Guest essay by Jody Neufeld
Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “You are the Christ.’”
Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.
He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Mark 8:27-33
I have been troubled by the choices we as Christians make for what we will stand up and be recognized as Christians. There are principles of Christ about which I must stand and not waver. I believe Jesus told me clearly what are the most important:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40
Love God. No other gods before Him. No idols or statues or priorities before Him and who He is. Love my neighbor. Jesus spoke of my neighbor in the story of the Good Samaritan as someone with whom I have contact, as the Samaritan did the man on the road. This is the standard that governs the principles for which I stand.
As events in my country or in my city unfold, I find myself prayerfully considering what the Lord is saying to us as His people and to me personally. As I write this, a controversy has arisen about a statuary of the Ten Commandments and its placement in a government building. Lines have been drawn between Church and state, Christian and non-Christian, and, most troubling, between Christian and Christian. The media is being used to loudly proclaim questions of one’s true Christian beliefs from both sides of this un-Godly line.
What principle of God does this controversy represent? Is the judge in question being asked to commit murder? Is he being asked to reject his belief in God? Does the placement of a statue of the Ten Commandments in a judicial building cement that we are a people of God? Jesus said I am to be His disciple, His ambassador. How do I want to represent Him in this issue?
In the first Scripture today from Mark’s gospel, Peter has just made the proclamation that JESUS IS THE MESSIAH! In Matthew’s gospel (chapter 16), Jesus tells Peter that only the Father could have revealed that to Peter. Jesus is pleased with Peter and his open, public statement. But then when Jesus tells the disciples the truth of how He will appear weak and die in order to rise from the dead – Peter rebukes Jesus for saying something out of his preconceived idea. Notice that Mark says that Jesus turns and looks at “his disciples” and THEN rebukes Peter. Jesus knew that Peter was a leader and that his disbelief and off-track idea would pull the others off also. Jesus knew that He must bring the leader back online and not let the enemy have an opportunity to use this controversy of what the Messiah is and is not.
Is the enemy using the media to get us as Christians ‘off line’ about a statue? Whether the statue of the Ten Commandments sits inside a judicial building or not does not change whether my actions are governed BY the Ten Commandments of God or only man’s laws. How I speak of those who disagree with me, does change how Jesus will look upon me. He looks for an unconditional love in my heart while teaching me about His never-changing principles. It is in fact one of His principles: to love as He loves.
I want the Holy Spirit to keep my eyes on “center court” and not be distracted by a “ side game” being played by the flashy and loud enemy. I want to keep my eyes on Jesus, the Christ, and His will and plan.