In part four of our four-part series on the different set of rules Christians are called to live by, Rev. Pedro Pillot of Asbury UMC in Camden, NJ teaches that in order to make disciples of Jesus Christ, transformation begins in our hearts.
My name is Pedro Pillot. I’m the pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church in Camden, New Jersey.
The tagline of Jesus’s message was simple: Repent! For the Kingdom of God is near. It means turn your hearts around because the world as you know it won’t last forever. The world that Jesus preached in 2000 years ago was plagued by the same evil, injustice, and oppression we see today. The good news that he preached was that things don’t have to be this way. Change is possible, but it means taking a risk; it means coming out of our comfort zone; it means taking a leap of faith into a radically different way of living. Jesus message calls us to think of ourselves as immigrants in this world, passing through for a time. And just like any immigrant community, we have our own way of doing things.
In this world, the wealthiest, the most powerful people are to be applauded, but in the Kingdom of God, it’s the one serves others who is worthy of praise.
In this world, you collect for yourself as much as you can, and donate some of the excess, but in the Kingdom of God, you make sure your neighbor has enough to eat while you fill your own bowl.
In this world, when someone wrongs you, you make them pay, but in the Kingdom of God, we choose to forgive, not because we are weak, but because we know that love is stronger than the evil done to us.
In this world, you treat others as they have treated you, but in the Kingdom of God, we remember that beneath layers of trauma, and pain, and anger, in each person lies God’s own image.
If we want to sincerely follow Jesus, our religion has to go further than showing up to a church on Sunday and has to reach wider than the boundaries of our comfort zone. Trying to live according to the ways of God’s Kingdom naturally leads to transformation within ourselves and in the world around us, through God’s power, working in the love we share. Following Jesus means that we stand up to evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves: be it racism, sexism, homophobia, violence, war, economic exploitation.
It’s impossible to live into the Kingdom of God without being transformed, because the logic of God’s Kingdom runs counter to human instinct. That’s why it’s risky to follow Jesus and it requires us to put our trust in God. It requires us to take a chance on giving more than we’re comfortable with, on forgiving rather than staying angry, on loving even those who don’t love us.
That’s the key to all of this - taking that chance by putting our trust in God, and letting ourselves be transformed by a love so powerful, we know that it can transform the world through us.