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FROM THE PULPIT: We can unite if we keep an eye on Jesus
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FROM THE PULPIT: We can unite if we keep an eye on Jesus

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James Pence

James James Pence is minister of Pleasant Grove Christian Church of Martinsville.

People will tell you there are two things you should never discuss: religion and politics. By trade, vocation or calling I cannot help but speak about my faith. I also believe that by trade, vocation and calling I cannot but help speak about the issues of politics that are intertwined with my faith.

In this country, we have something called the “separation of church and state” as one of our valued freedoms. Many Christians feel that it goes too far. I, on the other hand, think the Founding Fathers were wise to include a directive that gives us the freedoms to worship as we see fit. Carried to its most logical implications, I cannot call for a ban on the Wiccan religion, which elevates witches and warlocks that I do not believe the Bible supports, nor can they insist that all Protestants become as they are.

With the recent developments in the Black Lives Matter movement, it is becoming evident that there are those who would challenge those long-held freedoms. Within recent days, one Shaun King, a far left activist and once a member of BLM, said through his Twitter account that images that depict Jesus Christ as a “white European” need to be torn down as a form of “White Supremacy.”

“White people would have never accepted a religion from a brown man,” he said.

He further advocates the removal of “murals, and stained-glass windows of white Jesus as well as his ‘European mother’ and their white friends.” I have a problem with that based on what the Bible says about Jesus and also on the freedoms we have with the separation of church and state. Personally, I am also offended that he, or anyone else, would simply think that, because I am white, I worship a “white” Jesus only.

The Bible tells me that God, the father, and Jesus, his son, are spiritual beings. Sure, Jesus was born of a virgin and took on flesh and was found in appearance as a man. He was, however, a man from the region of Nazareth, born to a Jewish man and woman. He was immaculately conceived, which means , he did not come into the world through normal sexual reproduction between a man and a woman, a sperm and a fertilized egg. God, in his infinite wisdom, likely made sure Jesus “fit in” with the darker hues of the people around him. Despite pictures I have seen, I have always thought of Jesus looking more like Max Klinger from “M.A.S.H” than Tom Selleck. The Bible says, through the prophet Isaiah, there was nothing about his features that would attract us to him. He was plain-looking, ordinary, but he was also so much more.

It is odd that people would take offense of Jesus at all in this manner. As I read the Bible, Jesus did not discriminate against anyone. John 3: 16 says, “For God so loved the world, [that means everyone], that He gave his only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus is also someone who does not makes distinctions. Romans 2:11 says, “For there is no respect of persons with God.”

Likewise the apostle Paul says in Ephesians 2:14, “For he [Jesus] himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has torn down the dividing wall of hostility.” In Christ there is no Jew, no Greek, no male, no female, no Gentile because we are all one in Christ. Jesus came to bring unity, and now I hear of a person who can influence thousands distort that truth perhaps for his own advancement, or some other axe to grind, and attack the very person who lived and died that he and all others might have forgiveness of sin and everlasting life.

The Bible also says God is light, and he dwells in unapproachable light. How do you define and describe such light? Artist, painters, makers of stain-glassed windows have had no agenda other than trying to depict the sinless son of God so that mankind might have some insight into who he really is. So, I would submit, no depiction, except one that dishonors his sinless character, should ever be tampered with. Paint Jesus black, white, brown, keep him dark as he has been depicted in Ethiopia for over 1500 years, and let the Far East keep Asian murals of our Lord and Savior. Even in all the diversity they will only capture a trace of who he really is, because you cannot contain a spiritual being in a fleshly shell.

I also understand that, closer to home, the Rev. Jonathan Falwell has come under fire for saying in a sermon that the world needs more of, not less of, Jesus. When political rallies and protests remain peaceful, then that is a good thing. But when outside groups with hidden agendas attack, loot, burn businesses and churches and kill people, then I agree with Jonathan Falwell.

We need Jesus now more than ever. Change needs to happen. Police officers, like any other profession you could name, have some elements that need to go, and they need more training in crises management, as well as, mental support for the dangerous jobs they do in protecting and serving society.

One wonders how different our present times may be if all those protesting would sit across from one another and actually engage in civil discourse or even pray for the ones who have so offended them.We will never achieve the unity that Jesus speaks of if we remain divided into tribal sects and different groups. A recent poll I saw asserted that 33% of the people polled believed we would have another Civil War in the next five years. How sad. But you can see how it comes about when people divide and attack so many different people, races, institutions and even the Son of God.

The ultimate irony is that even if someone succeeds in removing all images of Jesus, it won’t change them, and it will not change the world. Jesus said upon Peter’s confession that he was the Christ, the son of the living God, that his church would stand forever and that the very gates of Hell would not prevail against it.

All it will sadly prove, once Jesus’ likeness is erased, is that Jesus was never in the hearts of people who advocated for such in the first place.

James Pence is minister of Pleasant Grove Christian Church of Martinsville.

James Pence is minister of Pleasant Grove Christian Church of Martinsville.

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