October 11, 2020 - Pastor Message10/23/2020
“Pilate went back into the praetorium and summoned Jesus and said to him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’...Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.’ So Pilate said to him, ‘Then you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say I am a king. For this was I born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’ Pilate said to him, ‘What is truth?’” (John 18:33, 3638).
Jesus, the king of heaven and earth, did not come to establish an earthly, political kingdom. That fact is the source of Pilate’s confusion in the above exchange that takes place during Jesus’ trial. Jesus had been falsely accused of treason against the occupying Roman government by declaring himself a king, but Jesus’ kingdom has nothing to do with earthly political power. In fact, quite the opposite, Jesus urged his disciples to “render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar” (Mark 12:17). Nonetheless, it was this false charge that led to his crucifixion and death, against which he offered no resistance because this was the path the Father had laid out for our salvation. By suffering and dying on the cross and only then rising to new life, Jesus showed that the power of his kingdom is of a wholly different kind than worldly political power. His is the power to serve and to save, not to dominate and enslave, and his kingdom is the fullness of life for those who follow him.
This is important to remember as we continue through Respect Life month and recommit ourselves to protecting the right to life for all people from conception to natural death. In this fight, it can often happen that we focus on the political and legal battle for life, seeking laws and court decisions that wield the political power of the government to protect life. While that battle is important and needs to be included in our efforts for life, too often we stop there. We forget that, as Christians, our battle for life doesn’t end in the halls of Congress or the courtrooms, nor does it begin there. We are not here to wield political power, anymore than Christ did. We are here to pave the way for the kingdom of God. There and only there will the fullness of life be found.
Everything we do in this world must be oriented toward that goal, including our political participation, and that means that we need to be witnesses of Christ’s truth.
That truth is expressed in the basic principles of our faith, including our belief in the inherent dignity of every human life made in the image of God and redeemed by Christ. In all our words and actions, we need to honor that dignity in others, even in those who support political positions opposed to the right to life. This can be a major challenge for those who take up the fight for life. Because we become so focused on the politics, we can lose sight of the bigger mission and fall into the very trap that our political opponents do, of dehumanizing others and reducing them to political positions and platforms rather than treating them as fellow human beings worthy of respect and Christlike love. This is especially true around national elections, when the political battles and rhetoric heat up. In such times, may we remember the example of Jesus as he stood before Pilate. May we seek to wield the same power, not of domination, but of selfgiving service, and may our witness to the truth, like Christ’s, lead all people that much closer to God’s kingdom this election season.
Fr. Marc Stockton