Last week, my hometown of Pittsburgh, Pa experienced a horrific tragedy at the Squirrel Hill Tree of Life Synagogue. Not only was this a massacre of innocent people, but it was also an attack of hate perpetrated by a man who desecrated a house of worship. It was sickening, it was appalling, and it was downright evil.

The following week President Trump arrived in Pittsburgh and offered his condolences to the families of the shooting. Trump is nothing short of the most controversial President in the history of the United States and last week many came out in protest of Trump and his policies. There were many even claiming that Trump is to blame for the attack because of his rhetoric. Away from the main protesters stood a lone Presbyterian minister in a spout of awkward hysteria crying out that Trump was not welcome in Squirrel Hill and that because of him the mourners were not able to Sit Shiva. (click here to view the video)

I try not to indulge in political banter on social media any longer because I find most people do not actually want to debate the issues, rather they prefer shouting about how they are right until the comment thread eventually fizzles out. However, I’m not just a fellow Yinzer here (This is what Pittsburghers call themselves), I’m also a fellow Christ-follower. For all intents and purposes, this is a sister-in-Christ whose erratic behavior does not reflect the Jesus I know. So I posted about how distasteful I thought it was and engaged a few people who had their own opinions on the video. Which brings us to here.

After going through this discussion I asked myself, “Would Jesus welcome Trump?” My immediate thought was the story of Zacchaeus. In this story, one of the most hated, corrupt, and wealthiest men in Jericho wanted to know who Jesus was. The crowd was so large that Zacchaeus had to climb a tree just to see what was going on. The story goes that Jesus saw Zacchaeus in the tree, called him out, and said that he needed to stay with Zacchaeus for the day (You can read the story here).

Now imagine Trump coming to see Jesus and Jesus responding the same way. I’d imagine he’d get the same response he received 2,000 years ago, “How could Jesus eat with such a sinner?” In fact, the one rabbi who said Trump is welcome in Squirrel Hill has allegedly received death threats (See link here). How could Jesus eat with someone like Trump? Before we answer that question we have to address a major problem in America right now: love. Many believe that love means accepting someone’s behavior when they do wrong or something sinful. While there is an element of acceptance of the person in love, it is also disciplining someone or calling them out when they do wrong so that they won’t continue in their erroneous behavior. If my mom saw me hit my brother and said, “I love you, honey. It’s okay, I know you’re just playing,” but never corrected my violence, I would continue hitting my brother and my violence may increase. That is not love at all, that is blind acceptance of intolerable and inexcusable behavior. Instead, my mother, out of her love for me and my brother, would discipline me so that my brother doesn’t end up with a black eye or worse. Love is more than hugs and kisses, it’s also convicting and honest.

I believe that Jesus loves Trump but He doesn’t kiss Trump’s butt. He does not accept Trump’s behavior. He does not endorse all of Trump’s policies. If Jesus welcomed Trump over for dinner, he would not sit there and say, “You know, I love your twitter account! You always have the right thing to say.” No! Jesus would challenge Trump to do better and to treat others with respect even if he doesn’t necessarily like them. After Zacchaeus spent time with Jesus, this corrupt, hateful man agreed to give half of his possessions to the poor and pay back anyone he wrongfully did business with 4 times the original amount. Zacchaeus was changed because he met Jesus. On the basis of that confession, Jesus says, “Today, salvation has come to this man.” Jesus wouldn’t welcome Trump so they could party together. Jesus would welcome Trump in order to get to know him and so that he could make an impact on his life, hopefully affecting the way he treats and talks about others. 

For those of us who consider ourselves Christ-followers, we would do well to appreciate the stories like this of Jesus’ life. Too many “ministers” have created their own version of who they believe Jesus to be. Jesus was welcoming but convicting. Loving but disciplined. Firm but comforting. Whether Jesus encountered men like Zacchaeus or invalids in the street, Jesus always challenged them to do better. For us, whether we’re dealing with Donald Trump or a homeless person, our character and our love should imitate that of Jesus.

I am a Gentile Christian living in the suburbs of Pittsburgh and I did not know anyone from the Tree of Life Synagogue. Ultimately, it is not my place to say whether or not Trump is welcome there. But if Trump, Obama, or any President ever decided they would visit me, I would welcome them, cook them one of my famous burgers, get to know the real person, and then challenge them to love people better. I would hope that by meeting me they would somehow meet the Jesus I know and love and that they would leave a changed person. They may leave feeling grateful for their time or just think I’m a self-righteous peasant. But at the end of the day, I did my job as a Christ-follower.

The bottom line is this: our radical hospitality isn’t radical if it’s only for people we like. It’s radical because it’s for people who we don’t know or may not even like. As Jesus says in Matthew 5:44,46, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. If you only love those who love you, what reward will you get? Don’t even the Tax Collectors (Zacchaeus) do that?” Be a neighbor this week. Pray for Republicans. Pray for Democrats. Pray for liberals and conservatives. Pray for your enemies and love them in a way that challenges how they treat others. Yelling at each other won’t help us grow and learn about the issues at stake. Be humble. Be peaceful. Admit when you’re wrong. Don’t hold someone’s error over them. Don’t assassinate someone’s character on Facebook just because they don’t agree with you but instead engage in civil, logical, and research-based discussions that express knowledge of the facts and issues.

Be a world-changer this week. Forgive your enemies and love others as Jesus has loved you.

Maranatha/מרנאתא

Last week, my hometown of Pittsburgh, Pa experienced a horrific tragedy at the Squirrel Hill Tree of Life Synagogue. Not only was this a massacre of innocent people, but it was also an attack of hate perpetrated by a man who desecrated a house of worship. It was sickening, it was appalling, and it was downright evil.

The following week President Trump arrived in Pittsburgh and offered his condolences to the families of the shooting. Trump is nothing short of the most controversial President in the history of the United States and last week many came out in protest of Trump and his policies. There were many even claiming that Trump is to blame for the attack because of his rhetoric. Away from the main protesters stood a lone Presbyterian minister in a spout of awkward hysteria crying out that Trump was not welcome in Squirrel Hill and that because of him the mourners were not able to Sit Shiva. (click here to view the video)

I try not to indulge in political banter on social media any longer because I find most people do not actually want to debate the issues, rather they prefer shouting about how they are right until the comment thread eventually fizzles out. However, I’m not just a fellow Yinzer here (This is what Pittsburghers call themselves), I’m also a fellow Christ-follower. For all intents and purposes, this is a sister-in-Christ whose erratic behavior does not reflect the Jesus I know. So I posted about how distasteful I thought it was and engaged a few people who had their own opinions on the video. Which brings us to here.

After going through this discussion I asked myself, “Would Jesus welcome Trump?” My immediate thought was the story of Zacchaeus. In this story, one of the most hated, corrupt, and wealthiest men in Jericho wanted to know who Jesus was. The crowd was so large that Zacchaeus had to climb a tree just to see what was going on. The story goes that Jesus saw Zacchaeus in the tree, called him out, and said that he needed to stay with Zacchaeus for the day (You can read the story here).

Now imagine Trump coming to see Jesus and Jesus responding the same way. I’d imagine he’d get the same response he received 2,000 years ago, “How could Jesus eat with such a sinner?” In fact, the one rabbi who said Trump is welcome in Squirrel Hill has allegedly received death threats (See link here). How could Jesus eat with someone like Trump? Before we answer that question we have to address a major problem in America right now: love. Many believe that love means accepting someone’s behavior when they do wrong or something sinful. While there is an element of acceptance of the person in love, it is also disciplining someone or calling them out when they do wrong so that they won’t continue in their erroneous behavior. If my mom saw me hit my brother and said, “I love you, honey. It’s okay, I know you’re just playing,” but never corrected my violence, I would continue hitting my brother and my violence may increase. That is not love at all, that is blind acceptance of intolerable and inexcusable behavior. Instead, my mother, out of her love for me and my brother, would discipline me so that my brother doesn’t end up with a black eye or worse. Love is more than hugs and kisses, it’s also convicting and honest.

I believe that Jesus loves Trump but he doesn’t kiss Trump’s butt. He does not accept Trump’s behavior. He does not endorse all of Trump’s policies. If Jesus welcomed Trump over for dinner, he would not sit there and say, “You know, I love your twitter account! You always have the right thing to say.” No! Jesus would challenge Trump to do better and to treat others with respect even if he doesn’t necessarily like them. After Zacchaeus spent time with Jesus, this corrupt, hateful man agreed to give half of his possessions to the poor and pay back anyone he wrongfully did business with 4 times the original amount. Zacchaeus was changed because he met Jesus. On the basis of that confession, Jesus says, “Today, salvation has come to this man.” Jesus wouldn’t welcome Trump so they could party together. Jesus would welcome Trump in order to get to know him and so that he could make an impact on his life, hopefully affecting the way he treats and talks about others. 

For those of us who consider ourselves Christ-followers, we would do well to appreciate the stories like this of Jesus’ life. Too many “ministers” have created their own version of who they believe Jesus to be. Jesus was welcoming but convicting. Loving but disciplined. Firm but comforting. Whether Jesus encountered men like Zacchaeus or invalids in the street, Jesus always challenged them to do better. For us, whether we’re dealing with Donald Trump or a homeless person, our character and our love should imitate that of Jesus.

I am a Gentile Christian living in the suburbs of Pittsburgh and I did not know anyone from the Tree of Life Synagogue. Ultimately, it is not my place to say whether or not Trump is welcome there. But if Trump, Obama, or any President ever decided they would visit me, I would welcome them, cook them one of my famous burgers, get to know the real person, and then challenge them to love people better. I would hope that by meeting me they would somehow meet the Jesus I know and love and that they would leave a changed person. They may leave feeling grateful for their time or just think I’m a self-righteous peasant. But at the end of the day, I did my job as a Christ-follower.

The bottom line is this: our radical hospitality isn’t radical if it’s only for people we like. It’s radical because it’s for people who we don’t know or may not even like. As Jesus says in Matthew 5:44,46, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. If you only love those who love you, what reward will you get? Don’t even the Tax Collectors (Zacchaeus) do that?” Be a neighbor this week. Pray for Republicans. Pray for Democrats. Pray for liberals and conservatives. Pray for your enemies and love them in a way that challenges how they treat others. Yelling at each other won’t help us grow and learn about the issues at stake. Be humble. Be peaceful. Admit when you’re wrong. Don’t hold someone’s error over them. Don’t assassinate someone’s character on Facebook just because they don’t agree with you but instead engage in civil, logical, and research-based discussions that express knowledge of the facts and issues.

Be a world-changer this week. Forgive your enemies and love others as Jesus has loved you.

Maranatha/מרנאתא

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