Dr. Stacy L. Spencer, Senior Pastor, New Direction Christian Church, Memphis, TN, and President, Gamaliel affiliate MICAH-Memphis
Don’t let self-interest cause you to choose the wrong Jesus.
“So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.”
Matthew 27:17-18, NIV
Each of us are driven by self-interest. Self-interest generally refers to a focus on the needs or desires (interests) of the self. Self-interest motivates human action. During the last presidential election many people were driven by their self-interest of fear, white nationalism, and racism to cast their vote.
The Jewish people were tasked to choose between two Jesus’. Jesus Barabbas was a nationalist, violent insurrectionist whose self-interest was to lead a revolt against the Romans. Then there was Jesus of Nazareth who wanted to usher in the Kingdom of God through non-violence, preach good news to the poor, heal the broken-hearted, set the captives free, and pronounce the year of Jubilee. Jesus’ self-interest reflected those of God as stated by the prophet Isaiah. It seemed clear who the people should have voted for that day. The people had a clear choice, but they let the self-interest of their corrupt religious leaders sway them to choose out of their fear. Their governor knew that the religious leaders were up to no good, but he let his political aspirations blind him to the fact that Jesus was innocent.
The religious leaders swayed the people to choose the violent Jesus over the peaceful Jesus. If we don’t check our self-interest against the righteousness of God, we will always choose the wrong leader. We cannot allow religious leaders who are convoluted with white nationalism, or elected officials who are blind to injustice, cause the people to vote out of fear and lies. We must amplify the voices of those who see the agenda of God’s Kingdom and elect the leader who has the self-interest of the marginalized people.
Questions for Reflection
- Which candidate has self-interests that are in alignment with what you know to be just and righteous?
- Which candidate lives a life consistent with a self-interest that would bring our country together and not set it on a path of violence?
Vote your conscious and don’t be manipulated by fear.
The Common Prayer on Our Journey
Source of all being, Sacred mystery, you are the wellspring of justice. Weaver of the warp and weft of history, weave our lives into the fabric of your will. Guide us towards the Beloved Community. Forgive us when we have failed to give shape to the Beloved Community in our communities and in our lives.
All around us the ugly onslaughts of white nationalism, hate crimes, and systemic racism devastate your people, divide us, and threaten our democracy. All around us the wicked strut, and in high places are those who encourage the basest of attitudes and actions. Grant us wisdom and courage to confront these evils with the power of love and truth. Free us from timidity and equivocation. Help us to be bold in thought and action. May our lives and our faith communities model the change we hope to see in the world.
As we approach the November elections, keep us mindful that the right to vote is a sacred trust won by beatings, by imprisonments, by blood, by the relentless struggles of many who came before us. Help us to honor that legacy. May we vote our conscience and encourage others to do the same.
Heal our nation. Heal our hearts. Heal our nation. Amen.
Gamaliel National Religious Leaders’ Caucus invites you to 40 Days of Reflection on Our Journey to the Polls
Few national elections have had similar consequences as the November Election in 2020. Our nation stands in crisis and at a significant crossroad. The Gamaliel Network, an interfaith coalition of persons of faith who stand and act together for justice and equality, pledges to undergird the 40 days leading up to the election with prayer and reflection.
We urge you to use the Common Prayer below every day. On each day, we have asked a faith leader, from different traditions, to offer a reflection on the Common Prayer at this Moment of American Crossroads. We urge you to begin this prayer preparation with a day of fasting on Sept. 24,(or a similar expression of spiritual preparation), and then to engage in prayer at a time of your choosing each day, to prepare yourself, your friends and neighbors, and our nation, for this election.
The Gamaliel Religious Leaders Table has written a “Theological Statement on Hate Crimes and White Nationalism.” a faith statement on “White Nationalism.” The link to this statement is: https://gamaliel.org/our-work/religious-leaders-caucus/gnrlc-a-faithful-response-to-hate-crimes-and-white-nationalism/
Each reflection will include the leader’s personal reflection, questions for contemplation, and a suggested scriptural text from their tradition.
The Gamaliel National Religious Leaders’ Steering Committee