Jesus was no pushover. He preached a really challenging message – and, let’s be honest, this made a lot of people very angry.
When Jesus says, ‘Woe to the person who is liked by everyone,’ he is saying that, if you are truly my disciple, then you are going to make a lot of people angry with you. So expect this. And be worried if you are not making people angry!
Of course, no one likes conflict. No one likes to make other people angry. We all like people to like us.
But, first and foremost, we are called to be true to Jesus, to God.
And Jesus preaches a gospel of love and forgiveness for all. Jesus dies to break down the barriers between the outsiders and the insiders.
And I expect that we would all say Amen to that. That we accept this gospel. That we want to love and welcome all. We want to break down barriers.
But do we really?
In the Bible there’s a story of how Jesus is invited to eat with a Pharisee called Simon. The meal probably took place in a courtyard where anyone could come and watch and listen – but were not invited to eat.
When Jesus arrives, Simon neither offers him water for his feet (a basic courtesy of welcome); nor kisses him (a gesture of affection); nor pours oil on his head (a gesture of respect.)
In this way, although Simon eats with Jesus – he is not truly welcoming him, he is not showing love for him, nor is he showing respect.
Of course, we would not like to identify ourselves with Simon.
But how many times, when we have gone to Church to meet with Jesus – to eat with him (which is what receiving Holy Communion represents) – are we as disrespectful as this Pharisee?
When we come into Church, do we welcome Jesus by acknowledging his presence among us – maybe by taking the time to still ourselves and remember where we are? Or are we too busy chatting with friends to even consider whether Jesus is present, let alone welcome that presence?
What about showing our love for Jesus. Do we go through the motions of the service and the hymns or songs – or do we engage with Jesus from the depths of our hearts - showing our love, our thankfulness?
And what about respect. Do we appreciate the holiness of Jesus – his power and authority in our lives?
In a recent sermon, Canon J. John challenged the congregation to consider whether Jesus was in the driving seat of our lives (or in the passenger seat or boot.) Even if we say – yes, Jesus is in the driving seat – how much do we allow him to take us where he wants us to go? When he starts to turn down the Avenue of Generosity, are we the back seat driver saying, ‘No, no, no – not down there please. Let’s go straight on?’ When he wants to take us down the Path of Forgiveness, do we say, ‘Oh no, not yet – we can go there later?’
To behave like this with Jesus, is to treat Jesus with contempt – as the Pharisee Simon does.
So let’s take a close look at our relationship with Jesus and see how abusive it really is.
Let’s say sorry.
And be like the sinful woman in the story who comes and washes Jesus’ feet with her tears.
Let’s remember how much Jesus loves us - so much, that he died for us.
Let’s show Jesus our welcome, our love and our respect. On Sundays and every day.
When we do this, we are taking the first step to being true disciples of Jesus.
And then we will receive the forgiveness, love and empowerment that will help us, in turn, to welcome, love and respect others. Especially those we don’t particularly like, or agree with. The people we are often rude to.
If you are struggling with people who annoy you, then look first to Jesus. Make sure you are in a right relationship with him and then sit back and watch how this brings transformation to every other relationship in your life.
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Posted by Martine Oborne