No Harm, No Foul

offense defense

Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 5; 145, Proverbs 3:11-20, 1 John 3:18-4:6, Matthew 11:1-6

As Jesus’s ministry was beginning to really take off, John the Baptist was locked up by Herod. Even from prison John heard of the impact Jesus was having, and so he sent his own disciples to find out if this man really was the messiah. They asked Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Rather than answer with a simple yes or no (did Jesus ever answer with yes or no?) Matthew tells us Jesus instructed them to remind John of the signs he was performing, and concluded by saying, “And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”

Does simply lacking offense seem like a pretty low bar for blessings?  Later in Matthew 12 he will say of false prophets: “Those who are not with me are against me,” but in Luke and Mark, when the disciples complain to Jesus about strangers casting out demons in his name, he tells them, “Those who are not against us are for us.” People who look for reasons to draw lines between “us” and “them” may tend to favor the Matthew passage, but Jesus was addressing people prophesying falsely in his name, not neutral or uncommitted parties. Regarding people who aren’t actively condemning Christians, today’s scripture and the Luke/Mark passages seem to say: “no harm, no foul.”

So how is it Christianity has become virtually synonymous with trumped up outrage over things which don’t truly impact us?  Why do some of us insist an inability to impose our brand of doctrine on others is a form of oppression? If we’re going to own accessories branded with “WWJD (What Would Jesus Do)?” we better be prepared to answer “Root out hypocrisy in our own institutions and stop worrying about people who prefer ‘Happy Holidays!'” In some countries Christians are actually silenced, imprisoned, or killed. That is oppression. The local public elementary school celebrating an inclusive “Winter Festival” is peaceful pluralism. Besides, do you really want public schools teaching your children religion? What brand of Christianity would it be – if it were Christian at all?

Jesus and Paul spoke to and taught believers who would were part of a small, oppressed minority. Embracing that persecution mentality in a country where over 70% of the citizens identify as Christian can twist the good news into something scary.

Let’s opt out of outrage culture, and redirect that energy toward Kingdom work: feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, clothing the naked. If we are not for them, we are against them.

Comfort: People are going to disagree with you, and that’s OK.

Challenge: Leave it for God to take care of.

Prayer: Merciful and gracious God, please help me let go of my own ego and insecurity so I may offer a glimpse of Christ’s love to all I meet.

Discussion: Do you ever mistake being persecuted for not being charge, or being censored for being challenged?

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