Beyond the Pulpit: COATES

It seems fear has gripped our nation. Motivated by fear of opposing concepts, ideologues are engaging in power struggles over political consequences.

By DUANE COATES
Hettinger United Methodist Pastor

It seems fear has gripped our nation. Motivated by fear of opposing concepts, ideologues are engaging in power struggles over political consequences.

Such activity has been transpiring since Jesus’ day, and Lent brings it to light. This Lent, I am studying the many rare, horrific and faith-forming events in the last 24 hours of Jesus’ life. Scripture tells us that, from a human standpoint, Jesus’ execution was motivated by fear. “And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching.” (Mark 11:18 NRSV)

Yet, despite such widespread fear among religious leaders, there were at least a couple whom Jesus favorably impressed. Yet there is no record of their coming to his defense. Perhaps they feared their own group. (Sometimes that happens in politics.) For instance, Joseph of Arimathea offers that very day his tomb for Jesus’ burial, yet if he took his seat at Jesus’ trial and spoke up for him, he didn’t reveal it to any historian, not even gospel writers. Same with Nicodemus, a religious leader who came under cover of darkness to inquire about Christian salvation. Yet, the Bible is silent on whether he defended Jesus afterwards.

Furthermore, most of the disciples desert Jesus as he’s arrested; but one of the possibly two disciples who stay, Peter, resorts to both violence and denial – arguably consequences of fear.

What would have happened had these otherwise devoted followers been unafraid to speak up and defend the pioneer and perfecter of their faith? Would Jesus have lived longer? Given us more and clearer instructions to Christian discipleship? Would God have found another way to effect salvation? I’m not really sure.

But for the community to which the epistles of John were written, such cowardice demonstrated a lack of love. The writer says there is no fear in love, love cast out fear, so if you’re afraid, he writes, your love has not completely matured (perfected). (1 John 4:18). Therefore, this Lent, I’m pondering ways in which I could be more courageous in speaking the truth in love. I’m wondering who could be helped and how life might be more abundant for others if I would have the courage to speak the truth in love. Here’s hoping you will ponder it, too.