Monday, July 31, 2006

To Say or Not to Say?

That has been the question this week. As of tomorrow, I'll have fully heeded my preacher's advice to wait a week before replying to the church vs. tax program dude at my church.

It's been a week of prayer, and study. And definitely an exercise in delayed gratification.

As indicated by my lengthy e-mail and then my even more prolific commentaries here, I've a bit to say on the matter at hand.

Well, truth be told, I've a bit to say on all matters at hand, but that's not the point, right?

One of the things that came to the forefront of my mind was a conversation I had with, none other than, Mr. Intelligent, Politically Savvy man from other recent posts about a year ago. In this conversation, we were talking about the whole PC movement, and he said (rough paraphrase - it was after all, more than 12 mos ago), "I get so sick and tired of [Christian] people clinging to love as an excuse for not having any standards - I mean, if something is wrong, it's wrong! The same Jesus who loved everyone also called a group of men a brood of vipers. That's not mincing words, or worrying about who's going to be offended or not."

At the time, I was a little less confident, a little more new to the world of Affordable Housing/CDBG, and still pretty elementary in my Bible wisdom (that's SO the wrong word!) understanding. Not to mention that while I've never been made to feel inferior to the men at my church, it seems like women are tacitly discouraged from directly dialoguing (is that a word) with men about our faiths separate and apart from our homes and class settings. So, it made an impression, but soon got tabled and tucked away in the cobwebs of my mind.

Funny though, that Matthew 12 ought to come up in my mind in reference to Mr. Church Vs. Tax programs man. Let's read:

Matthew 12
Lord of the Sabbath
1At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. 2When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, "Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath."
3He answered, "Haven't you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. 5Or haven't you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent? 6I tell you that one[a] greater than the temple is here. 7If you had known what these words mean, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,'[b] you would not have condemned the innocent. 8For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."
9Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, 10and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, they asked him, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"
11He said to them, "If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath."
13Then he said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. 14But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.

God's Chosen Servant
15Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. Many followed him, and he healed all their sick, 16warning them not to tell who he was. 17This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

18"Here is my servant whom I have chosen,

the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
19He will not quarrel or cry out;
no one will hear his voice in the streets.
20A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he leads justice to victory.
21In his name the nations will put their

Jesus and Beelzebub
22Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. 23All the people were astonished and said, "Could this be the Son of David?"
24But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, "It is only by Beelzebub,[d] the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons."

25Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. 26If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? 27And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 28But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
29"Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man's house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house.
30"He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. 31And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
33"Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 34You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. 35The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. 37For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."

First, now that I have considered it - Mr. Intelligent - your point is only 1/2 valid, the way I see it. In this context, Jesus would have had the Pharisees be more lax with the Law and pile on the Love in accordance to God's will. No, He didn't mince words, but that's because they should have known better as people professing to be God's own. Jesus never spoke this harshly to the "apparent" sinners (in quotes b/c we should ALL be apparent sinners, but I'm trying to make a point here ;-)) - i.e. see His response to the Samaritan woman at the well, and the lack of hellfire and brimstone - only a confirmation of things to come. So, my deduction is that we as Christians should follow Christ's example and speak harshly only when needed - when those who should know better, act more hateful instead.

After coming to such a conclusion I figured that this recovered memory was all the relevance this passage had to my here and now dilemma. But, as is all too often the case - I was wrong. There was more to glean.

A few people told me to just let this guy with the commentary go peacefully, to let the water roll off my back because I couldn't change him. And, I almost bought that.

But then, as I considered this passage longer, it became clear to me: Jesus knew, with a certainty that only God can, that the Pharisees would NOT change their minds with respect to His teachings, yet still He tried, repeatedly and in earnest, to try and make them see God's not about a moral checklist of rights and wrongs - He's about LOVE! If that's the model my Lord has put before me, then it's crystal clear that I must carry on with this man in love.

As discouraging as his initial reaction was for me - this man's comment has brought me closer to the Lord. Kind of my own personal meaning to Paul's bits on rejoicing during struggles. It's amazing to me how dead right Scripture proves to everything.

Thanks for the prayers, folks - it has helped :)

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