The other night we were having dinner with some friends when one of them revealed that he went to a private Christian college. One year, when he returned after summer break, there were signs on top of their televisions. Each had a picture of Jesus and the question, “Would you want to watch this with Jesus?” … or something to that effect. I asked him if he kept it on there during the year. He replied, “of course, as a reminder to keep myself from…” but that’s as far as he got before bursting into laughter. We all had a good laugh – and mind you, we were all church-attending Christians at the table.
This conversation came up later for me as I found myself alone at night watching a show that began to stir up deep feelings inside me that I could not control…
Get your mind out of the gutter! No, I’m not talking about “Skinemax” movies or some TV show with “adult content.” Although, that is usually our first assumption when there is conversation about Jesus weighing in on our TV watching. The deep, uncontrollable feeling was anger, self-righteous anger, as I was once again reminded of how frustrating people of certain political leanings are. Of course, I found this show interesting because I heard it affirm my political leanings. With statistics, stories, and wit, it reiterated why my side is right and the other side is wrong! This and other shows like it help to further my caricature of those on the other side as uncompromising and bad for our country and the world. That the only way for us to live in peace is to have these type of people change their ideas and norms to the ones I hold, since none of theirs are correct.
And as my anger and self-righteousness grew, I thought of my friend’s little Jesus TV sign, and I thought of the question, “would you want to watch this with Jesus?” Would Jesus have a problem with the way this show adds fuel to the fire that is further separating us into “liberals” or “conservatives”; “right-winged” or “left-winged”; “for” or “against (fill in the blank)”? I don’t recall Jesus wagging his finger at people because of sexual immorality. However, I do recall him sitting at table and breaking bread with those who were considered sexually immoral, financially unethical, and religiously self-righteous. He seemed to do a lot of talking about loving God and loving one another. He did not continue to reinforce many of the rules and values that continued to separate people from one another.
I turned off the TV. It was late and a bowl of my daughter’s Fruity Pebbles was calling my name. I’m sure I will watch the show again, but maybe next time I will remind myself that it is exaggerated, that it doesn’t give me the full picture, and that those “other people” are children of God, created in God’s very image, and I am called to love them, too.
And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Gracious God, You continue to love us when we are hard-headed. You are patient with us when we are slow to catch on. You are always ready to forgive when we have acted like jerks. Thank you, Lord, and having experienced such grace, may we share that grace with others. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.
Lolimarta Ros Reiter, or as most of her friends know her, Loli, ministers alongside the fine folks at The Presbyterian Church of Seffner outside of Tampa, FL. She was born in Puerto Rico but has lived on the mainland since she was 9. Her daughter Isabel (9 years old) wants you to know her mom is funny; Olivia (6 years old) wants you to know she likes to talk about God…a lot; and John, her husband, wants you to know that she is the best wife, ever…Such a smart man! She looks forward to being in cyber-community with you.