Lenten Reflection Day #19

10
Mar

WWJD?  What would Jesus do? The question isn’t always as simple at we assume.   We live in a society quite different from the one in which Jesus lived.   For instance, most everyone Jesus would have come in contact with would have  been  fellow Jews born and raised in Israel.   On the edge of his world were Romans who were part of the occupation forces,  a smattering of “pagans.”

Those of us living in Northern New Jersey in the 21st century dwell in the midst of extraordinary ethnic, cultural and religious diversity.   What would Jesus do if he were living in this context?     Some Christians assume that Jesus would be in an adversarial relationship with non-Christians.  They cite certain scriptures, such as where Jesus says in John’s Gospel, “I am the truth, the light and the way; no one comes to the Father apart from me.”

But what did Jesus mean by “the way?” This, of course, is at the heart of Lent, since our intention during this time is to follow in His way.  His way is distinguished by some extraordinarily challenging characteristics that don’t lend themselves to an “us against them” mentality.   For instance, he demanded that his followers love their enemies, refuse to return evil for evil, and forgive wrongs done unto them.   He called them to be merciful and peacemaking.  He made the “hero” of perhaps his best known parable a foreign pagan who showed compassion on a stranger — a man of another nationality and religion who had been left beaten and dying at the side of the road.   (Do this, he said, if you want to inherit eternal life.) He turned down the offer of political power offered to him by the devil by which he could have coerced others who disagreed with him, calling his disciples instead to servanthood.

This is indeed a difficult way, one that led Jesus to the cross, dying for not just some, but for all people.

If Jesus were walking among us today, wouldn’t he be at the forefront of efforts at reconciliation, rejoicing at every instance where people from different backgrounds and belief systems treat one another with kindness and respect?

Lord Jesus, your way is hard for us.   We prefer the age-old assumption that we are to love our family and friends and hate our enemies — those of other tribes.   Help us to see the diversity of our world as a blessing and an opportunity to learn to love as y — a setting to learn how to love as you have loved us.  Amen.

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