Tag Archives: Sinner

Jesus Goes “All In”; Seals Deal

Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!
Matthew 23:32 (NIV)

There are times when focusing on one chapter each day risks losing continuity of the story that is important for the sake of context. Today is one of those days.

When we left yesterday’s chapter, Jesus had been teaching in the public courts of the Temple in Jerusalem during His final, climactic week of earthly life. The leaders of the institutional Hebrew religion had sent waves of envoys to test Jesus with hot political and religious questions of their day. They wanted to get a sound byte they could use to discredit Jesus, who was a threat to their power and religious racket. Jesus deftly answered each question then went on the offensive and stumped them with a question of their own.

This is a high stakes game being played between Jesus and the religious leadership. They want Jesus dead and out of the way so that they can carry on with their lives of localized power and greedy luxury. Jesus knows this, and having successfully played the cards in His hand He now doubles down and goes all in.

Jesus turns to His listeners and begins to publicly criticize the leaders of religion, and many of them are standing there listening. He acknowledges their systemic authority and tells His followers to honor that authority while refusing to follow their example. Jesus then turns to face the religious leaders and goes off.

Today’s chapter records the most intense and scathing rant Jesus ever offered. It is angry, pointed and provocative. What is essential to understand is that Jesus’ harshest words and most scathing criticisms were aimed at the most conservative, upstanding, strict rule-following religious people.

Jesus repeatedly called them names: hypocrites, blind guides, snakes, brood of vipers, sons of hell. He condemned them for their hypocrisy, their judgmental ways, and the selective ways they used God’s rules to make themselves look good and justify their poor treatment of the marginalized. These religious power brokers had already said they wanted Jesus dead, now with every word and every public criticism Jesus is upping the ante and forcing them to see His call and go all in against Him.

Jesus knows it.

At the end of Jesus’ rant He reminds the religious leaders that it was their predecessors who had killed God’s prophets in earlier centuries. It was the High Priests and religious keepers of the Temple who had violently silenced the ancient prophets. Now Jesus ends His tirade by saying, “Go ahead, finish what they started.” 

Jesus was not a victim. Jesus was on a mission. He was pushing buttons. He was driving the action.

This morning I’m meditating on the Jesus who forgave the woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. I’m remembering that Jesus broke all social, cultural, racial and religious barriers of His day when He conversed with a Samaritan woman while she drew water from a well. I’m recalling that Jesus healed the son  of detested Roman officer and healed the child of a despised and “heathen” Gentile. It comes to mind this morning that Jesus hung out with “sinful” Tax Collectors and their worldly, sinful friends at loud parties where who-knows-what sinful things were going on.

I often encounter the misperception that Jesus is all about condemnation of sin and sinners. The record shows, however, that Jesus showed incredible mercy, tolerance and forgiveness to those we would terms sinners. Jesus reserved anger, judgment, and condemnation for “good” religious people who used religion to condemn sinners and make themselves look good.

Cautious with Judgement; Generous with Love

source: cedwardbrice via Flickr
source: cedwardbrice via Flickr

Chapter-a-Day 1 Corinthians 5

I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people. 1 Corinthians 5:11 (NLT)

I stopped by a friends house the other night and we chatted. My friend shared that he had run into a mutual acquaintance who, like many, have chosen to live and think in a simplistic, black-and-white context. The acquaintance told my friend he did not want to be around him because my friend is divorced. Our acquaintance seemed to think it was contagious.

One of the unavoidable tasks of anyone who takes up a journey through God’s Message is the need to grapple with sections that make us uncomfortable. When we find ourselves struggling with a passage it’s important not to turn away, but to wade in. There is nothing to fear in struggling through a passage. Struggle, when approached correctly, tends to make one both stronger and wiser.

I honestly struggle with today’s chapter because on the surface it is too easy for us to take the simplistic, black-and-white approach of our acquaintance. “The Bible says not to associate with sinners, so I can’t be around you.” And yet, the Bible also says that we are ALL sinners, that committing one small sin makes us as guilty as committing the whole lot, and that thinking a lustful thought is as bad as committing the illicit sexual act itself. So, if we aren’t going to associate with sinners we might as well get used to a rather lonely and isolated existence.

It’s important to wade in an consider the context. Paul was addressing a situation in which the person in question was indulging in a destructive behavior, reveling in it, and bragging about it. The persons behavior suggested that his heart was hardened and he was flaunting his wrong doing rather than humbly and sincerely struggling to turn away from it. There is a huge difference in the motivation and intent between those two positions.

I was sad for my friend and for our acquaintance, for I perceive that the same difference applied. Even after my friend explained that he did not wish divorce on anyone, that he would not advise it to others, and that he was continually seeking after God to heal his heart and bring about recreation of his life, our acquaintance judgmentally walked away.

Today, I’m motivated to be both cautious and discerning with my judgement and both generous and indiscriminate with my love.