I often wonder how the disciples had the courage to follow Jesus. I’m sure it would have been difficult for them to give up the things in their lives that they relied on for comfort and security. And I think it would have been very difficult for them to go out and proclaim Jesus’ good news after seeing the kind of backlash Jesus got from many of the religious leaders, by some people in his hometown and home synagogue, and even at times by his own family.
I wonder how the disciples continued participating in Jesus’ ministry when it would have been much easier for them to turn away when Jesus called out to them and to just go on living their normal every day lives, without having to acknowledge the suffering and injustice around them.
I think I wonder this about the disciples because sometimes I wonder this about myself. To be quite honest, there have been many times – particularly as I have become more aware of how much systemic racism still prevails throughout our country – when I just want to hold tight to my own privilege. There have been many times when I have just wanted to shut my eyes and pretend that the evil sins of racism and the unjust racialized systems of which I am a part don’t exist.
Because this is the easier way. Because this way allows me to live in my comfortable bubble that I have the privilege of living in. It allows me to avoid any kind of opposition that those who speak out often face. It allows me to deny my own participation in and benefits from the racialized systems in our country that still privilege those who look like me while deeming those who don’t as “less than.”
You see, as a white woman, I have the privilege of being able to live my life without having to fear what my siblings of color fear every day. My whiteness is a privilege in so many ways (which you can read about in my last post: The Pastoral Is Political: I Am Racist). And one of the many white privileges I have inherited is that I can choose to live my comfortable life without ever having to think about those around this country who are being suffocated and killed by the very same systems that uplift and benefit me.
And yet, this is not a privilege I get to hold onto when I follow Jesus. Because this is not Jesus’ way.
Because just as Jesus called the twelve disciples to loosen their grips on their privilege and just as he sent them out into the world to boldly proclaim his very unpopular good news, he calls and sends all of his disciples to do so, as well.
Now, this work of proclaiming the good news is not always easy. It means we must denounce dehumanizing tweets that compare real people with real suffering to a bowl of poisonous candy. It means we must reject claims that terrorism has a religion. It means we must truly believe in our hearts that (clean) water is life and therefore stand with our siblings who are being denied access to it or who are at risk of loosing it. It means we must proclaim that Black lives matter! Black lives matter! Black lives matter!… over and over and over again until our country actually acts like it.
And it means we must call out the evil sins of systemic racism, confess and repent of our own participation in and benefits from it, and do whatever we can to cast out the demons of these unjust systems so that one day our country does in fact provide liberty and justice for all.
No, following Jesus will not make us popular. And for many of us, this work of proclaiming Jesus’ good news – which seems so radical to so many – will likely lead to opposition, even from some of the people we are closest to.
However, while following Jesus is not always easy, Jesus will never leave us to do this holy work alone.
We have been gifted with the Holy Spirit, who is with us always, comforting us and guiding us along the way. And no matter what, when others – even those who are closest to us – take offense at Jesus’ good news and hurl even the harshest of insults at us, we are not left without a family. We have a family right here in the body of Christ. One who will hold us, who will listen to us, who will encourage us, and who will walk alongside us as we discern how Jesus is calling us to go out boldly into the world.
So, may we have the courage to be the body of Christ. May we support, encourage, and hold one another as we join in this difficult work of proclaiming Jesus’ good news for all. Because the lives of our siblings, elders, youth, and children are far more important than our longing to be popular.
Rev. Emily Heitzman is an ordained Presbyterian (USA) pastor serving as the shared Pastor with Youth and Households at three ELCA congregations in the neighborhood of Edgewater in Chicago: Unity Lutheran, Ebenezer Lutheran, and Immanuel Lutheran. Some of her sermons and reflections can be found at Musings from a Bricolage.
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2 thoughts on “The Pastoral Is Political: A Call To Be UnPopular”
This hits very close to home. I am currently getting a lot push back and resistance from the congregation I am currently serving because I posted that Black Lives Matter and that it is very appropriate for athletes to take a knee or raise a fist during the paying of the National Anthem. One congregant said that my support of Black Lives Matter flies in the face of every law abiding citizen in our country. Thank you for your blog and the important work you are doing.