Guest contributor: Ed Trego
“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the Sabbath day. And he stood up to read; and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth; and they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself; what we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here also in your own country.'” And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and put him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong. But passing through the midst of them he went away.” (Luke 4:16-30)
I believe the Jesus depicted in the above scripture has been virtually lost in today’s Christianity. This Jesus was powerful, self-confident and unafraid to confront those who questioned Him and His divinity. He would not tolerate those who would pervert the faith and mislead the people. He was not afraid of confrontation even when it was obvious that it would result in his death.
Today, confrontation isn’t considered polite or socially acceptable. We will do most anything to avoid it wherever possible. In the scriptural example above, Jesus boldly claimed that Isaiah’s messianic prophecy pertained specifically to Him. When the people refused to listen and began coming up with reasons why that wasn’t possible, He took them to task about the many times the Israelites had rejected the prophets of God over and over in their history. The people became so angry that they attempted to kill Him by throwing Him over a precipice. I can imagine a vision of Jesus looking at the gathered crowd; meeting each of them eye-to-eye with the power of God. The power within Him was apparently so overwhelming they could not lay a hand on Him even though they had planned to kill Him. He walked through the crowd and left.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!”. Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of Israel with these words over and over. He called them “blind guides”; He told them they were “like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness”. Again and again Jesus condemned the religious elite of the time for actions and inactions. “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?” (See Matthew, chapter 23). Jesus knew full well that the Scribes and Pharisees, along with the high priest and his minions, would eventually orchestrate His crucifixion. Still, He didn’t hesitate to call them to task. This is the Jesus who came to change mankind and help him understand the error of his ways. He had no problem with telling it like it is. This is the righteous face of Christianity that we truly need today, but which is sorely lacking. Not only in most of us, but also in many of our religious leaders today. When is the last time you heard a homily which actually addressed the evils of sin? People of God need to be upbraided from time to time about the weakness of their faith. Yet it’s rare in the sermons of today; it’s not polite to point out the sinfulness of those in the pews.
“And Jesus entered the temple of God and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you make it a den of robbers.” (Matthew 21:12-14) By this action Jesus not only would have infuriated the money-changers and those selling sacrificial animals, He would have angered the Jewish authorities as well. The temple treasury received a portion of all business conducted in the temple so by forcing it to stop Jesus stopped the payoffs to the temple as well. Yet He never hesitated to express His righteous outrage at the misuse of God’s temple.
He spoke just as forcefully to His disciples. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:31-39)
If we only look around, we see that Jesus’ words are very true in many lives today. How many of us have friends or relatives who refuse Christianity and live their lives in sin? How many of us have the courage to confront them? There used to be shame in our society. When someone chose to ignore morality and live in sin, there was a price to pay. Even their own family would shame them and, in some cases, refuse to consider them a part of their family as long as they continued to live in sin. That’s no longer a part of our culture. And, in many ways, people suffer for it. If they are not confronted with their error, what encouragement is there for them to amend their lives”
Today, those who refuse to live their life in a moral way are honored and given praise. Movies are made to glorify immorality; television rarely has a series devoted to a loving, traditional family. Musicians, actors, sports figures, and even some political figures, seem to get more acclaim and popularity as they degrade themselves more and more. The football player might be suspended for an illegal hit in a game, but virtually nothing is done when they are in bar-fights, drunken melees and other acts of debauchery. We accept it, and even laugh and make jokes about it. But very little is done to condemn it or to hold those persons accountable for their actions.
We seem to want a nice, non-confrontational Christianity. An “I’m OK, you’re OK” Christianity. We certainly don’t want to confront anyone about the sins they may be committing. We don’t even want to confront on own sins; it makes us uncomfortable. We choose to focus on the softer side of Jesus. The Jesus who was loving, always ready to forgive those who sin, forgetting that with forgiveness came the admonition to sin no more. The Christ that healed the sick, raised the dead, and cried at the death of Lazarus. We like that Jesus, He fits in with what we want Christianity to be.
Those attributes of Jesus are very real and speak beautifully to His love and His desire that all men should come to Him. However, we must also recognize the Jesus who was strong, forceful, and willing to confront evil and sin. If we are to fully know Him, we need to know the Jesus who didn’t hesitate to confront the Pharisee’s, knowing full well that they were plotting to kill Him. We need to understand the zeal and righteous outrage demonstrated when He took the money changers in the temple to task; driving them out with a whip of cords.
If we are to follow Him, we too must be willing to speak up in defense of our faith, even when it may be difficult, or even dangerous. In order to truly serve God and Jesus, we too must be willing to draw on the strength of our faith when needed to confront those who would deny or lessen our mission as Christians. “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24)
Can you imagine Jesus, in today’s world, saying that although He doesn’t personally approve of abortion, He won’t impose His belief on others who might disagree? A Jesus who would accept homosexual marriage? A Jesus who would accept men and women living together without benefit of marriage? A Jesus who would not be outraged at the violence and misery man perpetrates against man, many time in the name of religion? Yet many, who claim to believe in Jesus, refuse to confront these things. While there are some who are outraged and ashamed of such sinfulness in our society, very few are willing to stand up and say so. They don’t want to hurt others’ feelings. They use the biblical admonition against judging others to justify their refusal to a stand against sinfulness in our world.
Today we, as Christians, are under attack from our own government. We are told we can’t express our faith in public; we can’t say a prayer before a high school football game; we can’t post the ten commandments. Yet those who would condemn Christianity are given full reign to slander, insult and even attack Christians. It seems those of the Christian faith are the only ones who are forbidden to express their faith. If we are to maintain the right to practice our faith, in public as well as in private we must look to the strength Jesus demonstrated when he confronted those who would subvert or weaken the faith. We must become the Church militant! We must take a stand and not allow those who would try to push our faith into secrecy or even try to destroy it.
First, and foremost, we must pray daily for the strength to confront the evil that is being used against us in the public square. We must recognize that this attack is being orchestrated by Satan, as it has always been. We must pray that others, our friends, family and all Christians, will take up the fight. We must ask the Saints to pray for us and help us in this battle. Because a battle is exactly what it is; do not mistake this for anything less than an all out war on Christianity led by the father of all lies, Satan.
I’m certainly not suggesting violence; violence only begets violence. What is needed is the fortitude and courage to allow us to be the shining example of Christianity that Jesus calls us to be. We can’t remain in the background, we must demonstrate our faith in every aspect of our daily life. If the people you work with, or the people you socialize with, or even your own family, are not fully aware of your walk of faith, you have some work to do. If we allow Satan and his followers to continue to push us out of the public square we may soon find ourselves in the same situation as the early Christians, hunted down and persecuted for our faith. If you think this to be an exaggeration, simply look to China, Syria, and Egypt today. Christians are in hiding, being burned alive in their churches and forced to flee whenever possible.
We must not allow that to happen in this country, or any where else in the world if we can prevent it. We must seek to elect leaders who will respect and protect our religious rights. Too often those rights are being eliminated in the name of “tolerance”. Their version of tolerance all too often include only those who agree with them or are willing to contribute to their reelection campaign. We must be willing to confront our elected leaders and demand that they recognize our rights to express and practice our faith in the public square.
God is there to help us if we ask. He will give us the strength and confidence to fight this battle. But understand that it will get worse before it gets better. We have allowed this anti-Christian movement to progress so far today that it will not be easy to reverse it. Jesus showed the way when He confronted the Pharisees, Sadducees, High Priest, Pilate, and even those believers who were lukewarm in the faith. We must draw from that strength and exhibit the same determination to follow our faith and not allow anyone to limit or deny our right to do so.
Thankfully we do not have to fight this battle alone. We have the most powerful support imaginable on our side. The angels stand ready to aide us. The Saints stand ready to pray for us. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit stand ready to give us all the strength and power needed to defeat Satan. All we need to do is ask in sincere prayer.
“Saint Michael the Archangel defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray. And do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly host, by the Divine Power of God thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.”