In a world full of social and political division, we are not called to take sides and thus be part of the division. Easter Preparation season reminds us we are called to be centered in Jesus and to point others to him.
The Easter Preparation message is simple—Jesus saves. Social justice doesn’t save, political affiliation doesn’t save, leaders don’t save, pastors don’t save—only Jesus saves. It isn’t that we should not pay attention to these other things, and we are not saying these other things are not important, but the noise and polarization should not cloud out Jesus and become our new center of focus. Easter Preparation is a time for recentering on Jesus—who he is, what he did, what he is doing, and what he is going to do.
Let’s be honest. During the past year Facebook and other social media platforms have been the medium for many well-meaning Christians to share their opinions about all kinds of topics in our hope to influence people to a particular way of thinking. I’ve seen well-meaning Christians write about every conspiracy theory imaginable. I can read why masks are good, and why they have no value and are just another means to control the population. I can read about the blessing of a Covid vaccine, and why the vaccine is a means by a corrupt few to change our DNA. I can read political posts that range from why our previous U.S. president was God’s chosen to how pastors should apologize for even encouraging people to pray for him, to how our new president is now the answer to our nation’s troubles.
What breaks my heart is how easy it is for Christians (myself included) to fall into the trap of thinking the issues in the world are more important than preaching about Christ and him crucified. Yes, I include myself because I admit I’ve read more of these posts than I should, I’ve commented on more than I should, and I’ve not taken advantage of opportunities to stand up for Jesus. This includes standing for Jesus when I see the name of Jesus used to justify wrong behavior or mistreating others.
Standing up for Jesus in the midst of all the political and social angst is not a popular stand. I even read posts criticizing Christians for praying, rather than protesting. Isn’t prayer our go to? Shouldn’t prayer and asking God to lead us be the foundation of our participation with Father, Son and Spirit? Shouldn’t we be praying in the midst of standing for what Jesus stands for? I recently read Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and was moved once again at his conviction to stand for what Jesus stood for—equality for all, and always under the umbrella of nonviolence.
Here are a few observations about Jesus that might help us in this season to prepare for Easter.
Jesus was passionate for God and for people, not for society, politics or our own interpretation of justice. I can’t help but think of what Jesus did when he saw the temple—the house of God—being used for things other than developing a relationship with God. He held nothing back when he saw offenses toward God. He went in the temple and turned over the tables of the money changers, reminding all who would hear that the temple was to be called a house of prayer. Healthy churches are houses of prayer—a place free from political or social division and rancor. We are passionate for all of God’s people and we stand up and let others know this—regardless of how others judge us or even persecute us.
Jesus lived in the world but did not involve himself with the divisions, causes and social systems of the world. In contrast, he taught people about God’s social system, which includes loving and accepting all others. His primary message about the kingdom was telling the Jews that Gentile lives matter too. He suffered the consequences of bringing a message of light to a darkened world—it killed him. Healthy churches are cross-generational and cross-cultural havens of acceptance for all—where all are accepted, loved, included and treated as brothers and sisters of Jesus. In a healthy church we stand up when we see others persecuted against or not treated as equals. When differences occur, we acknowledge that godly men and women can have different opinions, and we listen to each other and learn from each other in a spirit of love.
Jesus came as a Prince of Peace. The Jews wanted him to overthrow Roman rule, but he told them to pay taxes. They wanted a king on a white horse, but he rode a donkey. They wanted a change in their government and their systems, but he taught a change of heart. Healthy churches are houses of peace, where our central focus is on Jesus and on how we can share his love and his life with others. We are peacemakers because the Prince of Peace lives in us. This doesn’t mean apathy; it means we stand for the peace of all. When others are being mistreated, we stand for them—again, even if it means we suffer the consequences.
What is the Easter Preparation challenge? To stand for Jesus.
- To acknowledge what is going on in current events, and to remind our churches that what we preach is Jesus and him crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23-24; 2:2). This means we preach the gospel of the kingdom of God and the message that all are forgiven, loved, equal, and included.
- To preach that the social injustices we see are the result of people not putting their trust and faith in Jesus and preaching that the difference we make is by loving people as Jesus did (John 13:34-35). This goes beyond just preaching—it means standing for those Jesus stood for, and died for.
- To remind our churches to be hospitals for sinners, and to remind all that within the walls of the church there is no Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or free, Republican or Democrat. All are the beloved children of the father (Galatian 3:28).
- To center and recenter everything we do as a church around the gospel of Christ. To acknowledge he is the center of all things and it is in him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).
- We were chosen to represent Jesus only (Ephesians 1:11).
May we use this season of Easter Preparation to stand for Jesus.
Accepting the challenge to recenter,