They say opposites attract. I buy it. My wife and I are opposites in so many ways. She’s smart, beautiful, organized and orderly, sensible. And I’m, well, not. Haha. But it’s funny, we’ve realized over the 10 years that we’ve been married, that we’ve both stretched each other to grow, and change for the better. My car is mostly clean these days, and I make the bed almost every day, because, well growth is possible! But in your friendships, relationships, life, I wonder if you’ve seen the same? There’s always a factor that unites the opposites. That brings people from different walks of life, different places, different worlds together. The greatest uniting factor of all time is Jesus. There is no doubting that Jesus has brought opposites together over and over again.
The gospel of Jesus is one that brings nations, ethnicities, ideals and people together. It’s one that is exclusively inclusive. Yes, the requirement of faith in Jesus is there, but the beauty of Jesus is that following him is the only requirement. There is no national requirement, no skin color, no wealth, status or name needed. No other name to unite but Jesus. The name above all names.
However, The enemy, those who oppose Jesus, have always found more success in dividing people. In splitting them into camps. In making them foes. Even people who should and could unite under the banner of Jesus, have been told they can’t. Have been reminded that only “real” followers believe X, Y, or Z. This is not the way of Jesus though. He showed a very different path.
One of the very first examples of this bridge that the gospel builds is when Jesus calls the first disciples to follow him. Over the 3 years of his ministry he had hundreds and thousands of people who walked with him. But the 12, the first 12 were the ones who were there for the long term. (I think the cool term was ‘ride or die’ or ‘day 1’ for awhile, but I think those are uncool now? I don’t know…) Regardless, those 12 were famous for being the closest, the most tied to him relationally, the ones who were with him through thick and thin. We can see Jesus calling them in Matthew 10:2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
Two names in this list immediately remind me of building a bridge from Enemy to friend. Matthew the Tax Collector and Simon the Zealot. These two make Republicans and Democrats seem like Bert and Ernie. Tax Collectors in Israel were seen as the deepest of traitors, crooks who had “sold their soul” to Rome. Zealots were the most extreme version of Israel’s nationalists in the 1st century. There was an actual group in 70AD or so that stemmed from this movement and started a war, we don’t know if Simon was an official member of that group, but we can safely say he politically sympathized with the people who would eventually lead that cause. Zealots hated Rome. They did what they could to foment insurrection (just like Jim did to Dwight, but real, and much more violent…) They HATED Rome.
But you notice what happens? Jesus still calls the Zelaot, and he calls the tax collector. Two extremes from opposite ends of the spectrum, and what does Jesus do? He unites them. We don’t know a ton about what happens to Simon after Jesus, but it’s widely believed that he became a missionary, preaching the gospel everywhere he went. Matthew went on tell many about the same Jesus he followed, and is attributed as the author of the Gospel of Matthew.
Both men came into their following of Jesus as political foes. Enemies. Today’s blog isn’t the place to get into how much their ideologies changed, or if they did. But one thing is for sure, even though diametrically opposed politically, they could be united under the message and ministry of Jesus. They crossed the bridge from Enemy to Friend. Jesus supersedes political parties, nations, and race. Jesus died, for even your worst enemy. Cross that bridge today, reach out to someone and build a real, lasting relationship under the banner of Jesus.