Being like Jesus means being as loyal to our faith community as integrity allows and being so committed to God and God’s dreams for the world that we challenge the church when we believe we must.
Our culture is bloated by rhetoric that deteriorates the health of our common good. Conflicts about what is true, disagreement over the facts that could determine truth, and suffocating fears cause us to see almost everyone as strangers rather than neighbors. No wonder we want our churches to be “no-conflict zones.”
In doing so, however, we water down our understanding of love and define it as little-more than being “nice” and not hurting one another’s feelings. When we’re unwilling to have challenging conversations in our churches, we run the risk of drifting from God’s will and way. More often than not, we grow by encountering different perspectives that open us to the kinds of conflicts that ultimately lead to a more genuine understanding and peace.
Jesus is in Jerusalem for the Festival of Booths (or Tabernacles). Faithful, able-bodied Jewish people are expected to attend this harvest festival of gratitude for God’s provision. The event also celebrates God’s freeing the Hebrew slaves from Egypt and leading them through the wilderness to nationhood in the Land of Promise. Observant Jewish rabbi that he is, Jesus participates, teaching openly in the Temple. Opinions about him divide: some believe he is the Messiah, others disagree. Leaders want to arrest him.
Jesus understands that being faithful requires him to speak his vision of God’s love, justice, and mercy clearly, even when it causes division. Commitment can be difficult, and integrity can be costly. It always has been and will be.
What would it take for me to love both God’s dreams for the church and our congregation enough to risk faithfully speaking the truth in love?
God, fill me with your truth and your love, and help me honor both. Amen.