What Would Jesus Do?
Once, when George Bernard Shaw, was asked what he thought of Christianity, he replied after a very long pause, "I don't know; it might work if anyone ever tried it."
"Oh, I don't reject your Christ. I love your Christ. It's just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ."
"The last Christian died on the cross."
This is not meant to be a screed against Christianity. As a matter of fact, I've come to think of myself lately as a "non-Christian Christian." I honor Jesus for his humanity, humility and compassion; I just can't accept his divinity.
Rather than a diatribe, this sermon is meant to be an examination of what I call "lip-service Christians," those people who profess to be followers of Christ without practicing what he preached.
Time and time again, Jesus tells would-be followers that first they must give all they own to the poor.
"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon."
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
If all that weren't clear enough, he says, °It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God."
Yet how many self-professed Christians would give away all they own in order to follow in Jesus's footsteps? More likely, they would be like the rich young prince in Matthew who sorrowfully will not be a disciple because he loves his possessions more than he loves his Messiah.
What would Jesus do about the greed and materialism of our Christian country?
Jesus said: "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
And yet our Christian society is built on lust. Everywhere you look, woman's bodies are being exhibited and exploited to stimulate male lust. Even what used to be derided as "plumber's butt" has been turned into an object of desire, giving "how low can you get" a new meaning.
What would Jesus do about our obsession with sex?
Jesus also held marriage to be sacred. "But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery."
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the 2005 divorce rate in the U.S. was 36%. (The rate may be lower than you'd expect because cohabiting couples that break up are not included in the figure.)
What would Jesus do about the one-third of our Christian country that divorces, sometimes more than once?
When Jesus was questioning the rich young prince to see if he was worthy to be one of his disciples, Jesus asked him if he had followed the Ten Commandments. One of those commandments is, of course, "Thou shalt not kill."
Yet our Christian nation, led by a born-again Christian, launched a war against a country that was no threat to us, with the result that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis as well as our own soldiers have been killed.
Would Jesus have invaded Iraq? Would Jesus now invade Iran?
In the Sermon on the Mount, the first Christian tells us, "Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God." Where are those sons of God now that we need them so much?
Jesus preached mercy and compassion, and nowhere as eloquently as in the parable of the good Samaritan. He ends the story with this command, "Go, and do thou likewise."
And where would that be? In Abu Ghraib? Guantanamo Bay? Our secret CIA detention centers? Our prisons?
What would Jesus do about torture?
In July 1972, a Time magazine subscriber wrote, "And although people have professed Christ for centuries, they have truly worshiped the devil, as they pray on their knees on Sunday and¡on their neighbors the rest of the week."
Has anything changed in the last 35 years?
Gandhi, another non-Christian Christian, also said, "If only people would study the historical Jesus and his message of compassion."
Maybe the question this sermon should be asking is not "What would Jesus do," but "what should true Christians do in his name?" It's worth a thought, before we break for coffee.
Please stand and join hands for the Benediction.
From St. Jerome:
"Do not let your deeds belie your words, lest when you speak in church someone may say to himself, 'Why do you not practice what you preach?'"
A sermon I delivered at First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia in 2007.