Exodus 20:16 Psalm 15 Ephesians 4:17-32 John 18:28-3
I am not sure which is the worst thing for a church and a community. Is it worse for ISIS to challenge Christians in a church to believe in their form of Islam, or die? Or is it worse for a church and a community to have people bearing false witness against their neighbors?
We have heard the reports about ISIS doing whatever they want in Syria, Iraq, and southern Turkey. The horror stories about people of all ages being threatened and killed by ISIS makes the listener get angry or increases their level of concern. It is a great tragedy to hear how Christians, and even Muslims, are being persecuted and killed for not believing the way that members of ISIS do.
This week I read an article that says that nearly 40% of Americans are “churchless.” This includes people who claim no religious affiliation and those who no longer go to church anywhere. It turns out that for some of these “churchless” people the decision to go without church was based on how so-called “Christians” speak about one another! I say this because of some other surveys that I have read over the past 4 or 5 years, some of which Barna.org (www.ministrymatters.com “Secularism grows as more U.S. Christians turn “Churchless.”)
A church and a community is built on trust. As we trust law enforcement and the courts to enforce the laws with equity and fairness, even righteousness, our community is better. If in a church the relations between members lacks the truth, then the church is headed for hard times.
I am sure that we do not want ISIS to be active in these United States of America. In some areas of Appalachia, the hillbillies may just take up arms against any ISIS threat! I also believe we do not want false testimony, or tainted, even prejudicial, testimony to be part of our community or church. We may not have to be concerned about ISIS for some time. However we may need to be aware of an alternative to tellin’ tales or gossipin’ that occurs in American churches.
- Jesus had to deal with rumors (Matthew 18:28-38)
Pilate had to decide about Jesus’ fate. The religious leaders lied to Pilate about Jesus. Yet, Jesus came to testify to the truth (that he is God’s Son!). However, Pilate asked him, “What is truth?” For a judge to ask that question and to not realize the truth is signs of corruption. When the courts are corrupted, it makes for ill times in the community. Jesus did die at the order of Pilate. But God won in the end, for Jesus rose from the dead 3 days later!
When it is hard to decipher what the truth is, then our church and our community are in for hard times. The truth was elusive for Pilate because by the time of Jesus’ trial the Roman courts and officials were involved in deciding cases in either a preferential manner (for the ones with the most money), or not even bothering to uncover the facts in a situation. In the case of Jesus’ trial, Pilate appeased the Jewish religious leaders by giving them Barabbas! So Jesus died because of tainted, or unfavorable, testimony. Is that how were are to live our lives as disciples of Jesus Christ, allowing tainted words to sway us?
2. We live different lives now that we follow Christ Jesus (Ephesians 4:17-32)
We do not live as we used to. The impurity in our language and lives is not what we strive for anymore. For it is Christ who is helping us to renew our minds. Plus we learn that since we are members of Christ’s body, then we are also members of one another. So we hope that our words will be building up the church (and the community).
How do we do speak this way? We get rid of all bitterness, wrath, anger, wrangling, and slander, together will all malice (4:31. And with what do we replace this false testimony? We are to be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Yes, we realize that we are now part of a great movement, even a body. As we eat the bread and drink the cup that is Christ’s body and blood, we realize the body of Christ is right next to us, even in this sanctuary
There it is. We love our neighbor as ourselves. We don’t want people to give false testimony about us, so we do not do that to other people. Why? Because since we belong to Jesus, as do the ones we may haved talked about, we would be hurting the church. In a court of law we don’t just give some of the truth, we give the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Living the truth within the church means that we are living Jesus. For it is Jesus who is the truth, from God and to each other.
Having ISIS in our nation would be horrible. Actually, having people of all ages persecuted and killed for not following ISIS in the Middle East is horrible. We pray for those being persecuted that they would grow in their faith in Jesus Christ. And we pray that they can hold their faith till the end of the ISIS persecution.
Having gossipping and unfavorable testimony in our church and community would be horrible. We now are no longer living as we used to, before we knew Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. We live so that people will want to become part of Christ’s body. So, we live Jesus. We live in and for the truth. Let’s start now. Let’s not wait till the grapevine is abuzzing with some juicy news. Let us live Christ today.