Damascus Gate - Jerusalem

"Jesus had two choices. Arriving at Jerusalem, He could turn right at the Damascus Gate and head for the seat of government (Herod’s Palace) or turn left and walk the short distance to the seat of religion (Solomon’s Temple)." Photographed by the author in 1969.

Christians everywhere are driven by the same passion—to share God's love with the world. But not all agree on how that's best accomplished. Some insist that civil authorities should be involved—making it harder to run afoul of the Bible's timeless principles. Others feel compelled to witness on their own. Perhaps it's time to ask the age-old question: What would Jesus do? Good news. He answered that question two thousand years ago.

By Charles Mills –

Christ had a problem—the type of problem that keeps people up at night. He and His Father had formulated a plan to reconnect with humanity and that plan wasn’t working.

It seemed sound enough when it was created millennia ago: Provide guidance through laws (Ten Commandments), assure constant connectivity by making and keeping promises (covenants), and demonstrate divine presence with defining actions (miracles). Finally, remind everyone that the plan exists (prophets) and that what’s happening is proof of its validity (prophecy).

Even Christ’s appearance as a babe in Bethlehem was part of the arrangement. No more would heaven and earth be separated by the endless void of space and doubt. For the first time since the Garden of Eden, God and man would stand face to face with nothing separating them. No more need for sanctuaries and temples. No more reason to question God’s existence or purpose. No more needless searching for truth among fading words scrawled on yellowing parchment. “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Except, not. When Christ closed His carpenter shop, strapped on his sandals, and headed south out of Nazareth toward Jerusalem, He knew he had a lot of work to do. He needed to reaffirm that God the Father was still deeply in love with fallen humanity and that there remained hope in spite of the dangerous confusion that evil had generated over the centuries.

But how would He do it? How would “God made flesh” penetrate the solid walls of sin and reach the tender hearts of sinners?

He had two choices. Arriving at Jerusalem, He could turn right at the Damascus Gate and head for the seat of government (Herod’s Palace) or turn left and walk the short distance to the seat of religion (Solomon's Temple). I believe the route He took should provide modern-day Christians with a clear view of how we should continue His work here on earth.

The route He took should provide modern-day Christians with a clear view of how we should continue His work here on earth.

Fire and Fury

The Jews were expecting a God who would turn right. They were praying for a powerful Being who could overthrow the hated Romans with unflinching might and generate endless resources for waging war against oppressors. They didn’t want to only defeat the Romans. They wanted to destroy them. After all, hadn’t the God they worshiped lopped off the top of a mountain when delivering the Pentateuch to their ancestors? Hadn’t He parted the sea and drowned their approaching enemies? Hadn’t He led them to victory time and time and time again, reducing attacking armies to stubble? If they were going to have a God, He needed to be a God of fire and fury.

Then, when finally in power, this divine presence would rule through fully enforceable legislation. God would institute new laws that would effectively keep everyone in line. Peace and prosperity would return, and all would be well throughout the land.

Except Jesus turned left.

The Gospels brim with stories of Jesus walking city streets, hanging out with the crowds on the temple mount, interacting with sinners face-to-face, traveling the dusty paths of the countryside, visiting villages, healing the sick, feeding multitudes, telling soul-stirring stories, and having lunch with tax collectors. His interaction with Rome was minimal at best. His goal wasn’t the legislation of love. It was the constant, tender demonstration of love that planted His truth—His laws for living, His hope for eternity—in the hearts and minds of hurting, sin-sickened people.

The result of that turn at the gate is still felt in this world—spreading across cultures and governments, spanning people-types and histories, and overcoming the barriers and roadblocks that evil constantly tosses in the way. Love demonstrated lasts and lasts. Love legislated dies with the next set of laws forced into place.

Today, we Christians stand at our own Damascus Gate. We see a world falling apart around us. We see powers that govern in ways we can’t abide. We witness the movement of evil as it infiltrates the very forces that rule over us. We must respond. We must fight back! And Christ has shown us how.

We’re all—Evangelicals, Protestants, Catholics, Seventh-day Adventists—after the very same thing—to share God’s love with our fellow human beings. History has shown that when religion rules through the seat of civil power, the results are disastrous. But, Christ has proven beyond doubt that when religion rules through the power of loving, forgiving hearts, the world is transformed forever.


Charles Mills is the author of more than 50 published books and over 300 articles. His writing has appeared in many Christian publications as well as computer, aviation, and photography trade magazines. He's the former editor of Vibrant Life, a health journal dedicated to promoting physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. Charles' most recent releases include the SHADOW CREEK RANCH series (13 books for junior-age readers), ECHOING GOD'S LOVE (a collection of contemporary inspirational stories), THE ULTIMATE PRESCRIPTION (health and healing guide co-written with cardiologist Dr. James Marcum), and GOD ON GOD: The Revolutionary Truths Christ Revealed About His Father. He's also the author of EYES OF THE CROCODILE and GOD AND ME (young-reader devotionals). He hosts the "LifeQuest Liberty" radio program. He writes from Berkeley Springs, West Virginia.

 

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