Jesus Did Not Take Sides
By Rev. Sam Wright, Ph.D.
At this time there is much division in the United Methodist Church. People are choosing sides. The consultant for the Way Forward Commission stated that sometimes the least helpful thing a leader can do is to take sides. Jesus understood that.
Jesus called twelve disciples. Among them were Simon the zealot and Levi (Matthew) the tax collector. Simon was an insurrectionist who wanted to overthrow the yoke of Rome. Matthew colluded with Rome by collecting taxes from his fellow Jews. Simon saw Matthew as a traitor against the people of God because he collected money from them to pay to the occupying army. Matthew saw Simon as a rebel against the government that God had put in charge of Palestine. Their views could not have been more opposite. Simon and Matthew’s differences were even more pronounced than the differences between staunch Democrats and Republicans.
Which side of this political debate was Jesus on? We don’t know. Jesus refused to take sides on this important issue. When they tried to trap him by asking him if Jews should pay taxes to Caesar, Jesus cleverly pointed out that Caesar’s face was on the coins. He said, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” As far as we know, Jesus never condemned Caesar or praised him. By not taking sides and focusing on God’s kingdom, Jesus managed to keep these two enemy disciples together along with the ten, who, no doubt had taken sides with either Simon or Matthew. Can’t you imagine their heated debates?
Jesus not only kept them together, but he also taught them a new way to live together, a new way to love. Around the campfire, Simon and Matthew learned that while they were different, God loved them both. They had to learn to love and respect each other even if they would never agree on politics or morality.
Jesus always came down on the side of people. He taught Simon and Matthew to be on the same side, the side of loving God, loving one’s neighbor, and loving one’s enemies.
As a pastor, I want to focus on Christ and the work that Christ has for us to do in order to establish the kingdom of God. I want to make certain everyone feels welcome at First Church, the LGBTQ community as well as traditionalists.