We live in a season where most people seek to have their morality taught through government schools, social media and ‘reality’ TV and not from the people equipped and called by our creator and the author of love; the indictments rests on many sides. The church has relinquished the power of love and calling entrusted to it and the vacuum is filled by those who seek power for themselves at the people’s expense, in the name of good and love.
Jesus has some one-on-one time with the Roman Governor Pilate, prior to Jesus’s crucifixion (John 18.) They talk of politics and faith together. Pilate asks Jesus, “What is Truth?” Jesus describes his mission, message and authority are spiritual, divine. Should the matter of ‘truth’ be shaped by the votes of the Sanhedrin, or the perceptions of the people, or the laws of the land.
The conversation between Jesus and the governor are in the context of a trial of politics and public opinion, but the scene of this conversation is more like being “in chambers.” Pilate makes an exact judgement of the Jesus. He finds no fault, no legitimate charges, no broken laws. He knows the truth and yet allows the politics, public opinion and job security to not act with integrity about the truth. He looks for a loop-hole and attempts to absolve himself by ritually washing his hands of the matter. Pilate makes one statement that is also true, but pressured to change his action and leadership based on political threats and fear loosing his job security. This is not an example of being guided by truth.
There are defining moments when we are called to stand with Jesus in the truth and to boldly stand in loving opposition of the noise clanging gong of public opinion and agenda driven leaders who are threatened by Jesus declaration of truth.
So what is the truth to rally behind: God’s Love.
God loves us unconditionally and eternally. God does not always love the things we do and think and say. The truth is that God’s love is greater than our love and this is the reason we give ourselves to God in faith to fulfill our mission and potential together with God’s helpful grace.
Zacchaeus was one of Jesus’s neighbors. He had oppressed the people of his community by intimidation and extortion collecting taxes for the government. Jesus invites himself in the home and to the table of Zach to meet the truth with his neighbor. In love of Zacchaeus, the community and God, honest conversation was shared and explained to show how Zach’s behavior and choices were destroying the community and himself. Zacchaeus sees the oppression and sinfulness of his behavior, repents: asking for everyone’s forgiveness, and of his own will, restitution defined by his own understanding of extravagant generosity to return what was stolen and more to restore relationship and the community. Jesus didn’t say, keep on doing what you think is best and what gratifies you in your self-identity.
Jesus meets the woman the leaders bring to him to judge her sentence for sexual infidelity. Jesus doodles in the sand with his finger and asked the leaders and the crowd, “If you have never sinned, cast the first stone to condemn her.” Everyone leaves Jesus standing with the woman. He said, “Neither do i condemn you.” But it doesn’t end there, he adds. “Go and sin no more.” The truth is that adultery is a misuse of the sacred gift of our sexuality. Jesus does not say, keep on sinning and one day the truth with be more clearly understood and customs will make sexual ethics more relaxed in modern and enlightened societies.
Love your neighbor. Jesus declaration to those who are born with impairments, diseases and illnesses to be healed, get up and go, and sin no more. The brokenness in which we live in the world and in our own bodies is not the whole/perfect humanity created in our garden story where creation is declared as Good, truth, whole. Sin has since skewed our reality.
Understanding love necessitates clarifying what it means to love and to not love. To not love is sin. To love is God. God eternally loves us, even when we act in sinful ways. Unconditional love forgives when the other person in the relationship has pause or stopped loving. God loves us in this way. God calls us to learn to love in this way. Sin is when we love ourselves, our bodies, our power, our will, our purpose as greater or more important than loving God.
The truth of what is loving does not change. God has not changed. We are the ones who redefine in our context and to suit our own understanding of what it means to be loving, true and righteous. Did Jesus give Zacchaeus, the woman on trial, those sick and broken the opportunity to know God’s love? Yes! Did Jesus encourage them to keep living as they were living and loving? No. Here is the truth. Go and sin no more. Go and work toward loving as God loves. Love the person not the behavior. Love the sinner, not the sin. Love the neighbor, not the brokenness that divides the neighborhood. Love God and we will find the grace to grow in community and faith together, through Jesus Christ with the power and guide of God’s Holy Spirit, not the government, Facebook and the latest opinion polls that change like the weather.