“It was sad it had to come to this,” said one pastor to another, “he seemed like a decent guy.”
This evangelical pastor hailed from the west coast and was speaking to a fellow pastor from a southern denominational church. They were appointees for a purpose: to witness an execution.
“He is NOT a decent guy,” responded the southern pastor. The two men were sitting together in the backseat of an Uber headed to an important event. “Remember that time you approached him and he was so rude to you? You complimented him as a good man who would speak truth, yet he wouldn’t even answer your sincere question.”
“Well, we WERE trying to trick him,” the younger, western pastor responded.
“He didn’t know that!” the southern pastor snapped. “Point is, he’s had no respect for our religion since he showed up. He wouldn’t even take a stand for the Second Amendment or against taxes. He’s been a heretic all along. It’s good that we’ll be rid of him.”
“You’re probably right,” the younger man responded, “I do remember him calling us half dry-cleaned suits, saying we were cleaned on the outside but were dirty inside. That was a low blow. “But is it worth…” The younger pastor stammered, letting his voice trail off. The older pastor looked at the landscape passing by the car window and absentmindedly scratched his cheek.
“Don’t you get it, Pastor?” He said in his southern drawl while still looking out the window. “Isn’t ‘handling him’ worth it to protect our religious freedoms?”
“And he’s been cutting into the attendance and giving at our services…”
“Now, let’s not make a big issue out of that, pastor,” the elder pastor interrupted. “There’ll be cameras at this event. Mustn’t talk about money. Let’s keep the focus on the issues here.” The pastor pulled his phone out of his pocket and called up a newspaper article and handed his phone to the younger pastor to read as he explained.
“He brought the biggest newspaper in our state out to attack me,” said the southerner. “As you can see, he called our Fourth of July service ‘foolish nationalism’ and said we had more allegiance to our patriotism than to the Kingdom of God.”
“This picture shows him knocking down tables?”
“We had flyers with recommendations for truth-telling news sites and information about the one-world government trying to take over the world,” said the older man. “I guess he didn’t agree. Clearly this ‘messiah’ is no American!”
“I’ve been checking out those websites you recommend,” the westerner responded. “I read that he’s been working with Democrats and Communists to corrupt our kids’ education and close the doors of our churches. It must be true because the mainstream media always hides this information from us.”
“Right,” the southern pastor said with a hint of a smile as he took back his phone and replaced it in his suit jacket pocket. “You see, if we don’t deal with this situation, this crazy interloper would keep causing trouble and cause us to lose our temples and lose our country.”
“He told me that my stance on laws to ban abortion didn’t matter if it made me ‘hateful and divisive’ with people.” The western pastor used his fingers to make quotes around the words. “How can you call yourself a Christian and not be willing to give up everything to pass a law to stop women from having abortions?”
“He’s one of those mamby-pamby, do-gooders liberals that’s too wimpy to take on the forces of evil in the land,” the older pastor said with lips pursed so tightly the restricted bloodflow caused them to turn white. The westerner joined his colleagues’ anger with his own grimace.
“He says the Bible wants us to be ‘humble’ and turn from our wicked ways in order to see our country healed,” he said. “US? Turn from OUR wicked ways?”
“What a self-righteous, pompous accuser,” the southern pastor shot back. “He probably thinks we should give our offerings to liberal social justice organizations taking care of the poor and give our buildings to the uneducated who would have no idea even what to do with them. What would happen to our churches without our big buildings?”
The words hung in the air as the hum of the car’s motor and the road passing under the tires became the only sound. After a few ponderous moments, the younger pastor spoke again, this time his tone much softer.
“When the accusations were made about him before the court, most of the pastors stretched their stories, didn’t they? Would your father have approved of us lying about him?” The older pastor looked out the window again. His father was a famous leader in the church and had recently passed away. A serious look came onto his face and, with a steely eyed stare, he turned back to his friend.
“My dad understood that you have to crack some eggs to make an omelette. We’re in a culture war, Pastor. The meek are not going to win this war. Remember, God hasn’t given us a spirit of timidity, but of might and of power.”
(“He left out the sound mind part,”) the younger pastor thought to himself.
“Aren’t you a bit worried we’re trying to gain power in our country at the cost of our souls?”
“There will be no country if the man continues on,” the old southern pastor snarled. “Don’t you get it?” The pastor locked his stare on a passing billboard that displayed the Bible verse John 3:16. The billboard was sponsored by a local church that was hosting today’s event.
“The world is going to hell in a handbasket,” the older man said firmly, pointing at the billboard. “Our message is the only hope of this country and this country is the only hope of the world. This man is a globalistic, sinner-lover who never asks people to say the sinner’s prayer, won’t sign petitions fighting our nation’s immorality and even refused to join us to meet with the Governor. How is this man going to save us?” The southern pastor stopped and took a deep breath. He finished his statement with such a low tone, it unnerved the younger pastor.
“That man is a poor American and a terrible Evangelical. He’s a danger to our plans. He must go away.” As the pastor completed the statement, the driver pulled into the church parking lot. Exiting the car the men were led into a large room adjoining the church sanctuary. There was seating for about 20 people on one side of a glass partition and a morbid contraption on the other side that had been brought in just for this unique event.
“Are you sure we shouldn’t stop this?” The younger pastor whispered. “Maybe we’re doing the wrong thing, like the religious leaders in the Bible.”
“Come on now, Pastor,” the older man said while grabbing the elbow of the western pastor, “it’s too late to lose your zeal for God now.” The discussion ended as the object of their scorn was brought in. The man wore handcuffs and his normally well-coiffed, long, dark hair was wild and tangled. Clearly it had been a rough night.
“Do you have any last words?” The executioner questioned the man after he read a list of charges that had been brought against the man. The young western pastor stared through the glass at the dark-skinned man. He didn’t look sinister. He showed no signs of being the apocalyptic character the conspiracy websites proclaimed him to be. He seemed fairly normal.
The young pastor watched the brown eyes of the man scan the room and land on the southern pastor in the next chair.
“Forgive them, for they know not what they do,” the foreigner stated.
Ultimately, the switch was flipped and the lights flickered. Silence fell on the room as the lights steadied and it was finished. All in the room sat immobile for a moment, almost afraid to breathe. The two pastors looked at each other and each let out a slow sigh of relief.
Suddenly, the ground began to shake beneath them with a shaking so violent items began to fall from shelves and a series of terrible crashes could be heard around the building. When the quake subsided, the men in the room scurried to see what had occurred. As each arrived with a collective gasp at what they saw.
The large backdrop behind the sanctuary stage had fallen forward and broken into several pieces, exposing the rooms behind it. The rooms were the administrative offices of the church including one room that housed a large safe that had fallen open and huge amounts of cash were strewn about the room. When the men turned and looked at the opposite end of the sanctuary, they could see that the large cross, which had stood outside the church’s front door, had come crashing through the roof, exposing the sanctuary to the outside elements. A breeze caused some of the strewn money to filter across the room and fly through the huge hole in the roof.
The young western pastor stared at the newly exposed sky, his mouth agape. He turned and looked at his friend, whose eyes were no longer filled with anger or disgust, but now genuinely showed fear.
“Maybe he was who he said he was,” the young pastor said, never taking his eyes from the area of the fallen cross. “And, maybe we just crucified him all over again.”
If a mysterious, Middle Eastern miracle worked showed up in our cities and began to criticize our Christian politics, how would we react? Would we welcome his challenge to rethink what we’ve always known? Or would he have to be silenced?
Romans 12:2 of the New Testament says “Do not be conformed to this world,(actually “age” or “the world in which you live) but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” The encouragement here is to “test” what we know so that we are renewing our thoughts and not just keep believing and reinforcing what we’ve always known. The danger if we avoid or resist this? The verse says we will miss the essence of the will of God and, like the religious leaders in the Bible, we can do something completely against God’s true heart in our time in history.