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,
19 thoughts on “An Easter Preparation Challenge”
This is a powerful post! Clear and to the (painful) point. It has not been easy with all the noise to keep one’s head above the proverbial water. While all these discussions may have some relevance they should NEVER cloud what Jesus and the church is all about. The seed of division is spread very easily, even well meaning Christians are not immune. I pray that we will keep our focus on the gospel of the Lord, our only hope of salvation. Thank Rick for cutting through the fog of confusion.
Wow! Challenge accepted! Jesus is the Center!.
Wow! What a great article Mr. Shallenberger! And the point you’re making in this article is the view I’ve held for many years – and have tried to express from the pulpit in our Church, and within my small group Bible Study. Jesus is the answer to our problems, and nothing else. No political agenda, no political leader, and no conspiracy theory will ever lead to the love, peace, and inclusion we all need. But Jesus does.
We are to be centered on Him, and always pointing others toward Him. As you said, He is the center of all things, and as Christians, (and especially leaders) it’s our responsibility to keep that view as our main focus, always.
Amen indeed. Thank you very much 💖
Happy to read this explanatory treatise. We never want our faith to become “a cover“ in which sin and opposition to the truth of Jesus Christ flourishes. He doesn’t lead us into temptation but he delivers us from every evil, to do justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.
An excellent message Rick and very timely. We hope and pray that you have fully recovered from COVID.
Thank you, Rick! Once again, you point us to Jesus, the Center of all things!!
A very timely message … and, may I say, a much-needed one, in such a time as this. Thanks for sharing, Rick. Greatly appreciated.
Kudos to you Rick as you aptly expressed things I have been thinking for a long time. It is soooooo easy to be political (there is no harm in this in the right context) and get our hearts and minds away from Christ and His agenda which is not a worldly one. We are told in Romans 12 to not be conformed to this world but to be transformed to be ready for the next one.
Thanks again for your wisdom and insight!
Thank U for this timely message. As we endure to the end, this social and political climate is only the beginning of the persecution that accompanies our walk with Jesus. Glad to see that our focus remains upon the One who does not change.
Amen. Our identity is in Christ, not in a political party or movement. Always think before you post: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it helpful? Is it clear? If not, delete it. Everything should come from a place of love.
So true Rick! By faith, I (hopefully) seek a heavenly country, but if I am too mindful of the country out of which I came, I might have opportunity to go back into it – Heb. 11.
Thanks for helping us see where are focus should be.
Amen and AMEN, brother! A powerful and beautifully Christ-centered message the world needs to hear in every season, especially as we observe Black History Month this month. THANK YOU.
Thanks pastor Rick for the timely reminder of what should be our constant focus.
Many thanks for this important needed and well written article, to remind us Christians of where our hope lies! ❤️🙏
Thank you, Rick, for keeping us focused on the Author and Perfecter of our faith. May our Lord grant us the strength and vision to keep from getting sucked into the muddy waters of this world and may we always hold out a hand to those in the struggle.