Sunday, March 25, 2018

Would Jesus really ask it of us?

While I was sitting in morning meditation, preparing for the Sunday busyness, I was struck by a thought. Was it God? I'll let you judge. But if it was God's voice speaking, let me caution you, dear reader: don't listen to it  - God will only get you into trouble.

The thought that came to me was a paraphrase of a familiar passage of Jesus dealing with someone.
16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. - Matthew 19:16-22 (ESV)
This passage arose in the midst of meditating on this thought: "God, let me represent the Kingdom of God." And then, "WHAMO!" this thought appeared in my little brain, "If you wish to be perfect, go and sell your guns and give to the poor..."

I will admit that I am a gun owner and respect and enjoy guns. But this wasn't for me. Or maybe it was. But the bigger thought that surrounded that flash of inspiration was, "How would the American Church deal with Jesus if that was what he said?"

Think for a moment about the context. What good deed must we do to have eternal life? Jesus didn't respond with, "Believe and that will be enough." No, he went right to the commandments. And he got them out of order. And he didn't name all ten. And he didn't even approach the God stuff. There is nothing about idols or Sabbath in what he said. Jesus says point blank that if you need to know about eternal life, look at your relationships with people around you. And which one did he choose to start with?

Do not murder.

Then the young man says, "Hey, I'm in good. I get all of that done." So Jesus responds to the young man, "If you really want to be perfect, then sell what you possess, give that away to the poor, and you will have heavenly treasure, then follow me." Those possessions were getting in the way of that young man truly grasping what God was about. And those possessions stood in the way of that young man following Jesus in a sincere way.

I'm not going to wade into a discussion of whether "real" Christians should sell all of their possessions and take up living among the poor. I will point out, though, that Jesus got right to the heart of the issue with this young man. He wanted to know perfection. He wanted to find the full life with God that he felt was possible. He admits (humbly?) that he did all of those other things. I wonder if he did them to the level Jesus had recommended in Matthew 5-7? But he admits that he has followed the rules. He has stuck to what God has said mattered. Then Jesus pulls the mask away from the young man's eyes and says, "Here is the thing that is really in the way."

In all of the discussion today about whether guns should be controlled or the right to own guns should be upheld, I wonder why the American Church isn't saying, "What would it take to be perfect? What would the Kingdom of God require of us?"

"If you wish to be perfect, go and sell all of your possessions and give to the poor."
"If you wish to know God's perfect love, sell your beloved guns and give to the cause of protecting children and vulnerable persons."

If Jesus is the Prince of Peace, the Bread of Life, the Lord of Creation, then how can we stand by and say that guns are our right? How can we, the Body of Christ and the Bride of Christ, continue to sustain a voice anywhere within us that says that guns are a God-given right?

Guns are a tool. I am the first to admit that. People wield guns for good and for evil. Guns are not inherently dangerous unless they are not respected. But the Kingdom of God is not built with guns. The Kingdom of God is built in loving God and others. The Kingdom of God is built in mercy and kindness. The Kingdom of God is built with God's justice in mind and not our justice, because our justice becomes tainted with vengeance and striking back, instead of turning the other cheek. The Kingdom of God is working toward peace while at the same time defending gun ownership.

If Jesus spoke into the American Church today and said, "You have followed the rules that are set out for you very well. The Constitution, you have guarded it well. The Declaration of Independence has been a defining statement for you. But one thing I require of you for you to really get it: sell your guns and look out for the last, the least, and the lost. Then follow me."

How would that sit with American, Bible believing churches?