2 Peter 3:12-15a, 17-18; Mark 12:13-17
Today’s scripture readings seem to be about opportunities and priorities. In 2 Peter, Peter says, “To him be glory now and to the day of eternity.” He encourages his listeners to grow in grace and knowledge of Christ. The psalmist proclaims, “Let your work be seen by your servants and your glory by their children.” And in Mark, Jesus encounters Pharisees and Herodians who attempt to ensnare him with a question about money. Jesus responds, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
You know, if I had the opportunity to ask Jesus a question, I would hope it would not be a trick question. The Pharisees miss an incredible opportunity. Instead of asking Christ a meaningful question, they try to trick him. It has become a contest and they want to win.
I recently watched a debate between two men about the existence of God. Both were very intelligent and seemed very sincere. However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that the debate was not about God. It wasn’t about finding the truth. It was about establishing who was the smarter of the two - who could win the debate. It seemed so fruitless.
If you have the opportunity to talk to someone about God, why would you turn it into a contest? Why not attempt to find the truth? Try to make the other person’s life better. Knowing Jesus does not make me better than them. Knowing Jesus just makes my life better.
It is so easy for our focus to move from Christ to the world. If the focus is on the world, we’ll be worried about winning. If the focus is on the world, even if we win, we will only receive what the world has to offer.
I can think of no greater gift than to introduce someone to Christ. And yet sometimes we approach non-believers like we are entering some kind of contest. Can we trick someone into a relationship with Christ? If my goal is to simply win the debate game, will my opponent see Christ in me?
The Special Olympics were recently held on the univeristy campus and I was privileged to watch some of the events. I have to be honest - sometimes it was painful to watch. Young men and women with physical and mental disabilities struggling down the track. And yet the expression of joy on their faces was unmistakable. They loved the race. It was so pure and clean. No one-upmanship. No thinking they were better than everyone else. Just joy.
This is the way it should be. As the body of Christ, this is how we should be. When I tell someone I am a Christian, what is the image that comes to their mind? Someone who is legalistic and judgmental? A Pharisee out to trick them? Someone who looks down on them? Someone who cares only about winning or someone who is loving and compassionate? When we meet someone who does not believe, how do we view them - as ignorant, a problem, a burden? Or another child of God who is searching, just like us. An opportunity to serve? When we meet a non-believer, we really should ask, What would Jesus do?
When a non-believer has harsh words for us we face a choice. If we respond in kind we have to realize that our harsh words can cause temporary pain, but may also have eternal consequences. My prayer today is for those of us who are experiencing frustration with someone who does not believe in Jesus.
By Daniel Patrick O'Reilly