In both Maplewood and DeGraff United Methodist Churches we have faced adversity this year. 2020 has been a year of difficulty and pivot. Our last in person worship service was March 15. We finally made the return to in person worship on June 7. We made changes to how we connect and how we care for each other. We adjusted and flexed into a more online environment. We have changed the way we interact and even changed the way in which we celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion. As I write this we have had no cases of covid-19 within our church goers, and we hope and pray to keep it that way.
In such an unusual year we still have more to face ahead. We are watching as our lives are changing and we have a presidential election that still has to take place in November. I have been asked before what our response to all of this should be and I simply point people back to Jesus’ words in the book of Matthew.
Matthew 22: 15-22 – “Then the Pharisees met together to plot how to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. They sent some of their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to meet with him. “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You teach the way of God truthfully. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. Now tell us what you think about this: Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” But Jesus knew their evil motives. “You hypocrites!” he said. “Why are you trying to trap me? Here, show me the coin used for the tax.” When they handed him a Roman coin, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. “Well, then,” he said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” His reply amazed them, and they went away.”
There will always be political forces in our lives and there will always be governmental entities attempting to intervene in our lives. Sometimes they are helpful and sometimes they are not. As a Christian our response should follow along the lines of Christ. When we are fully committed to the faith which we say we believe, we should look more like Jesus and less like the world.
When our earthly relationships are torn apart by our political beliefs, are we really setting an example of what Jesus looks like? My encouragement to you during this season is to be more like Christ. In the midst of political turmoil Jesus was always the peacemaker. He helped the marginalized and loved people in spite of an empire who did not want him to be king, and a pharisaical group that found him as a threat to their power structure.
How can we all live our lives like we say we believe and make a difference without tearing others down? A recent LifeWay study found that 32 percent of professing Christians claim to read Scripture daily. If you love your freedom of religion, then it is time to start getting rooted in the Word, and living out it’s instruction.
The writer is the pastor for Maplewood and DeGraff United Methodist Churches.