In the Bible, Jesus was often confronted with questions from the religious people, called Pharisees, meant to “trap” him. These politically motivated religious people had the goal of attaching Jesus to one side of a cultural argument or the other. It didn’t matter which side, only that they be able to categorize Jesus with a side. They hated Jesus passionately and needed to discredit him for questioning their cumbersome, exclusive religious system.
In this Modern Day Parable, I show what such an interaction might look like were Jesus incarnate today – using actual quotes from a recent interaction I had with Christians on Facebook.
Jesus leaned forward on his knees, face in his hands as he knelt next to his bed.
“Father, they simply cannot listen.” Jesus sighed heavily and wiped the tears from a reddened cheek. “They’ve chosen partisan leaders and conspiracy media over your message… there’s no reasoning with them.”
Jesus looked up at the clock on the night stand, it was late. Probably another all-night prayer session. His mind drifted back to the social media conversation from earlier that day…
“…And that’s why Christians must value and seek truth and not post memes with false premises.” Jesus finished his comment to the post and hit send. The responses came almost immediately.
“Jesus,” inquired a responder named ChristLover. “In light of recent tragic events around the country, how do you feel now about identifying so strongly with the Black Lives Matter Movement?”
“Why is your heart set on asking this question?” Jesus typed. “It has nothing to do with my comment? Perhaps the better question is whether Christians should desire to look more like God than to look like Ronald Reagan?”
Jesus hit send. He pondered what to share next when his thoughts were interrupted by another comment.
“I bet you’re a George Soros follower, Jesus,” said a person called BiblReadr. “Soros spreads hate, disunity, and funds ideologies and movements that seek to destroy. Some of his acolytes handiwork resulted in the alleged arson of a 250 year old mission church, a Virgin Mary set on fire in Boston and a nut who drove a car into a church service who then set it on fire — all just this last weekend. While he is not personally responsible he bankrolls the inspiration through our media, universities and culture.”
“I don’t think you know what you signed up for, respectfully,” came the next comment from someone named MegaChurchDeacon. “If you support BLM’s agenda of destroying the nuclear family, I’d strongly suggest recalibrating your moral compass instead of being an agent of destruction.”
Jesus pondered that a man, apparently in leadership in a major church, could bring such a confrontational comment.”
“So,” Jesus responded, his brow furrowed from his rising angst, “are you saying my morals will be ‘recalibrated’ if I buy into conspiracy theory websites and recite word-for-word extreme right-wing talking points? Be careful what YOU buy into and examine your own heart before condemning others. 2 Timothy warned of the days when God’s people would prefer ‘strange myths’ and seek out people who would satisfy their ‘itchy ears’ rather than desiring truth.”
Jesus sat for a moment before continuing on.
“Yes, there have been messes in the season but Father God’s test for our hearts Is are they soft, or hardening? Are we choosing to focus on the riots or allow our hearts to be broken for people God loves so much and the Church has so neglected? Are we going to call for ‘law and order’ to protect ourselves? Or willingly lean in and hear the pain of people in our own community?”
“Where are you getting your ‘facts’ from, Jesus,” said BiblReadr, “Sounds like you’ve been watching the nightly ‘so called’ world news. Take my advice and watch it and believe the opposite. That would be a great place to start.”
A new commenter, “SndySchlTeacher,” jumped in.
“Look at Jesus obfuscating in his interacting with others,” SndySchlTeacher proclaimed. “Ignoring our comments and spouting your beliefs won’t convince anyone your argument is virtuous. God is not calling you to support marxist organizations like BLM who seek to ‘disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure’ or to defend its financiers like Soros whose foot soldiers loot, burn and pillage.”
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“I understand that many are too deep into their mindset to have eyes to see and ears to hear truth anymore,” Jesus responded, “but I pray someone might see this string and be encouraged to know they don’t have to be in lockstep with the partisan church.”
“My call to followers of God is to stand with the marginalized communities – those we look at as God’s people looked at the Samaritans in days of old,” Jesus continued. “The plight of these people has been largely ignored by the Evangelical Church for decades. Instead, God’s people look for a strongman messiah to keep ‘those people’ under control with guns and prisons in order to pursue their own comfort and safety rather than the care of others.”
“I’ll take your silence to my question regarding the burning of churches and a Virgin Mary statue this last weekend as something you also condone unless you’d like to address that as well…,” MegaChurchDeacon followed up. “Some speaker for God you are HA! You don’t even know when you’re sitting with the evil ones.”
“It’s so easy to point to such things and use words like ‘marxist’ to give ourselves permission to ignore the cries of the oppressed,” Jesus responded. “With Martin Luther King, Jr. it was the term ‘communist’ and the claim he was ‘anarchist’ causing discord that were similarly used to discount him. As churchgoers we’ve become great at homeless feeds and backpack giveaways but struggle to follow the Bible’s guidelines when dealing with the systemic issues of our culture that keep people trapped.”
“What’s your plan for ending illegitimacy in the minority community?” SndySchlTeacher mocked. “Let’s hear it!”
“There’s Jesus. Zero on substance but 10/10 on the obfuscation,” posted ChristLover. “Appreciate the insults you have for us as well. Will you be calling me a racist next?”
“Are you racist?” Jesus responded.
For a moment the comment string was silent. Jesus imagined his question had caused an awkward pause for everyone.
“Jesus, you can’t defend your positions or answer simple questions, it appears,” said MegaChurchDeacon. “That’s too bad. If substituting an insult for an answer is your solution to cleanse the unwashed masses you won’t get very far with anyone with an IQ above a stapler.”
“I understand the choice to add my voice to those marginalized will cost me my reputation with Christians and the Church leaders,” Jesus quickly answered. “What good is a reputation, however, if I ignore Father God’s commands? It’s heartbreaking to read scripture and see the commands to care for justice for the poor, the foreigner, the widow and know that my people care exponentially more for their political ideology.”
“Jesus, my apologies for the harsh comments from some of my friends but sometimes our points of view, when we’re just using common sense are treated with disdain by many in intellectual circles.”
This comment came from a poster named “PastorTed.”
“I know you are a learned man and, if you read the many articles about George Soros as I have, perhaps you would learn more. Many pastors that I know and young adults (some of whom I taught in Sunday School when they were in third grade) were debating and discussing your ideas. I’m a big fan of reaching consensus by exploring a wide range of diverse points of view with an attitude of mutual respect. If you want to be an agent of reconciliation, in my experience it is wise to listen to both sides with respect and to treat people as if they are worthy of human dignity, because we were all created in the image of God.”
Jesus gave a tight-lipped smile as he looked at the screen on his device. He loved people and always tried to speak from that love, but religious pride always caused a struggle to hold within his righteous indignation.
“To be treated with mutual respect, one must come from a respectful position and a respectable position to begin with.”
Jesus considered his words thoughtfully.
“Being an agent of reconciliation is not my goal; I want to ensure freedom for people from any bondage. The bondage being put upon people today is this partisan religion and the use of ‘big boogeymen’ like ‘George Soros’ and ‘socialism.’ We scare people so that they will disregard any voice of dissent from the going partisan evangelical thought. While God’s promise is that we wouldn’t have a spirit of fear but, one of power, love and a sound mind.”
“I want people to be free, with that sound mind,” Jesus finished up, “not captive to defending false notions and false memes at all costs, like the religious leaders in Luke 11:48 who were following their own conspiracy theories…“
“Conspiracy theories from 3 years ago have been proved and are documented as facts!” screamed BiblReadr. “Just like we know the truth about hillary, or barry soetero. You were probably having the same conversation about conspiracy theories back then LOL. So yeah I’m going to believe your word or anything you say! Not!!!”
“Jesus, I believe you are watered-down lukewarm Christian trying to appeal to the world and put yourself off as an intellectual!,” ChristLover followed up. “Really you are painting a picture of yourself as a side stepper and can’t give a straight answer.”
“Again my apologies, Jesus, for any comments out of line,” PastorTed jumped in. “In ministry I have lived and worked collaboratively together across racial and ethnic lines with powerful Christian bonds of fellowship. But we have seen beautiful cities in turmoil, even as you were calling on local pastors and leaders to join the peaceful protests and to participate in the movement which is called, ‘Black Lives Matter.’ You need to defend that position and not use your condescending and dismissive tone is the problem here. You’ve dismissed as irrelevant a man’s comments with no idea that you missed the opportunity to dialogue with someone who has first hand experience with some amazing care for oppressed people groups, just because he uses certain phrases or buzzwords.“
“No, I didn’t dismiss any conversation,” typed Jesus, “I simply questioned the heart behind a comment that clearly used copy and paste text from a right-wing website to question my dedication to God.”
“That’s quite odd you feel insulted when you are ignoring my questions purposely because you do not have an answer,” said MegaChurchDeacon. “At least be humble enough to admit it instead of tossing desperate attacks. If you discount my character and think me not worthy of an answer to feel better about yourself don’t expect anyone to not think of you as anything more than a charlatan.”
“Anyone reading this post can clearly see in our interaction you insulted me first,” MegaChurchDeacon continued. “Unlike you, I won’t melt in tearful lamentation and hypocritically play the victim.“
“Let me offer all of you some hope,” Jesus said, attempting to bring productivity back to the conversation. “I’ve seen movement in Christians that gives me some hope. If we can take our concern away from hatred of masks and desire for comfortable chairs in a Sunday morning church service, then we truly can fight injustice in our cities and bring shalom.“
“In the Bible,” Jesus continued, “in the Gospels, Jeremiah, Ezekial, Amos, Isaiah, Jonah, and many, many others, we’re told when God’s people are more concerned about their comfort than about caring for justice for the poor, God will allow bad circumstances to turn our face back to him. That painful process is actually God’s mercy to turn us back to him and to turn from our ways – as is suggested in 2 Chronicles 7:14. If we’re willing to humble ourselves and seek God’s ways (his face) and turn from our ways, we can see something amazing happen.”
“I’m getting the same impression as you, MegaChurchDecon,” said ChristLover. “I’d like to see some answers so my copy/paste low intelligence self can grasp the positive effects of a civilization without fathers in the home. Since the reality before us is quite the opposite (as those he defends show us each day) I’m quite curious but I don’t think my hunger for knowledge will be satisfied. I should probably just shut up and take his bloviating as gospel unquestioningly.”
“Jesus,” PastorTed interjected, “I’ve done my best to offer you the opportunity to distinguish and explain any ways in which your own views differ from the stated views of the founders and website of Black Lives Matter. I am unclear how you might differ with them in any way, except to vaguely regret that some tragic things have taken place. I am more inclined to have a variety of friends with differing viewpoints than you appear to be. May the God and Father of our faith bless and guide you in the days ahead.”
“Perhaps the same people you wish to sway won’t notice you haven’t answered after my asking 4 times but I doubt it,” said MegaChurchDecon. “We’re more than just copy/paste zombies on this post who ask questions of people like you we both know provide indefensible answers before we ask them. (I’m sure there’s a Biblical passage you could insert here about the situational folly of the human spirit you’ve presented here so I’ll leave a blank space for you to fill in if you’d like to help me out :_______________________).”
“Kitchens, heat, stay out, etc.,” popped SndySchlTeacher.
“You waded in with a particularly obnoxious put-down of us on this post,” said ChristLover. “You expected hosannas, maybe?”
The memories were painful but now familiar to Jesus, who once again bowed his head in prayer. Yes, indeed, it would once again be a long night of grieving and interceding for God’s people.