Posts Tagged criticism

Camels and Gnats

Matthew 23: 24

You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

The camel of which Jesus warns, is judgment. I know I am guilty in this. As we judge what is wrong in others or with other’s behaviors we commit an even bigger crime, that of judgment. There is grace from God for all mistakes, error and sin. However, you will find that judgment is one of the hardest attributes to be forgiven of. Why? It is because a judgmental heart does not know grace and mercy. Therefore, the person who is critical and judgmental does not have that well of God’s grace within themselves to draw upon, even for themselves. They are choking on a camel while criticizing another for their gnat sized fault. It turns out, therefore, that we are best able to experience forgiveness for all of our imperfections when we first extend the grace and forgiveness of God to others. Another way of understanding this is that we create an environment of grace when we extend forgiveness to others, which we then become the foremost benefactors of.

It seems the church is often the last one to the party in the sense that we, who purportedly love the God of love, are often the most critical and judgmental of all people. For once, I would like the Christian Church to be the leader in embracing all people with the profound love of God. Maybe then, we could also receive forgiveness for ourselves and abandon the embittered personalities that so many of us tend to show to the public. There is enough love in our God for the whole world, but it must come through us.

Ultimately, this is a message of healing and it is a selfish message. If we would heal ourselves, it must be through the outpouring of grace, mercy and fellowship that our Father has poured out on us. When we finally, embrace who we are in Christ, then we will finally forgive ourselves and at long last we will receive the warmth of God’s forgiveness into our very spirits. We will be healed. We will be whole and God will be able to move into our hearts and make His home there. We will be fulfilled and will overflow with joy. Our freedom, our healing and our ultimate joy are found in accepting others without judgment or criticism. So do yourself a favor, let grace and acceptance be your calling cards. Let love have her perfect way in your heart.

Stoned Again

John 8: 59

Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the temple.

Yesterday I shared a very similar verse with you. Jesus drove the Jews crazy. He inspired murderous intent in them. What was it about him that aggravated them so? Think of it this way. Jesus told them the truth, the absolute truth. Doesn’t it strike you as odd that the truth inspired such malicious actions? Here is another point to ponder. The Jews actually thought they were doing good in their persecution of him. They were trying to protect the church and the faith. They accused Jesus of blaspheme when he told them the truth and they believed that blaspheme should be silenced because of its potential damage to the church.

Another problem with what Jesus preached was that it was new. Rather than taking into consideration what Jesus proclaimed, they rejected it out of hand. What was the source of their fear? Why does a person’s articulation and sometimes even just their existence rattle people so? The Pharisees should have known that truth wills out. It will survive no matter what you do. The false will fade and wither. They even admitted that others had come previously claiming to be the Messiah but, their testimony did not last.

Jesus was aware of their justification of their thoughts and acts. He warned us that we would face this same dynamic. “They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God” (John 16: 2). There is no need to be so reactionary and persecute people for their beliefs. God is bigger than any false doctrine. Moreover, there may be truth in what is said. Perhaps, though, it is the truth which frightens people most of all. And to be honest, it is not really the church which we seek to protect by our vehement rebuttal of opposing thought. We are in truth seeking to protect our thoughts and our way of life and that is the case even if our belief is wrong. We will fight to the death for a philosophy which isn’t even truth because to entertain an opposing idea challenges us. Why are we so afraid? What can another’s opinion do to us? We don’t have to force our ideology and views down other people’s throats in order for Yahweh to be seen as the glorious God He is. He is bigger than any paradigm we have yet constructed. Furthermore, Jesus has told us that he is doing a “new thing” so we need to relax and trust him and trust that he is well able to reveal truth amongst an abundance of opinion. Believe me, the prophets God is sending into the world are going to shake us up. They are going to challenge us. That’s okay. Father is well able to care for us and lead us into all truth.

It is very easy to look back at the Pharisees and the Jews and criticize them for their shortsightedness but we have become the modern day Pharisees. We serve a form of religion rather than the truth. Our opinions and doctrines sit on the throne of our faith rather than the Word of God. We listen to old, worn out theology and never even question whether it is rooted in the Bible. So much of what we defend is from Christian culture rather than the heart of God. Jesus came sharing good news. He went about doing good, (Acts 10: 38) not beating people up with the law. The commission he gave us was to continue his mission, to spread the good news of the gospel. We don’t need to try to convince people they are wrong treat, them as outcasts or slay them with our words. We only need to share the love of God and allow them to do the same. Whatever is true will prevail and we will be a unified body walking in the glory of our Lord.

Unwed Shame

Luke 2: 4 – 5

And Joseph also went up from Galilee from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register, along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.

Mary, the mother of Jesus; venerated, adored and even prayed to, alas was an unwed, pregnant woman.

The Christmas story of Jesus’ birth is such a heartwarming tale. I love to read it every year and try to imagine the glory of the Lord shining over the shepherds. What was it like to see the angelic and heavenly host singing praises to God. Wow! Just Wow! It is epic and I want to be translated back to that lonely field and witness the glory of the Lord. As I read, again, the glorious account of the arrival of Messiah, I am struck by the reality Mary, Joseph and others had to live in order to bring this miracle into the earth. I am humbled and whisper softly, “Thank you Father for these obedient servants.” I do not pray to Mary, but I sure am grateful and praise the Father that she hearkened to His voice and His will.

Consider for a moment, people all over this globe have heard the story of the Virgin Mary. She has been depicted in art probably more than any other person in history save Jesus himself. The truth is, though, she was an unwed mother. Now how does that truth play in your neighborhood? What do you think the neighbors said over 2000 years ago? Do you think everyone rushed to her side when her pregnancy was revealed? How celebrated do you think she was then? Think of all of her neighbors. I bet she had one of those judgmental, gossipy old crones living just down the street from her family’s home. Can you for a moment imagine what her parents endured? And bless Joseph, he hung in there with her but at first he wanted to put her quietly away. How familiar does that sound?

There is not going to be another virgin birth but what these matriarchal heroes endured for the glory of the coming king, gives me pause. What would I have said about Mary if I lived down the street from her when her pregnancy was exposed? As much as I do not wish to admit it, I can tell you that I would have judged her. I would probably have thought less kindly towards her and Joseph. I certainly would have assumed I knew how they came to be in that unfortunate circumstance.

I am condemned; not they. They obeyed God at great personal cost. The result of their obedience and shame is my own salvation. I must consider my judgmental attitudes and repent. Who is it today that I judge? Are they not also the beloved of God? Is God’s heart grieved when I judge and criticize His child? “Oh Lord, my God, save me from myself! Help me, help us all to have tender hearts towards all your children, especially, Father, those who appear far from you for we can never know their hearts or circumstances but we do know that you love them as much as you love precious Jesus. No matter how damaged and broken we are, regardless of how far we have wandered from the path, your heart is for us. Help us all to remember the pregnant, unmarried mother of the savior of the world when next we think harsh, judgmental words about one of your own.”

No minister and no ministry is perfect; I least of all. Nonetheless, I wish to echo Jesus’ beckoning statement, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Do you know someone who feels shunned or branded as an outcast? Is there someone in your life who feels they have been let down by the church? Jesus took all judgment onto himself so that the grace of God could come on us. Let those people know that God loves them and so do we. In the famous words of Tiny Tim, “God bless us everyone.” And Scrooge, that means you too.

Wisdom is for the Wise

Proverb 9: 7 – 9

He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself, and he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself. Do no reprove a scoffer, lest he hate you, reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser, teach a righteous man, and he will increase his learning.

This has been one of the hardest lessons of my life to learn. I thought that everyone wanted to know truth and to learn but it just isn’t true. And brother, if you want to alienate some folks in a hurry, correct them. You see, I have been willing to be corrected because I really wanted to know the truth. I didn’t want to continue in ignorance when there was someone who could teach me. My biggest frustration has been in finding someone who would teach me. But this is not the way of the majority. Most folks prefer the status quo no matter how uncomfortable.

You are likely to run into this problem too. As you learn and grow in the things of God you increasingly see more victory and more ease in your life. You are going to want to share what you have learned with those you care about. That’s all good. But, when they start doing the very things that have led them into disaster time and time again and you have already shared with them what has worked for you then let it be. They do not want to be corrected. It seems most people would rather live with their adversity than to change. There is some perverse comfort we have with our own calamity that makes it easier to live with than endeavoring to change ourselves. 

There are two things you can do. First, of course, pray for them. Second, is to just keep living your life in the glorious glow of Jesus. Hopefully, your friends and family will see the grace that the Lord has blessed you with and will ask you for your secret. 

The other problem is that some of these “friends” will become very critical of you. They want what you have but are unwilling to do what you have done. They see you growing and experiencing life as they want it and they become jealous. Sometimes they will treat you unkindly. Again, the best thing you can do is to continue to live a life of grace doing as the Bible and the Lord Jesus instruct you. “For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men” (1 Peter 2: 15). We want people to see the magnanimity of our Father but we cannot preach them into acceptance. We must lead, but mostly by example. Every once in a while a person will come along who is that wise person spoken of in today’s verse; one who is seeking to be wiser. These people are a joy and a delight and I pray that your life be filled with them.