President Obama continues his Middle East tour today, amid signs of a warming relationship between himself and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. For instance, as the president and prime minister were preparing to inspect a missile system, they were told to walk along a red line on the airport tarmac. Remembering Mr. Netanyahu's repeated warnings about a "red line" in Iran's nuclear development, Mr. Obama pointed toward the prime minister and joked, "He's always talking to me about red lines." He added, "So this is all a psychological ploy." Chuckling, Mr. Netanyahu replied, "This was minutely planned."
The president and prime minister are not the first political leaders to change their rhetoric as circumstances warrant, of course. For example, Richard Nixon warned in 1964 that "it would be disastrous to the cause of freedom" for the U.S. to recognize Communist China, which is what he did eight years later. Being "politically correct" has always been good politics, never more than in our relativistic culture.
This week I have been reading Luke's Gospel in preparation for Palm Sunday. An episode especially impressed me: "Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said, 'If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple'" (Luke 14:25-27). I wrote in the margin of my Bible, "Jesus was not user-friendly."
A little later in his journey to Jerusalem, he met "a certain ruler" who asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Luke 18:18). We know this man as the "rich young ruler." Jesus reminded him of several commandments, to which he replied, "All of these I have kept since I was a boy" (v. 21). If a person of such means, influence and spiritual zeal were to approach most ministers, we would be delighted to welcome them into our church or organization. In Jesus' day, wealth was equated with God's favor. Surprisingly, Jesus told him to "sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me" (v. 22). When the man heard this, "he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth" (v. 23).
Soon our Lord would enter Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (Luke 19:28-38), where refusal to be politically correct would lead to his crucifixion. Our risen Lord is just as honest and omniscient today as he was then. As David said to God, "You perceive my thoughts from afar" (Psalm 139:2). Yet our all-honest God is also our all-loving Father. He knows all about our past failures and even sees the future sins we don't yet know we'll commit. And yet he loves us unconditionally and likes us as we are.
When last did you thank him for such grace?