If Jesus returned, What Would He Say to America?

He wasn’t who they expected him to be. He said things they didn’t expect him to say. In a dramatic passage from the Book of Revelation, John described Jesus as the Alpha and Omega and the King of Kings; but let’s not forget that he had a very different role when he first came to earth. Isaiah 53 portrays a man who was rejected and spurned by the very people he came to save. While he was here on earth, the Messiah was so humble and spiritual that he made no political statements and had no political aspirations. If he returned today, would people notice? Would they care? What do you think he would say to us?

say unexpected

“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:2-5, NIV)

Say What?

The Messiah appeared, not as a King in glory, and not as a celebrity on TMZ… If Jesus appeared today, I wonder what he would say to our nation? What standards might he use? Hmm… the words from Leviticus 19:11-15 come to mind.

11 “‘Do not steal. “‘Do not lie. “‘Do not deceive one another. 12 “‘Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the Lord. 13 “‘Do not defraud or rob your neighbor. “‘Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight.14 “‘Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the Lord. 15 “‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.

What would he say to the dispossessed, the poor, the marginalized, the segregated, the beaten-down, the sufferers of injustice? He would say, “I have been where you are, and have shared your suffering and felt your pain. You will find me in the midst of your grief, and I offer you peace if you will turn to me. I offer you grace and dignity, forgiveness and respect.”

“In the world you shall have tribulation. But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

And what would he say to the prejudiced, the haters, the purveyors of bigotry and division (both white and black)? “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34).

We Can’t Overcome Injustice with Hatred

Among other tragedies, a helpless George Floyd was needlessly choked to death while in police custody in Minneapolis. His death is one in a string of tragic killings of African Americans during encounters with police going back several years. Frankly, I am shocked and dismayed by this blatant abuse of power.

America has been forced to confront its lack of justice. I know that my own feelings about it are nothing compared to the rising tide of dissatisfaction and anguish among my brothers and sisters of color. The Jesus I know would never condone hatred based on skin color or minor differences; he would extend compassion to the wounded and God’s righteous standard to those who perpetrate bigotry and racism.

A Different Message Should Create a Different Outcome

And what would he say to those in power, those who do nothing about injustice, who respond with insensitivity and indifference? “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.” (Leviticus 19:15) The law of Moses clearly required leaders to be fair, and to be godly.

And what would be his message to those who use their power to commit violence or abuse? “Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness and his chambers by injustice.” (Jeremiah 22:13) “It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.” (Luke 17:2)

And what would he say to all of us, as believers, about how we should act? “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35, KJV). “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

Let’s change the paradigm, people. Our nation can only achieve justice one heart at a time. The one who bore our pain and suffering, who was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities, has offered us peace and healing. Let’s offer it to our neighbors, one heart at a time.

Change Your Heart, Change the World

A humble man of sorrows, he who came
Without regard for power, wealth or fame;
The King of kings and Lord of lords was he,
And yet he had no need for TMZ.
According to Isaiah Fifty-three,
He had no selfish lust for royalty,
And did not get involved politically;
He came to bear our sorrow, and to be
The sacrifice for our iniquity.
Perhaps we would do well to emulate,
To love the way he loved, and not to hate.
I hope, America, it’s not too late:
When he comes back, in power undisguised,
I think a lot of folks will be surprised.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Standards to Set the Bar: How Do We Compare to Them America?

I attended my granddaughter’s track meet last week (she did great!), and watched her compete in the triple jump. Just behind her event, the pole vaulters were also jumping, and I watched the meet officials “set the bar”. Each time they moved it a bit higher, creating standards that were a bit more difficult to meet.

It got me to thinking, God has High Standards. Do you ever stop and think about how HIS STANDARDS might apply to everyday life here in the good old USA? We probably have laws that say some of the same stuff, but the Bible certainly doesn’t lower the bar when it comes to how we should live:

“‘Do not steal. Don’t lie. Do not deceive one another.
Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the Lord.
Don’t defraud or rob your neighbor…
Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the Lord.
Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly…” (Leviticus 19:11-15, NIV)

A Familiar List

Leviticus 19 lists various laws that deal with how we treat one another. This list offers a pretty good plumb-line to set against a culture, and how much that culture reflects the design and character of God.

standards

A godly society would tell the truth, would respect its Creator, would be unselfish and honest with neighbors, and would not oppress those who have special needs. Its justice system would be unbiased, treating all participants fairly and equally. I bet if you took a poll, the vast majority of folks here in America would agree that those standards represent how we should live. So, take a look around.

Just a Quick Evaluation

Here in America, how are we doing on this scorecard? Stealing? Lots of it. Lying and deception? Wow, probably more than at ANY period in our history. Profanity and swearing? Oops. (It’s become common on TV, and has even snuck into widely-seen advertising…) Theft? Check. Taking care of less fortunate? Been downtown in any major city lately? Seen any homeless folks? Fair and unbiased justice? Not so much.

So, what do you think our grade is? How is it that our country fails to live up to these standards even though almost everybody would agree that they are the way we should live?

I don’t care whether you are talking about Red America or Blue America, our standards on these issues is apparently pretty low. I’m not sure how YOU look at it, but at a quick glance I’d say we aren’t doing too well with these laws. Maybe TEN commandments was too many. We’d probably do better with five or six… kinda sad, isn’t it? Freedom is great because it gives us opportunity, but freedom is really scary because it gives us opportunity.

Even the most casual observer would look at us and say, “Wow, the American culture is  not doing very well when held up to God’s standards…” Each of us can compare that list from Leviticus to our society and find room for improvement. But don’t miss the trees for the forest. Focus a bit more, and read that list again. Hold those standards up not to America, but just to YOURSELF. Look at the standards; look in the mirror. Then be honest! (Well the list says to be, right off the top, doesn’t it?). Stop and compare God’s standards not to culture in general, but to yourself. As Joey Tribbiani would say, “How YOU doin’?”

Standards We Should Consider

The law says “Do not steal or practice false dissemination;
It says to treat our fellow man with due consideration.
It tells us not to lie or steal, it says that God is strong and real,
That justice isn’t what we feel, but a Holy God’s creation.
The Bible sets the standards that a Holy God expects;
His character is what the Bible and the law reflects.
Everything that’s written there is true and just and right and fair,
Suggesting that we all should care for those whom it protects.
The law is good for everyone, but just to make it clearer:
It works the best when you decide to read it to the mirror.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Sinners Seem to Throw All the Best Parties. Should We GO?!

“Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house. And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them. And the scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Luke 5:29-32, NIV)

What’s so Bad About Tax Collecting?

When Jesus called Levi the tax collector (known to us as Matthew), he sent ripples of social indignation through the synagogue. It was a dramatic cultural statement about values, righteousness, and the gospel. Tax collectors were a totally unacceptable social group in Judea. Most folks viewed them as turncoats who collaborated with an occupying enemy. Their job basically amounted to legal extortion on behalf of Rome, and they made lots of money. Tax Collectors lived comfortably in large, opulent homes with richly dyed fabrics and plenty of first century bling. (Think “The Godfather” meets “Scarface” in terms of style and general social acceptance…)

Because their wealth was built on Roman oppression, they were despised by their fellow Hebrews as traitors and criminals. I would imagine that as they sat by the pool in their private courtyards, the tax collectors took solace in the creature comforts their lifestyle provided (even though they weren’t welcome at church anymore.) When Jesus called Levi from the tax collector’s booth at the city gate, it was a radical move. It was one thing to call fishermen, or John’s disciples, but it was unthinkable to good Jewish citizens that Jesus would call someone like Levi. To make it even worse, Levi went and threw a big party for Jesus at his place!

sinners party

He invited his friends—the OTHER tax collectors and their girlfriends, and Jesus ACTUALLY WENT. Ok Christians, here’s a couple of things to chew on. How many friends do you have who would even qualify to go to this kind of party? If most of us Christians threw a party, wouldn’t it be too lame for any non-believer to want to attend?

What Kind of Party Do Sinners Want to Go To?

And of course the big question: when was the last time you threw a party at your house for sinners? A party that had other folks at church questioning your motives and behavior? There’s an Australian church called “Matthew’s Party” that reaches out to street people. I love their name and their mission. Tell me: Is their mission any different than ours? Jesus said, “It is not the righteous but the sinners who need to be called to repentance.” Is your life so insulated among the righteous that you’d have a hard time coming up with a good guest list of sinners who needed to come? Maybe it’s time to throw a party!

Sinners Party

Matthew threw a party and invited folks he knew;
According to the Pharisees, these friends were less than winners.
So, they threw shade at Jesus there, and his disciples too,
Criticizing them for hanging out with such big sinners.
Jesus said, I’m here because the sinners need me most;
Besides, I like this party and I really love the host.
You should be glad I’m here instead of being mad I went;
I came to call the sinners–not the righteous–to repent.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread