Persecuting Jesus

Text: Acts 26:14a
When we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (NRSV)

Saul, who later became Paul after he became a follower of Jesus, is recounting his personal encounter with the risen Jesus.  Saul, who was a leader of the Jewish faith, found himself persecuting God in the Person of Jesus using the religion of God’s own chosen people.

What does it mean to persecute God—to persecute Jesus?  It means to take human derived teachings and traditions and misrepresent them as the way of God.  It means to take human contrived cultural do's and don’ts and represent them as God’s will and God’s way.  It really means a total disregard for the third commandment; “You shall not take the name of God in vain.”

To take God’s name in vain means to hollow out the truth of who God is and replace it with something that is not really God.  As with Saul and the religion he represented, Christianity has had its share of times when it persecuted Jesus.  Christianity has used God’s name in vain to promote purely human traditions like the Crusades, the Inquisitions, antisemitism, Manifest Destiny, support for slavery, and more.

Whenever we use God’s name to tear down others or to support our own quest for power and prestige at the expense of others, we can be sure that we are persecuting Jesus.  God’s call is always a call for a unity of diversity.  God’s call is always to love of neighbor.  God’s call is always a call to humility.  God’s call is always a call to serve others.  God’s call is always a call to the kind of freedom that can only come from knowing the truth.

In what ways have you used Jesus’ name to raise yourself up at the expense of someone else? In what ways have you used Jesus’ name to promote your own ambitions?  In what ways have you used Jesus’ name to insist on your own rights and taken power away from others? In what ways have you used Jesus’ name to approve your hatred of another?

If you ever have a question in your mind as to if you are misusing the name of God—if you are persecuting Jesus, ask yourself what Jesus listed as the most important thing.  The answer is easy, love the Lord your God with all that you are and your neighbor as yourself.

Pray with me:

God of love and God of grace, forgive me when I use your name for things that are anything but loving to others.  Forgive me when I use you for my own personal agenda especially when my agenda takes away from others.  Forgive me when I use you in ways that generate anger and hatred among the diversity of your created people.  AMEN.

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