• Rev. Joel L. Tolbert

Did Jesus Say That?

There are few things that drive me toward being prayerful faster than listening to others say things that sound nothing like Jesus, all under the auspices of Jesus.


"I'm a good Christian, and we were taught to help those who help themselves. If they won't get a job and work, they don't get my help."


"I'm a good Christian, but I swear to God, if they try to hurt me or my family, I will use whatever means necessary to defend myself and put them six feet under."


Jesus said, "If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt." (Luke 6:29)


"I'm a good Christian, but those folk don't belong here. They need to go back where they came from and take care of their own instead of being here."


"I'm a good Christian, but anybody that breaks the law like that should be locked away for good, and the key thrown away."


Jesus said, "Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me." (Matthew 25:34b-36)


"I'm a good Christian. I go to church. I pray. But if they try to raise our taxes even one penny more, I swear, they will have a fight on their hands."


They asked Jesus, "15 Should we pay taxes, or should we not?” But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it.” 16 And they brought one. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” 17 Jesus said to them, “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s and to God the things that are God’s.” (Mark 12:15-17a)


I continue to study the Bible, and it keeps soaking into me. The Bible shows me many of my own hypocrisies and some around or beyond me as well. There was a season in my life when I felt like I had to call out every hypocrisy I discovered. I've learned most people do not enjoy discovering their hypocrisies.


Some who claim to follow Jesus simply don't know very much about him. Some who claim to follow Jesus know convenient bits and pieces, but not the bigger picture. Some who claim to follow Jesus do know plenty about Jesus, but have rejected parts they don't agree with or like.


It hurts when people are less interested in what Jesus really said (and meant), and more interested in feeling justified that Jesus supports them in whatever they prefer to believe. If I were to mention a statement, parable, or action of Jesus that might contradict someone's preferred way of speaking, acting, and being in the world, it hurts them. It's like dropping a monkey wrench into their mechanism. I'll see them stop suddenly, get hot, smoke coming out of their ears, then a possible explosion.


Thus, prayer...


God, help me not react. God, please, help me be careful with this person. Help me listen through their pain or confusion, their anger or defensiveness. Help me not stand over them but beside them. Help me lay a few bread crumbs before them that might lead toward you, the real you, the full you. Please, keep me safe from their anger or reaction. Please, keep me courageous for your kingdom. I pray God, please, help me.


Today, I will pray for the names below. I will also pray for you, all of you reading this. Should there be something that is sticking in your mechanism, remember, I'm an engineer by degree first, a pastor later. I'd be happy to sit with you and work on your mechanism. We will talk it through, think it through, feel our way through whatever might not be working very well for you. I will try to be gentle, and we will definitely start and finish with prayer.


Blessing, laughter, and loving be yours,

Rev. Joel L. Tolbert

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