A confession: maybe I read the Gospels too much. Maybe I read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John when I ought to be reading Isaiah or Ezekiel. I can’t seem to help myself. I am fascinated with the stories of Jesus doing Jesus things. I am fascinated with his wisdom, his stories, his deft handling of small town Pharisees and Supreme Court Justices. I am fascinated with how when Jesus is around everything gets better. I am fascinated with what the world looks like when God is actually in it.
I know what the world looks like when God isn’t in it. I’ve seen it too well. You have too. Sin, that me first I’m in charge of my own life power, has wrecked and devastated the world. It has wrecked and devastated us. For a long time I’ve taught that sin has brought five particular effects: death, disease, demonic activity, disasters in nature, and depravation. You see Jesus in the gospels directly addressing each of these. He raises the dead, heals, casts out demons, stills storms, and feeds multitudes. When God is in the world the effects of sin are destroyed.
Ever had an “aha moment”? A moment when a piece of knowledge you should have had all along is given to you and you find yourself saying “of course.” I had one this morning. Here it is. There are not five effects of sin. There are six. The sixth devastation is division. Think how divided the world is. Think how early it began. Think of Adam and Eve, those two who were one flesh, and their immediate finger pointing once sin came. Think of how we still do the same. Think of how we take sides against people and brand them as enemies. And think how when we do we are proud of our righteousness and virtue. And then think of Jesus.
Think of how he healed and blessed Jews, Romans, Syrians. Or about how he chose as followers both collaborators and revolutionaries. Think about how he sat down at tables with rank sinners and self righteous saints. Think about how he refused to see anyone as an enemy; a “them” as opposed to our “us”. Think about how being like Jesus is healing division instead of creating it and celebrating it.
How do we heal it? Jesus’ message and example is to really and to radically love everyone. That includes people who are spiteful to you or who persecute you. It includes people who stand when you kneel and kneel when you stand. So what’s love look like? Look again at Jesus. It means time. Jesus spent time with the powerful and the powerless. It means affirmation. Jesus spoke upliftingly to all. It means help. Jesus refused no one who needed what he could give. It means forgiveness, even for those who are crucifying you.