Jesus doesn’t shame

Luke 22:31-33, 54-62

People often tell me, “Whatever you need me to do, Pastor, just tell me. I’m there.”

The truth is, I don’t need you to do very much. No more than we all need to do to take care of each other. What I would like is for everyone who tells me that to show up to Bible study. To start their own study group. To be a part of a prayer group. Show up to worship with the rest of the church.

That’s what prepares us to live as followers of Jesus. As we learn and pray, we come to recognize more what God wants us to do. The reality is God may ask you to visit the sick. The Holy Spirit may be nudging you next to care for someone in great need. How many jail visits have you done? Does the Lord want those women and men to know God’s presence there? Forget what I might need you to do. Think of what God wants!

While I appreciate the gesture to help, our faith matures as we understand the call to follow. Remember, the basic invitation of Jesus is “Follow me.” Our tendency is to take the highways and freeways of faith that get us where we want to go. Faster, we think. In doing so, we also get to avoid a few unsightly places and people. 

“Follow me” is different. Follow Christ to forgotten or rejected places. Follow Christ to those who are hurting. And, ultimately, follow Christ to the cross. Follow Christ there because those are the turns Jesus makes. 

In that moment Peter looked Jesus in the eye, he was ready. He thought he was. “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!” Turns out, he wasn’t even ready to acknowledge he knew Jesus. There is shame in those moments of failure. Peter wept with a great bitterness. How much anguish do we really feel about our shortcomings?

But shame and conviction are different. God’s Holy Spirit will convict our hearts. That leads to freedom, redemption and joy. The enemy wants us to wallow in shame. That keeps us from truly experiencing communion with God–think back to Adam and Eve hiding. Notice what Jesus said to Peter. Our Lord knew what Peter would not be able to do then. But he also told him, “when once you have turned back.” You see, Jesus also knew what Peter would do later. 

So, let Spirit show you your sin and failures. Jesus, though, won’t shame you. He knows and loves you too much. Like Peter, turn back. That’s what I want you to do. The joyful part is so does Jesus and he’s expecting you.  

Stay blessed…john

Who loves Judas?

Matthew 5:43-48


There’s a quote making the Internet rounds lately. It says, “Christianity is not loving Jesus. It’s loving Judas.”

We know, of course, it’s both.

That you won’t love Judas if you don’t love Jesus. Judas is the betrayer. We see him as the ultimate example of treachery and sin. We need divine inspiration to pull off showing love to such a scoundrel. The message is, though, you aren’t loving Jesus if you aren’t loving Judas. Scripture calls us liars if we say we love God but hate our brother (1 John 4:20).

Whoa!

So, let’s reflect on that by asking, Who is the Judas in your story? Who are the people you see as betrayers of God? Sometimes they are people close to you. I can’t tell you how many passive-aggressive comments I’ve heard in church meetings! Some are those who have wronged you. Still, others are people you’ll never even meet.

Jesus didn’t use that quote we’ve seen online. But I imagine he’d like it. He did say similar things. Who else tells us to love our enemies? Notice, too, he didn’t say be nice to them or even do loving things for them with a haughty attitude. No, love them.

Who has the holy audacity to suggest we pray for those who make our lives difficult? The One who lived his life that way! Jesus knew how easy it is for us to only love those who love us. It’s so easy even those wretched people you know do it. It’s almost natural to despise Judas. Would you sit next to him on Sunday morning?

And speaking of when we gather to worship, it’s almost as if Jesus is challenging us directly. “And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others (Matthew 5:47)?

Receiving the good news of Jesus is salvation. God has redeemed you. But that isn’t merely heaven’s pass. Part of our salvation is being freed from the cycles of animosity and hatred. They lead to death, after all. You are free to love God fully. And you know you are by how you love Judas.

Stay blessed…john