Hello Church Family, this is Pastor Phil-
Our reading today is from the Great Commission, Matthew 28:16-20.
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him, they worshiped him, but some doubted.And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”Matthew 28:16-20
It feels like in our country we’ve gone from one bout of craziness to the next, from coronavirus to pandemic and lockdown, to violence and looting in the streets, and calls to defund the police from elected officials. Speaking out for beliefs in the public forum and working to bring about cultural change is a protected practice in this country, unlike in other countries where that freedom of speech is harshly put down.
But it feels like everyone has to have an opinion on the topic right now. I can’t tell you how many companies I may have used once or ones I have no idea how I got on their mailing list have sent me “open letter” emails telling me they’re not racist. It’s even everywhere on the tv and cable right now. Just like when the COVID pandemic was at its height and everyone had to say how “we’re all in this together” and now they really want to make sure everyone knows their company isn’t racist, without anyone asking. I do wonder why we don’t have open letters or protests every time a police officer is killed in the line of duty.
Since these protests have begun, US secret service agents have suffered broken bones when bottles of urine and rocks were thrown at them. An officer in Philly was run over by a car. Police officers across the country were stabbed, shot, and killed. Of the 800,000 some officers in this country, almost all of them just trying to do their job and get home at night, are getting brutalized because the actions of a very few who are being used as an excuse and a justification to hurt them. But attacking the many men and women who are trying to protect us should be just as wrong and reprehensible as the way that man died. If you go online to the officer down memorial page (https://www.odmp.org/search/year/2020) and just look at the pictures of the men and women who have died in the line of duty just this year, you will note they all come from different backgrounds, race, and color. Just like the man who died in the street, but no one is protesting for them when they get killed.
So, instead of teaching respect for every life, we are seeing violence, looting, and outright murder in the name of “change” that might make some feel powerful and strong but all they are doing is ruining businesses, stealing lives, and destroying families. Currently, at least 18 people are dead in this country as a direct result of those protests.
I appreciate what Martin Luther King Jr. said about this—
“In spite of temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace.”Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. December 11, 1964 Nobel Peace Prize Lecture
When you see mob mentality, looting, burning, and murder, that’s never really about peace but about a twisted version of vengeance and a plain old excuse to do the horrible things “I want to do.”
But all of these protests draw people who feel like they should be out there and speak their voice. They feel like they should retaliate and take out their aggression on others, even if the people they’re hurting have absolutely nothing to do with what they think they’re angry about. People feel seriously pressured to put out their “open letters” and make a statement, but what are they really supporting and why suddenly now? Everyone feels pressured, like they have to say something—but say the right thing, or they might get yelled at and hurt if they have the wrong opinion.
This idea of mob revolt and violence, of course, is not new, but is as old as humanity. During Jesus’ ministry in Israel, the rioting and violence was all based on the occupation of the Roman Empire in Israel. Those mobs were called the zealots and they violently protested the Roman Empire in their country. They looted, murdered, burned and took out all of their anger on everyone else, even their fellow countrymen if they thought they had the wrong political ideology. Men called the Sicarii carried tiny daggers in their cloaks and would stab people and soldiers in public and run off. It was a powerful movement as well like the movement we’re seeing now, and everyone was forced to have an opinion and if yours wasn’t the right opinion for the person you were talking to, you were likely to get hurt as well.
It was against this backdrop of mob mentality, violence, looting, burning, and murdering that Jesus’ ministry and the education of His disciples all took place. It was in the context and culture of outright murder and political unrest that Jesus taught his disciples these truths about the kingdom of God and what it meant to live as a Christian.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”Luke 6
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.Matthew 5:43-48
Then today in our reading-
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you”
All nations include those people we don’t like and those who don’t like us, and anyone who is considered an enemy. Unfortunately, the draw of violence, violent rhetoric, getting caught up in it all, has always been there for humanity and will always be there as long as we are here. But the results are always the same—murder leads to murder, death to death, hurt to hurt, pain to pain. At least 18 dead, good men and women in uniform severely hurt and killed, countless others brutalized does not make up for, make better, or lead to positive change. It never will.
When Jesus taught his disciples and us today, it was not in a sterilized environment, but in the midst of the political and social upheaval and violence. Yet Jesus taught another way—the way of peace and righteousness. This is the way that values every life, no matter their color or their uniform because every life is precious and worth caring for. This is because of the love that God has for each and every life.
God didn’t choose the path of violence against us when we were His enemies, when we spoke against God, or insulted His ways and His name. God didn’t just wipe us all off the planet and forget about this whole humanity and creation thing. God chose to meet the hurt of our world by taking all of that hurt on himself. That is what our savior Jesus did for all of us, without exception. He took the worst of the violence, and the mobs, and bore it all on the cross.
In Jesus, no longer can we ever argue about Black Lives, All Lives, Blue Lives, or any other life matters, because all life is equally in need of the salvation that comes from Jesus and all life is equally loved by Jesus. In Jesus, we are all the same, with all of the same need and the same answer to that need in the one Savior, Jesus. Same need, same savior, same love, same life.
This is the Way Jesus has called his people live, to spend our lives not caught up in the rhetoric and anger or violence of the moment but in teaching and preaching to every person, no matter who they are, both our common need and the answer to that common need in Jesus alone.