A few months back I received a letter informing me that the writer wishes our church and its Senior Pastor took more stands on social issues and political positions. I get that, I really do. As I was considering the content of the letter, something struck me. In a day and time when churches and denominations all across USAmerica are defining themselves by their stands on social issues, particularly issues around human sexuality, Jesus didn’t do that at all…ever. In fact, one of the great disappointments concerning Jesus in his own time was that in an Israel obsessed with the current reality of Roman occupation, Jesus didn’t have a thing to say about the greatest political issue of his day. When they tried to force him to offer political commentary publicly, to speak to the issues of the day, he asked whose face was pressed upon on a silver coin and replied, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s.” I am guessing he got lots of letters.
Jesus flat out refused to allow his culture to set his agenda. He simply did not spend his time teaching on culturally “relevant” things like current events, politics or social issues; and had he done so, his central message would not have transcended his culture. Jesus dealt exclusively with important things, often to the neglect of urgent things. Timeless things, often at the neglect of temporal things. Jesus dealt with things like hope, faith, love, hate, forgiveness, hypocrisy, truth and salvation. It was his genius.
Unlike modern religious culture today worldwide, Jesus never gave in to the tyranny of the urgent…or the pressure of the culture. I won’t either. I believe that if we deal faithfully with the timeless aspects of the Gospel, those with an expiration date will find their proper place.
-Rev. Shane L. Bishop, a Distinguished Evangelist in the United Methodist Church has been the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois since 1997