What’s up, everybody! You know, I am not quite used to this informal greeting of “What’s up!” because it makes me want to look up to see what’s up there. However, I think it’s a good idea to look at what’s up there every now and then to remind ourselves that there is Someone looking from above.
Today, I want to look up and ask, “What would Jesus do about the situation we are facing today?”
First of all, my heart goes out to the friends and families of George Floyd’s and everyone in the country that is now grieving for his unjust death. I am sure the majority of people, not just those in the United States, but also around the world, have seen the video of the fatal cruelty that triggers extreme emotion.
There are two layers of this issue. One is what everyone has been talking about—racial injustice. The second is what few people are talking about—the power abuse. Both trace to the root of sin.
So, the question we all have today is, “How to solve the problem?” It’s easy to state the problem, and that’s what we see in the media all week. However, it takes a lot of wisdom to solve the problem.
Politicians will do their best to solve the problem through a political process, but, as followers of Jesus Christ, we must solve the problem Jesus way. We are going to the root of the problem because, until we address the root of the problem, these problems are bound to repeat.
Let me give you an example. Forty years ago, when a woman was abused, she had the wounds and scars to prove it. Ever since the strict enforcement of the law against spousal abuse, we see a drastic reduction of women being abused by their husbands. However, is it really the fact?
If we visit mental hospitals nowadays, we see a larger number of women than ever before. Some researchers have discovered that nowadays, when a woman is abused, she is likely to have no wounds to prove it. It is because the mode of abuse has turned from physical to emotional.
What it means is the law has made the abuser smarter or cunninger. It seems that is the case with the murder of George Floyd. The office tried to make it look like an accident, but he might have discounted the video taken by the bystander. He also has past complaints about overuse of force.
The law changes the abuser’s behavior, but it does not transform his heart. I am not saying we don’t need the law, but it just does not address the root of human problems. You might remember that the Apostle Paul talks about this in his epistles.
If we looked up to ask, what would Jesus do, the answer we will get is, “I have commissioned you to do it.” It’s called the Great Commission.
Let us look at the Great Commission, which is in today’s scripture lesson from Matthew 28:16–20. Listen to the Word of the Lord,
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mt 28:16–20).
The keyword that addresses our issue at hand is “all nations.” Jesus was a Jew, and people thought he came to become the king of the Jews, but what they failed to see is that Jesus came to reconcile the world.
Matthew told the story of Jesus as the racial reconciler from the very beginning of Matthew’s Gospel. For example, he told the Christmas story with the visitation of the magi from the east. Magi were magicians. They were astrologers—the outcasts or barbarians that generally looked down by the society in the first century Israel.
They were not only magicians but also foreigners from the east. So, the visit of the magi to Jesus’ birthplace has a strong implication of racial reconciliation.
However, nowadays, we water down the serious message by glamorizing the three Magi as the three Wisemen from the East, or sometimes we sing, Three Kings from the Orient. The truth is they were not kings; they were supposedly some shady and deplorable people.
They were rich, but they were not a decent class to visit the birth of the King of Kings. We also see the shepherds visiting the birth of Jesus, which look cute in the Christmas Pageants, but they were far from the social status that deserved an invitation to the birth of a savior.
Now you know what Matthew was talking about. He is telling us that there were signs in the sky from the very beginning that Jesus came to bring peace on earth by redeeming the broken world divided among races and classes.
Jesus did not wait until his resurrection to reveal his intention to reconcile the world but from his very birth. In fact, even before his birth, he has crossed the racial and social boundaries because Matthew traced two foreign women in the ancestry of Jesus, as he recorded it in chapter one. One of them was a prostitute.
So, just by looking at his birth, Jesus has so many shady associations that should make you cringe to regard him as your Lord and Savior. However, if you do claim him as your Lord and Savior, racial discrimination is out of the question. In fact, racial reconciliation becomes your mission.
Jesus set an example for that by revealing his messiahship to the Samaritan woman at the well before he revealed it to the Jews. Again, depending on how you look at it, that Samaritan woman has some shady lifestyle. Even among his followers, there were some women of checker past.
When he talked about the Great Commandment, he used the Good Samaritan as an example. You know that the Great Command is about loving God and loving your neighbors, but Jesus pointed out that your neighbor is someone outside of your race, rank, or religion.
These are just a few examples of his personal mission to reconcile the racial division among different races of his time and place.
I want to give you a homework assignment this week since our country is going through a serious racial tension. Read the Four Gospels and look for the instances where Jesus crossed the racial and cultural lines that imply his desire for racial reconciliation. This exercise will give you a better understanding of the Great Commission and how it is so relevant to address the issues of our times.
He wants us to reconcile the world by making disciples of all nations. In English, the phrase “make disciples” is not so specific, but in the original language, it means “make my disciples.” So, it’s not about making your own disciples but about making Christ’s disciples.
What does it mean to be his disciples? Jesus said,
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn 13:34–35).
So, Jesus wants us to reconcile the world by expanding his community of love. Law cannot solve the problem, but love can solve the problem. Of course, the law is easier to enforce, but love is not easy to enforce. It requires a change of heart.
How can the change of heart be achieved? It can be achieved by realizing how much he loves us. He said, “Just as I loved you, you also should love one another.” How did he love us? By giving his life for us. That’s a tall order, but it begins with being touched by his irresistible grace and love.
I like to mention the beginning part of Les Misérables because it is a vivid depiction of how the law made Jean Valjean sink deeper to sin, but he was transformed by being touched by the love shown by the priest he had stolen from.
The redemption of this world can only come from love.
Now, this is done by winning people into disciples of Jesus, or you can say disciples of love. Then Jesus said,
“… baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Mat 28:19b).
Baptism is a decisive commitment to renounce sin and reclaim love. Jesus expects the baptism to be done in the name of the Trinity. Note that the word “name” is singular, which means God is one, even though God is revealed in three Persons.
How is this relevant to racial reconciliation? The Father is the Creator of the human race. Since we are all created by one Heavenly Father, there is no room for us to divide by race. We all belong to one human race under one Creator.
The Son is the Redeemer. We are redeemed from divisiveness. We are redeemed from the broken relationship between God and us and among ourselves. As I said above, if we claim Jesus as our Lord and Savior, there is no room for racial division.
The Holy Spirit is the Sustainer. Jesus knows that we live in this fallen world, and we will fail to love our neighbors sometimes, especially when anxiety is high like we are now. That’s why he sent the Holy Spirit to sustain our effort to live in harmony and reconcile the world at the same time.
The Holy Spirit is like the GPS. If you go off course, it will find a new path to take you to the same destination. It also represents the presence and companionship of Jesus, as he said,
“And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mat 28:20b).
Jesus ended by saying,
“… and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” (Mat 28:20a).
Jesus seemed to indicate that commitment comes first, and education comes later. It does not mean we don’t have to teach them before they are baptized, but it means they don’t have to wait until they understand everything in order to commit.
There are a lot of things we can only learn as an insider. So we have to get inside through baptism to learn in-depth. Learning how to love may take a lifetime because we are sinners who like to divide.
I am still learning. Particularly, at times like this, when you are forced to think through the signs of the time. We are forced to look up and ask, “What’s up!”
There you have it! The Great Commission leaves no room for racial division. Instead, as a Christian, you are commissioned to reconcile the world by expanding Jesus’ community of love. It’s not easy, but it’s the only solution to address the root of human problems.
May God bless you and give you opportunities to touch lives with the Good News of love. Amen!