It’s no newsflash that our country is in the midst of a culture war. Christendom is a thing of the past and we are moving towards a more pluralistic society. I suppose it might surprise some of you that I think that’s a good thing, considering I’m a minister in a Christian church, but it’s true. (You can read my reasons for thinking that here.)
Today, Christians in America are faced with the fact that Christianity no longer holds hegemony over our culture. As America continues to embrace pluralism, the Church no longer enjoys a seat at the head table. And apparently, for a lot of Christians, that really ticks them off and they want the whole world to know it. We read it on Facebook and we hear about it in church. Our country’s going in the wrong direction and we need Jesus to come back and make things right.
But let me ask you this; what did Jesus do the first time he came to make things right?
When Jesus arrived on the scene in Israel, things were not going well. The Roman Empire had come in and taken over. They were oppressing the Jews and showing little concern for their religion or traditions. The Temple and priests were losing power and influence and they didn’t like it one bit. Everyone had been praying for the Messiah to come and make things right, so when Jesus finally arrived, the people got all excited. They assumed their Messiah would lead them in a military coup to overthrow the Romans and restore their country back to its original God-fearing ways.
But Jesus didn’t do that, did he? He didn’t plan an insurgency or organize a “bring-out-the-vote” campaign. He didn’t preach against the Roman Empire or blame their oppression on the Samaritans for intermarrying pagans. No, instead, he criticized the religious leaders for their hypocrisy and addiction to power and prestige. He didn’t make friends with the rising religious stars; but instead, hung out with the outcasts and misfits. As a result, he got labeled “friend of sinners” from the religious leaders who seemed more concerned with keeping the rules rather than loving their neighbor.
So Louie Giglio, a popular evangelical preacher, got invited to pray the benediction at a presidential inauguration. I’m sure he deserved it, because I know he has done some incredible things in ending modern-day slavery. But then, some watchdog group digs up a twenty-year-old sermon where he preached on the sins of homosexuality and because of the controversy surrounding it; he withdrew from the invitation to pray at the inauguration. My guess is he was hoping to avoid a major publicity scandal, which would have happened had he forced the issue. But instead of avoiding publicity, other well-known evangelical preachers have, in fact, stirred up the scandal, writing blogs and crying foul because one of our own was wrongly persecuted. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t believe Jesus would have been too concerned about whether or not he or any of his disciples had been invited to pray at Caesar’s inauguration.
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. He said:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:1-12