If I got angry and turned a blind eye and deaf ear to the teacher every time I saw a red check beside my wrong answer, I never would have learned the right one. Correction is meant for our good no matter who delivers the message. We will be tested again and again, so knowing the right answer is important. Still, we can have a teacher right in front of us with great truth and a lesson to share, and spurn it all just flat out not listen or give any attention because of who they are, what they look like, or how we “feel” about them. Is that loving your neighbor as yourself? Well, have you ever tried to convey truth to someone who will not hear you? The truth is fact that doesn’t change because of how you feel about it. Frustrating, right?
You can accept the good correction without disrespecting the messenger. The message is a gift even when the messenger doesn’t seem like one. Sometimes, that’s part of the lesson.
The “lawyer” among the Pharisees and Sadducees who gathered to trap Jesus (in Matthew 22) asked the question, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus knew the question was a test. He knew they weren’t interested in the answer. They wished to smear him and be able to begin the proceedings to have him eliminated, period. That did not prevent Jesus from giving the truth, all of it. Jesus exposes the “teachers” who do not walk the talk, advising all who will hear (you know, the ones they hoped would be witnesses to their great scheme to get Jesus arrested) not to do what the hypocritical corrupt Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes do.
“5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries* broad and their fringes long. 6 They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, 7 and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students.[b] 9 And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah.[c] 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.”Matthew 23:5-12 (* Phylacteries are square leather cubes containing Scripture parchment, one attached to the left arm, the other attached to the forehead)
Let’s break it down…
What keeping a humble attitude and being content in Christ doesn’t look like…
We are drowning in arguments over who is right and who is wrong rather than what is right, what is wrong and why. Two opposing sides can agree on what is right and how to get there only when the credit of the solution doesn’t matter. And that’s the rub. We don’t get credit for what is right. God took care of that. We don’t even get credit when we do what is right, that’s akin to earning a sticker for washing your hands. You are expected to do what is right. There are no qualifiers.
And where has grace gone? God gives us grace to be the imperfect people we are not because we deserve it. Because he loves us. And we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. That means we are to love ourselves properly, not more than nor less than we love our neighbor. But properly means recognizing who we are through God’s eyes, and who our neighbors are by the same measure. Every neighbor. You may not like someone or things they have done. Does your language and do your actions reflect a Jesus attitude toward them, or a Pharisee?
Daily I witness good people calling other good people awful names because they dare to have a different point of view…which they have for the same reasons anyone has their point of view…their own experience, frame of reference, etc. And what does the name calling achieve? Nothing good. Not even for the one doing the name calling. And what stymies me is how name callers call out other name callers without recognizing the name caller in self. The hypocrisy of imposing onto others actions that they claim are beyond the pale when applied to self. If it’s wrong to do to you, isn’t it wrong to do to them? The answer is yes.
We are battered daily with snarky remarks and retorts that completely negate any good that might have been had because anger was given the last word. I see this a lot. I call them half truth bombs. ie: “Of course we can all get along and be kind to each other, as long as your not a total (fill in the blank).” If there’s any negative in the statement, it’s a negative statement. Any good you might have done with your truth about being kind to each other you wipe out completely, blow it all away with the angry lie. Hear me out. Very often whatever the negative qualifier, Jesus tells me the opposite. Like, I can be kind to you even when you are a total fill in the blank. It’s a choice. Sometimes being kind means being silent and giving grace. But it’s my choice. That’s the truth. Nothing you can do removes the responsibility upon me to respond as Jesus would have me.
If you want to dazzle with the truth, tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Anything else is a lie.
In this daily battle for a kinder, gentler world where Jesus’ Greatest Commandment reigns, I am either part of the problem or part of the solution. My goal for what is left of 2019 is to be part of the solution. I will guard my heart when offended to listen harder for God’s leading before offering any response. And I will pray for everyone whose opinions differ from my own, not to change their minds but to soften my heart for them and let God’s will be done.
If this sounds tough, well it is some days. Being a Christian isn’t easy. Being Christ was a whole lot harder. Sunday morning we will hear the story of forgiveness in the midst of pounding hate, pounding cruelty, and pounding and pounding like a nail through bone. I assure you it’ll offer context that matters as we head into a week filled with gratitude.
See you at church! 🙂