Submitted by Pastor Donna Clark Fuller, Rock Port and Watson United Methodist Churches
When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” John 6:60
Being a follower of Jesus was not easy then, and it is not easy now. Jesus’ teachings were difficult to follow. They were never meant to make all things in life easy. Jesus calls us to love our neighbors, even those who are different from us. Jesus calls us to love even our enemies. Jesus calls us to believe in a God that loved us so much that he came to earth, confronted earthly powers of oppression to the point of sacrifice on a cross, and then defeated those powers in a resurrection from death. Jesus calls us to believe in an eternal life offered to anyone.
Events of recent weeks challenge all of us who try our best to follow Jesus to do the difficult things that Jesus calls us to do. Since the death of George Floyd after a police officer pressed his knee into his neck there have been various protests nationwide that have brought out issues of racism, police training, tactics and funding, relationships between police and the communities that they serve, and the symbols that we use and the people that we honor in public displays. These events have divided our society more than ever.
We cannot pretend that racism does not exist. We cannot ignore the history that continues and the increase in acts of violence against some of our neighbors on the basis of race. We cannot close our eyes to the pain that racism causes. We also cannot paint all police officers guilty of the crimes that some have committed or we risk being guilty of just another form of prejudice. Many police officers have acknowledged a need for reform in their particular departments and are actively working towards that reform. Those officers and any police officers who do their very difficult job with integrity and uphold the concept of equal justice for all deserve our utmost respect and support. Those who have been the victims of racism also deserve our support. That support needs to be more than just saying nice words. Without returning violence for violence or hatred for hatred, that support should include actively standing against racism not just in our small circles, but also in our nation and in the world.
Racism, hatred and violence are tools of oppression now just as they were in Jesus’ time. Division into opposing sides is another thing that keeps us from making progress towards a time when all of God’s children live in a world without hate. It is not easy to resist these forces. It is difficult to stand in opposition to them. It is sometimes difficult to know what to do. But we must do something. Pray first. But then listen to the answer. Because Jesus calls us to do difficult things.
And ultimately, by following Jesus, we will have the peace that Jesus can give – a real peace, a lasting peace.