Jesus loves even “agents of the state”

This morning at church I was reminded that Jesus loves the traitors. When Jesus called Matthew, He didn’t call him from a line-up of all-stars. He called a man whom many considered a traitor to his people, because he was an agent of the pagan state, a tax collector. Jesus not only called Matthew, but ate with him and his friends.

Remembering that Jesus cared for traitors like Matthew, I was encouraged that Jesus could care for me too.

Agent of the state, a traitor

For the last year and a half, I’ve felt like a traitor.

Long story short, my family left a church where we had been active members, where I was a deacon and AWANA leader. We left because over the stupid mask wars. Let me be clear, we didn’t leave because people weren’t wearing masks. Rather, I personally left because the leadership became increasingly hostile toward people who even wore masks, hostile toward authorities that we’re commanded to honor, and I felt that our attitude was out of step with the Gospel and second greatest commandment, to love your neighbor as yourself. 

I wrote a parody about the attitude at the time. When you hear from the pulpit the public denunciation of “mask police” and “agents of the state” and realize you’re one of maybe 3-5 people wearing a mask in a crowd of 300 people, you start to think that maybe the person behind the pulpit is referring to you.

At a time such as this, when we should have been salt and light to our community for the sake of the Gospel, I witnessed how we fostered an antagonistic stance with our neighbors and broadcast an increasingly defiant attitude toward authorities. It was becoming clear that religion trumped the Gospel (pun intended). I guess at least we didn’t sue our neighbors like another independent fundamentalist church in California did. Bravo for us.

BTW, in case you’re wondering, I wouldn’t label myself a liberal or “woke ilk” (another term I heard from the pulpit in 2020). I tend to vote conservatively. If you took my voting record and compared it with the most Trumpist members from my former church, I’m confident we would see at least a 75% match. 

Secondly, I support freedom of choice, which means I’m against the continued abuse of emergency powers by elected officials who don’t even follow their own decrees. I believe just as our previous president caused unnecessary division in this country, I believe our current president is committing similar follies through his rhetoric and vaccination mandates. I fear once the pandemic ends we’ll be left with a country where everyone hates one another because of disagreements over masks, vaccines, which president is the divine vicar of Christ in America, etc.

Lastly, I still believe almost of the congregation genuinely want to follow Christ. They have no idea what happened, they and didn’t experience what we did. It’s likely that many of the elders, even the ones who hurt us, regret their attitudes. And even if they don’t, then I still need to forgive them, just as Christ has forgiven me. I don’t want to be caught choking a brother in Christ for his debt against me, when I’ve been forgiven a debt I could never repay.

Jesus came to save us traitors from our sins

I don’t think I was ever the “mask police” or an “agent of the state.” Yet for over a year and a half, I’ve felt branded as a traitor. But it doesn’t matter, because Jesus came to save sinners, traitors. Not “traitors” like the insurrectionists who said Mike Pence was a traitor, or even real traitors like Benedict Arnold, but traitors to God Himself, the Lord of the Universe. And Jesus came to save such people as us.

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