I am a Christian today because I like Jesus. I like how he loved people and had a tender heart toward them. I like how he healed people whether he knew them or not. I like how he fed people who were hungry, and I like how he spoke courageously to anyone–religious leader or Roman leader. He didn’t care if you were rich or poor, gentile or Jew, slave or king. He said what was true because, well, it was true. The earthly Jesus was just a good man, a courageous man, he was not afraid of anything or anyone– and I think that’s a pretty good way to live our life, don’t you? I try to live like Jesus. I’m not there yet, but I do try.
The first reading from the Prophet Jeremiah teaches us that what we do has consequences. Jeremiah called people to repentance, to change their life, to change the way they were living because it was not God’s way. His courageousness got him thrown into a cistern. Why? Because haters are gonna hate! And people who live in darkness do not want to be exposed by the light, by the truth–but Jeremiah was fearless and he did God’s will no matter the cost, and that cost was his life when he was tossed into the cistern to die.
But God rescued Jeremiah. The court official, Ebed-melech, boldly went to the king to tell him the truth about what was going on. He said Jeremiah was innocent and it was these others who were at fault, and Jeremiah was rescued because a good man took action, and was courageous enough to speak to power against what he knew was wrong. Are we? The readings today challenge us to take a side. There’s no middle ground with God; there’s no “good enough.” With Jesus there’s no room for compromise. God wants to know, “Hey, are you with me or not?” Are we who claim to follow him, actually following him, his life, his example?
Jesus wants us to take a stand–and Jesus teaches that when we stand with him, it means that we’re going to stand against what is opposed to him. We cannot live in the light of Christ, and at the same time live in darkness and sin. Light casts out darkness. We’re either with Jesus or not. Jesus is in fact the prince of peace, but he says quite clearly today, that division will occur. He says we need to figure out whose side we’re on, because there’s only two sides–with him or against him.
Households will be divided. Some will choose Christ and some will not. I know that you know people–maybe your own siblings, maybe your own children that are divided. I see it all the time and I experience it in my own family, but other people’s decision to follow or not follow Jesus is on them. I have to decide which side I’m on. Each of us must take a stand. We love all people, but we don’t have to agree with the decisions they make. Either our actions are consistent with life and love and goodness and truth or they’re not. And like Jeremiah, our decisions and our life has consequences. And like Jesus, sometimes the truth doesn’t want to be heard by others, but we say it because it’s true. And sometimes people don’t want us being generous and kind to others because they don’t look like us, or think like us, and act like us, but we do because that’s what Jesus did.
There’s no promise of good times ahead for us in this life. Jeremiah knew it and was rescued…and that was good, and maybe sometimes we might get rescued too. But sometimes doing what’s right will get us onto the cross and to an early grave, and that’s the way it could go. But we know that Jesus conquered the grave. And we know that those who love to the end have an eternal reward. So let’s live courageously. Let’s love greatly. Let’s boldly speak to what’s true and never fear the darkness of sin. In other words, we need to take our stand. Right here. Right now.