Luke 8-9, Psalm 116
It seems that our nation has never been as divided as it is now. In the past year we have seen the "Take the knee" by the NFL athletes, Black Lives Matter and the aftermath of their protests, the Charlottesville white supremacist march and the ensuing riots, Antifa ("the Anti-Fascist protestors) causing violent protests everywhere they disagree with the opposing side, etc. Though heating up, this problem is certainly not a new one. The world offers many solutions which always fail. Growing up in Brooklyn, in the 1970's they began busing in high school to integrate diverse communities. The results were race riots with some deaths. In those years I saw terrible acts committed by both sides. The world now seeks solutions through logic, somehow thinking you can frame the argument so wisely in our own logic that the other side has to understand it. The world also seeks legal solutions believing that if the correct laws were only passed, then this division would be corrected. Then of course, both sides of the political aisle believe that there is a political solution to the mess we find ourselves in. Without sounding overly simplified, there is only one answer, Jesus.
In Luke 8:1-3 we read of certain women who ministered to Jesus and the apostles, tending their needs, unified in this role. Among them was Mary Magdalene, a woman who had been delivered from seven demons and Joanna, a socialite, the wife of a very important government official. What could possibly bind together such diverse women? Jesus. In Luke 6:12-16, we see the list of Jesus' apostles. It's easy to miss the point that one of their names was Simon the Zealot. The Zealots sole purpose was to overthrow the Roman government using whatever means necessary. They were known for carrying large, hooked knives under their garments to use on unsuspecting Romans whenever they could. Another apostle was Matthew, the tax collector, who actually worked for the Roman government. Who could bring such hated enemies together? Jesus. Look at the different personalities of impulsive Peter and sensitive and loving John, Who could bring such diverse personalities together? Jesus. Consider our church, our discipleship home groups, our ministries that we are in. The range of backgrounds, personalities are varied, but we are harmonized as we focus on the central character that unifies us, Jesus. We read in Luke 9:2-3, 6, that Jesus sent His apostles, "to preach the kingdom of God and heal the sick", then told them, "Take nothing for the journey, neither staffs nor bag nor bread nor money; and do not have two tunics (their version of underwear) apiece". "So they departed and went through the towns, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere". What did Jesus tell them to do? To completely rely on and trust God for their mission. We live in a Christian world with many divisions and denominations. In Luke 9:49-50, we see John going against someone who was acting on behalf of Jesus but was not part of their group, but Jesus responds by saying, "Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side."
In Galatians 3:28, Paul says, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." This mindset can only serve to unify true disciples of Jesus. There are many who claim to be Christian and have intellectually affirmed their beliefs but have yet to allow Jesus to permeate every core of their being. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus didn't commission us to make believers, but disciples. Disciples will hold onto their faith and move in service to bring others to a relationship with Jesus. Non disciples are happy to just sit on the sidelines, add Jesus to their many other beliefs, not trust God completely and be the blended individuals that they are. In Matthew 6:33, Jesus said, "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." In James 1:22, we read, "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." We have a divided nation literally reeling and swaying under the weight of our sin. We have a huge potential Christian army who could do so much more than we are choosing to do. We can make any excuse in the world as to why we choose to not act, but Jesus commands us to completely rely on Him and to step out in faith and action. If we want to see an end to these divisions that plague our nation and our world, disciple those around us whom God has placed in our lives. Jesus was then, and now, the only name which can unify such deep divisions.
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: