Saturday, 4 August 2012

Wolves in sheep's clothing

Jesus words are very pointed aren’t they, “Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” Luke 10:3. I think all of us would expect that there would be some sort of opposition from those who don’t know God, but I guess I’ve been stunned a little by the realisation that sadly, I think sometimes we can be in danger from within the family of faith as well.  Surely this isn’t meant to be the case?  We are commanded to “encourage one another and build each other up” 1 Thessalonians 5:11. Rather than encourage, too often we can discourage by simply critiquing each other harshly.

Within a family we could be inclined to think we have permission to give our opinions or critiques as we feel the need, both within our faith family and our blood family for that matter. However at the forefront of our minds should be Jesus words “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:1-2. I looked up the Greek word used here for judge and it means “to pass sentence or give one’s opinion in a private manner” (New Testament Lexical Aid). It’s so easy to judge isn’t it? Is my opinion the standard by which others should measure themselves? Absolutely not and I’m guessing yours isn’t either!

You might feel as if I’m getting in your face a bit. Well you know what, we need to get in each others face on this topic.  We are family and family is there to support and encourage and on the odd occasion pull us up. I’m talking to myself as much as I am to you. When others are serving within the church family, whether up the front or out the back, has there ever been even the odd occasion where you have been inclined to ‘critique’ their work for the Lord? Someone may not make the tea how we like it, or lead worship in the style to which we are accustomed, or dress according to our tastes, or in one way or another, not quite do things the way we are used to. Some of us can be harsh critics. As St Teresa of Avila once said “There is no reason why we should expect everyone else to travel by our own road.” May we have mercy and stop ourselves short of sharing our views with those who serve us. To serve is to give time and effort for others. How very disheartening to be critiqued on that service. When we feel the desire to share our views starting to percolate to the surface, we need to bring it to a halt and instead encourage those who serve and heed the warning that says “with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Matt 7:2.

I often bang on about how the truth of the bible can change lives, can change people, can change relationships and can change eternity for each one of us.  I know it can do all these things. I know it, but what I don’t know is, if we are willing to let it.  The truth of the Bible draws us to the Creator and Saviour. Once we are justified; made righteous through Jesus Christ, then we are to begin the process of sanctification; becoming Christ-like.  Growing in the knowledge of and obedience to, the love of Jesus, which means stop acting like we once did and learn to choose to follow Jesus’ example.  By that I mean, responding appropriately to such love as we have been given. Jesus wants us to need him each day. To stop critiquing and judging others and thinking that we are better than them. To do this we need Jesus. 

We think too highly of ourselves if we ignorantly climb into the judge’s seat. Who are we to judge? That judgement seat belongs to God alone. I’m guessing you, like me would be looking at the floor, or even wishing it would open up and swallow us, if God ever said, “So you want my job? Well, let’s just see how you would do.” If you ever have the temptation to inform someone their serving isn’t up to scratch, or you think you could do a better job then put your hand up and volunteer. You will soon see that some people make certain jobs look easy, due to their gifting, but that doesn’t make them easy jobs. If you know you couldn’t do a better job, then opinions are better left unsaid, for everyone’s sake. If something is a major issue for you, speak to your Pastor about it, after you have spoken to the Lord about it. Let’s ask Jesus to guide us in becoming lambs who encourage. We have enough wolves outside the faith. We don’t need them in it too.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Intolerant tolerance

This past weeks headlines from a National paper have included "Gay marriage vote could be close".  I've received emails asking me to sign petitions in regard to this.  It is all going off. 

It appears this issue is not just raising it's head along the beachy shores of Aotearoa, New Zealand.  The fast food chain in the USA, Chick-fil-A, is under fire after an published interview with the owner, who stated that his company supports "the biblical definition of the family unit".  I have to say I've not read the entire script of the interview nor the press release.  But as you will be able to imagine, and read for yourself. Some comments at the bottom of these articles are fierce, personal, hateful, intolerant and just plain ugly from many folks. People, many people are drawing lines in the sand and choosing sides.  

One of the blogs I subscribe to is brave enough to join the discussion.  In a post titled Not your mother's kind of tolerance the author points out the seemingly fluid nature of the definition of tolerance.  Tolerance use to be the acceptance of the existence of different views. Now it appears to be the acceptance of the existence of different views, as long as you don't give yours, if its different.

I may be a coward, maybe this is just one battle that I'm not keen to publicly join. But the one thing that has touched me and ever so gently is; where is Jesus in all this debate?

The Women's Pastor at my faith family told us this story this week of a gay man, who had a Christian flatmate (house mate/room mate), who loved him in a truly powerful way, never once approaching the topic of homosexuality, the man only ever spoke to him of Jesus.  That gay man is today, a believer in Jesus Christ because of that witness. I do not know the detail of his life, and quite frankly it is none of my business.

Mahatma Gandhi is famously quoted "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians.  Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."  Does this quote bring a tear to your eye's?  It should, this is how some people view Christians; followers of Christ.  What Jesus did in love for us, he did for all man, every single one of us, we are all sinful, even if you are saved, you are still sinful. I can get so self-righteous, so proud, feeling like I am ok, nearly even good. Judging others, feeding my Pharisee. That is not reflecting my Saviour. Jesus has given me everything, but most importantly He's given me His record, His perfect record.

 "On the days when you feel as though you'll never get it, you'll never please him, you're such a failure, you must remember the lavish gift: his great heart pumped blood through his veins and then out his wounds so that he could bless you.  This perfect blood streamed down his body and tumbled through space, pooling on the earth beneath his feet. It was trampled on by those who stood below jeering.  It mingled with the dirt he had created, and from it grew your hope.  And then, on the days when you believe you're finally getting it, finally pleasing him, when you think you can look in satisfaction at your goodness, you'll need to look at that blood even more closely.  Take yourself to Calvary and stand there until all your good works seem to you as they really are; vile sludge purified only by his cleansing flow." (Elyse Fitzpatrick, Because He Loves Me)

The gift of Jesus is the greatest gift we can give, yet all too often we give our opinions instead. Now I'm not saying do not stand up for what you believe the Bible says.  This world needs Biblical values,  what I am saying is; remember from what you have been saved and who saved you, Jesus Christ is the life changer, the heart changer. A change of heart is the greatest miracle. Just to make it really clear, it is the Holy Spirit job to convict, not ours. 

As far as debates go, this one on gay marriages is heated, there is no doubt about it. Intolerant tolerance is rampant on both sides of the line. I've not come across teaching in the Bible about tolerance, but the Bible does teach about love. We need to be reminded that no one has ever won anyone over to their way of thinking by finger shaking, shouting and calling names. Let us show the world Jesus by speaking to the world about Him and His love.

Thank you Jesus