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Friday Devotion (The Zealot and the Tax Collector)

“The Zealot and the Tax Collector”

Jesus is known for his unlikely grouping of men among the Apostles, and this is especially true when it comes to Simon the Zealot (Luke 6:15) and Matthew the Tax Collector (Matt 9:9-13). Since the sociological reality of Zealots and Tax Collectors might be lost on us as modern readers, it is important to note that the Zealots were a group of people who were known for violently opposing Rome, whereas the tax collectors were Jewish people who collected the tax for Rome. It is easy to understand why these two groups would be in opposition towards each other, and thus makes it all the more baffling that Jesus would pick Simon and Matthew to be in a band of disciples together. Interestingly, nothing is said as to whether or not these two dealt with points of contention towards one another, but maybe that should serve as an important lesson for us as the Church: that Jesus calls us to the highest level of unity.

Moments prior to Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross, he turns to the Father in prayer and makes a specific request for the future Church: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me,” (John 17:20-23, ESV). Before you read any further, I want you to read that passage again one or two more times and really focus on what Jesus is praying for. This prayer is specifically for the future Church, which includes us right now. Isn’t that marvelous that Jesus thought to pray for us? However, what he is asking for is far from an easy task, as he desires that we be “one even as [Jesus and the Father] are one,” (John 17:22, ESV).

There is a part of me that is up for the challenge of this radical unity, however my desire for such oneness stops at people who differ from me, and to be transparent, this becomes especially true of Christians who disagree with me politically. It is easy in my flesh to argue internally: “But how could they believe this or vote for that because their viewpoint clearly disagrees with Scripture?” My assumption is that within this past week, many of you have had similar thoughts as well. The question that I ask myself in response, and maybe one that you would ask is: “Brett, are you saying that I have to be perfectly one with those I disagree with politically, even if I firmly believe that they disagree with Scripture?” Of course not, I would never say that. But Jesus does, and it was his dying prayer. Again, think about how revolutionary it is that he paired together a Zealot and a Tax Collector, and how they became a part of the Church that was completely one. This is because the Church was not driven by political ideologies but by the love of Jesus and the truth that he died on the cross and rose again three days later for our redemption. If Simon and Matthew can set aside their political agendas for the unity that comes from Jesus, then the Church can do the same.

The practical question then is how do we do this? John in his first letter sums this up perfectly, “but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked,” (1 John 2:5-6, ESV); “if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us,” (1 John 4:12, ESV). We must keep God’s word so that his love is perfected in us, which pours out into loving others, which reveals that God truly abides in us. Furthermore, John warns us that “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen,” (1 John 4:20, ESV). This reveals that our lack of unity is not something to take lightly, and so we must heed to command that has been given to us that, “whoever loves God must also love his brother,” (1 John 4:21, ESV). While the road to unity is not an easy path, especially in this political season, it is absolutely essential if we are to truly be the Church that Jesus calls us to be.

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