One thing we seem to misunderstand when it comes to Jesus is that he’s not really interested in being your co-pilot.
In other words, if our lives are pretty much the same now as they would have been if we had never heard about Jesus then we’re doing it wrong.
The entire point of what Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount is that it is meant to be followed in one’s actual, everyday, ordinary life.
Remember the part where he stops and asks, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, lord’ and do not do the things I say?”
Yeah, that’s the first clue that what he’s saying is meant to be followed.
It’s also why Jesus ends the entire message by telling us a little parable of the Wise Man who built his house upon the rock [there’s even a catchy little song we learned in Sunday School to help us remember it]. The entire point of that parable is this: The one who hears the words of Jesus and puts them into practice is like the guy who built his house upon a rock. The one who heard the words of Jesus and did NOT put them into practice was the dude whose house fell over when the rain came down and the floods came up.
The key part is this: “Putting the words of Jesus into practice.”
So, it’s especially confounding to me whenever I hear people proudly identify themselves as “Christians” and yet refuse to take anything Jesus said seriously.
One example is how American Christians [especially] have become hopelessly entangled in politics. Rather than recognize that Jesus is a King with a Kingdom and a platform who has called us to become his ambassadors to the nations of this world, they tend to wave their own national flag, pledge allegiance to the State and send their children off to die to defend the honor of that nation.
Can you imagine Jesus saying, “If anyone wants to be one of my disciples, they must stand for the Roman national anthem, pledge allegiance to Caesar and support our troops in the Roman legion”?
Sadly, most Christians in America can not only imagine it, they actually do it.
As I was talking with my wife Wendy about this today she suggested a brilliant remix to what Jesus says in Luke 14:26:
“If any man come to Me and hate not his nation, and political party and government, yea, and even his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” – Jesus [Luke 14:26 remix]
Now, that’s not far off the mark. Because, if Jesus can call us to “hate” our mother, father, wife, husband, children and even our own lives in order to fully embrace Him, then why would we expect our political affiliations and nationalism to remain safely untouched?
Answer: We shouldn’t.
So, my hope is that we can take a step back from our nationalism and re-orient ourselves once more to consider the teachings of Jesus.
Of course, what Jesus says here is more about priorities. He’s not literally asking us to “hate” our parents, or our spouse, or our children. He’s using hyperbole to stress the degree to which we are to pledge ourselves to follow him with our entire lives.
We’re being asked to “count the cost” of becoming one of his disciples. He wants us to understand that following him means forsaking all others to devote ourselves to him. [Much in the same way some of our wedding vows encourage us to “forsake all others” to cling to our spouse].
So, do we believe Jesus knew what was wrong with us? Do we believe that Jesus was right about how we can overcome evil? Are we convinced that Jesus understood how to transform darkness into light? Do we still place our hope in Jesus to show us the way forward?
Well, I still do.
In fact, I’m putting all my eggs into that simple basket of faith that Jesus knows what he’s talking about.
I do not believe that what we need is the perfect political candidate to lead us through the darkness. I do not believe that what we’re waiting for is the right politician to emerge and fix everything for us.
Jesus gave us some pretty simple, yet wonderfully profound instructions: Love your enemy. Bless those who curse you. Do good to those who hate you. Overcome evil with good. Love one another as I have loved you. Consider others better than yourselves. Place the needs of others ahead of yourself. Understand that we are all children of the same Heavenly Father. Rethink everything. Remember your own weaknesses. Pray for the good of those around you. Take care of the poor, the weak, the orphan, the widow. Don’t forget those who are in prison. Don’t neglect the elderly or the lonely or the outcast.
These are important things to remember.
The only way the world changes is if we change.
It starts with you and me.
We are the people we have been waiting for.
Stop looking around for some political party or politician to save you.
Stop putting other people into boxes where our tribalism allows us to hate them, demonize them, blame them for everything that’s wrong with our world.
Politics divides us. It pits Democrats against Republicans. It turns Conservatives against Liberals. It labels us and then it separates us from one another.
But love unites us. Love brings us together. Love shows us all we have in common rather than focusing on what makes us different.
As long as we insist on seeing one another as this party or that one, we’ll remain in conflict. Once we begin to see that we’re all one family, we can begin to embrace one another as sisters and brothers.
When we come together as one people – all of us children of the same loving Father – that’s when things start to change for the better.
United we stand. Divided? We’re already seeing where that can take us.
There is no “them”, my friends. There’s only us.
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Keith Giles and his wife, Wendy, work with Peace Catalyst International to help build relationships between Christians and Muslims in El Paso, TX. Keith was formerly a licensed and ordained minister who walked away from organized church over a decade ago to start a home fellowship that gave away 100% of the offering to the poor in the community. Today he is the author of several best-selling books, including “Jesus Undefeated: Condemning the False Doctrine of Eternal Torment” which is available now on Amazon.