Passion Week 2013: Tuesday

Without a doubt, Jesus is the one you want to be the captain of your debate team.

According to Matthew, after cleansing the temple on Monday, Jesus and disciples spend the night in nearby Bethany, probably with his friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.  When he returns to the temple on Tuesday to teach, the chief priests and elders are ready for Round Two.  They pounce, demanding to know by whose authority he says and does such things.

Jesus deftly dodges the question, turning it around and leaving them looking foolish.  Then one opponent after another steps up to spar verbally with him.  The chief priests and elders.  The Pharisees.  The Herodians.  The Sadducees.  The Pharisees again.  He silences them all.

Then Jesus goes on the offensive, speaking to the crowds, repeatedly denouncing the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy before retiring to the Mount of Olives with his disciples.

Hardly the picture of “gentle Jesus, meek and mild.”  Imagine the disciples watching this, enjoying their Master’s rhetorical dominance, his unshrinking display of divine authority.

Then imagine them just a few days later, wondering what had happened.

I’m reminded that the public perception of evangelical Christians in America is that we can be a rather contentious lot.  Sometimes, we speak the truth but not in love; people see us as defined by the enemies we oppose more than by the gracious God we serve.

But even while Jesus bested his opponents one by one, he did so with the full consciousness of being on his way to the cross.  I wonder: is it possible for us to remember, even in the midst of trying to win an argument, that our calling is to serve others in loving sacrifice?

Lord, I have to admit: I might be the first to cheer Jesus from the sidelines as he crushed the competition, but the last to join him on the cross.  As I walk with him through this Holy Week toward Easter, raise my defensive and deadened heart to new life, to love and compassion.  Amen.

2 thoughts on “Passion Week 2013: Tuesday

  1. Powerful question to which I believe the answer is “yes”, such a thing IS possible. And three thoughts come to mind to bolster what many may consider a bold response. Many times, our arguments stem from a sense of anger or outrage that we hope is righteous but many insist is not but it explains our collective passion on a given subject. Ephesians 4:26 speaks to this in which we are told to “…be angry and yet do not sin…” (Paul, of course, goes on to tell us not to let the sun go down on our anger). Whatever else this verse means it strikes me that, by inference, it must be possible to express outrage or anger in an argument while remembering our calling to sacrifice, otherwise Paul is making an absurd statement to us (something which I’ve not found in his character when it comes to how we are to act).

    Second, we can often look to the best of military people for an example. Col Paul Tibbets (pilot who flew the bomber that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima) and Cmdr Mitsuo Fuchida (pilot who coordinated and led the air attack on Pearl Harbor) met at an official function in 1965. While many expected sparks, no one loves peace more than the one who had to fight to win it. Once it became clear who the other was, both men held no animosity for each other as the fight was over and each had done his respective duty as best he knew how. What else transpired stays between them but what was witnessed was a devotion to duty that culminated in respect and a bond that, perhaps, we can emulate albeit on a less than deadly scale. I believe we can work vigorously for our respective arguments, positions, or causes and respect the person we are arguing with. But it has to be honest, like Tibbets and Fuchida, who were willing to risk their lives for their respective countries and who found a friend in the enemy. Nothing changed history each man would, no doubt, have done what they did again, but it did not change what properly occurred on that day, 20 years after the war was over.

    Finally, I am no man of perfection as any who know me can attest, but I can say that three of my closest friends are an atheist, a humanist (who loves Hindu type beliefs), and a nominal Jew. The subject of faith comes up often enough and I do not hold back my beliefs. One even asked if I really thought he was going to hell if he did not believe in Jesus. Without flinching I said, “Yes, I do. But none of that will ever stop me from loving you or being your friend. You’ll have to do that on your own”. Some of my well-meaning Christian friends are always excited about these three as if they were a prize to be won for the kingdom! They are people, people who may NEVER turn to God, but that does not mean I have to back down from either my beliefs or my love for them. We can, in fact, be unflinching in our arguments, even angry when it is called for, and equally unflinching in our love. In the present debate about marriage and related issues, I submit that we can be unflinching in our beliefs if they do not support and even oppose the views of the LGBT group and I would also submit that Christians, of all persons, ought also to be the ones who also defend this group from harm, in its many forms. I do not have to agree with the theological views of someone in order to insist they be treated like a God created human being.

    Cameron, you always seem to inspire me to write and I hope I’m on the right track with your thoughts as you propose them.

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