Experience, circumstances and rereading Scripture often gives us a fresh look at very familiar biblical passages. One such passage from John 19:15 appeared in the expanded text from a recent Bible study lesson: “They therefore cried out, ‘Away with him, away with him, crucify him!’ Pilot said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’”
Let the referenced Scripture above sink in. The Bible does not say much more about the chief priests after this. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, did the chief priests ever have second thoughts about what they had done? Did the chief priests continue to acknowledge Caesar as their king? If so, for how long?
We are living in a day when the new Caesar is Donald Trump. Contrary to the attempt to compare Trump to Jesus, Trump possesses all the characteristics of the corrupt, deity-possessing, power-seizing Roman Caesars.
Many of my Christian friends who like Trump express their admiration for his strength as a leader as compared to other leaders who are humble, thoughtful in reacting to tough situations and not inclined to blustery and boastful rhetoric. These same Christians are inclined to like Vladimir Putin. However, they sometimes express concern about both Trump’s and Putin’s over-the-top rhetoric and actions.
Yet this concern still allows them to support Trump as if he is the political leader who will finally do their bidding. Previous Republican administrations have been very disappointing to them because abortion was not banned, gays were not excluded from the military, and so forth. In fact, the latest rendition of Republican ideology seems to express out loud their hatred for “others,” whether they be Jews, Democrats, pro-choice, LGBTQ or people of color.
“The latest rendition of Republican ideology seems to express out loud their hatred for ‘others,’ whether they be Jews, Democrats, pro-choice, LGBTQ or people of color.”
In some circles and even from some Christian pulpits, the expressed outcome to remedy society’s erring ways is to kill those within the various “other” groups. The sad thing is the rhetoric between such extreme right-wing American Christians is similar to that coming out of the Kremlin in Russia.
Even though our fairly conservative senior pastor has now told his congregation in two sermons to stop watching Fox News, it is obvious that many are not following his advice. These Christians have been conditioned by Fox News and others to believe the LBGTQ community wants to force people to accept their lifestyle. Actually, I’ve never been confronted with anyone in the LGBTQ community who has tried to force me to do any such thing.
There is a distinct difference between a group wanting to force its own morality or faith tradition on the population at large and a group wanting to be treated equally under the law as undergirded by our U.S. Constitution. Contrary to many of my fellow Christians, I have not felt persecution for my beliefs. The closest I have come to being ridiculed for my beliefs is from a former Southern Baptist who believed one can get to heaven without believing in Jesus.
Many American Christians feel persecuted because of the hateful way in which they express themselves.
In Trump’s case, perhaps he feels persecuted because the law is finally catching up with his poor choices in life. He is definitely not being persecuted because he has lived a Christ-like life. In fact, from his own mouth a discerning Christian would know he is not a Christian. He has stated that he never has done anything wrong for which he would have to ask forgiveness.
We can only surmise that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day never repented and accepted Jesus either. I suspect many present-day Christian leaders and their followers will continue to follow their “Caesar” and continue to rewrite and reinterpret Scripture as it suits them.
There was a major concern about false teachers in the New Testament. Surely, let us pray for a discerning spirit and read our Bibles closely. May the Holy Spirit convict us of our erring ways. May we return to our love of Jesus and our “neighbors.”
Earl Chappell lives in Virginia Beach, Va., and has been a member of First Baptist Church of Norfolk since 1977.
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