministry. We are called to be prophets like Jesus and Jeremiah. The people around Jesus often hated Him enough to kill Him. Not because He was so bad, but precisely because He was so good and being so good, He would not be silent in the face of injustice in the face of hypocrisy or in the face of sin.
There might be times in life when we have to stand up. Even to family, friends and those we love and say “Your business practices are unfair, or your gossiping is ruining someone’s reputation, or your alcohol or drug abuse is ruining our family, or (what is often more difficult) take a long hard look at yourself, at your life and the way we are living it, because the way you live your life affects so many others.” If your life is a mess and needs to change, do you have the courage to make those changes? This is not the easiest thing to do, but it is the only thing. Christians are not in a popularity contest. We are trying to bring about, with God’s help, a just and decent world for humans to live in. Many things on this earth are precious and Holy but humanity is Holy of Holy’s. Jesus tells us what we should be, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
We work for a world that will be part of God’s reign on earth. As we pray every day, “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.”