Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Truth Offends Good People




   Recently I heard a sermon that briefly touched on the fact that there were many who despised the physical, earthly Jesus. And I began to really think about it in depth, in a new way, for the first time.

    The world despised Jesus. Not the vile ‘sinners’ like you might think. Those ‘of the world’ as is commonly thought actually loved him. The desperate housewife (adulteress woman) - the hooker, - the fat cat, despised young successful Wall Street executive that intentionally found a way to work around honest numbers (ok, - tax collector.) 

    Those that by any religious standard were well known; intentional, career committed ‘sinners’ (as opposed to the slip-up ‘good’ person)  loved him. They followed him, -they enjoyed his company and begged him to stay, even  clumsily climbing trees just so they could hear.

     No. Ironically, - it was the sober, godly; morally upstanding who couldn’t stand him. He was waaayyyy to kind and gracious. He didn’t care about the rules, the laws, - those things that you could do and KNOW you pleased God. He didn’t come and preach hell and damnation to the sexual reprobates, the thieves, the angry, the drunkards. He didn’t seem to concerned about  straightening them out at all.

   In fact, - he talked to the 'saints'. He kept saying that despite the tremendous effort they took to wear the right clothes, - to say and not say the right things, - to tithe just the right amount, and order their finances according to biblical principles - to protect their children from any unsavory thing, - to be sure and DO all that God could possibly want, - to thank God in prayer that they were not vile and wicked heathen;
Jesus told THEM that they were children of the devil.

  Hmmm.

   That didn’t go over so well. The ‘good’ people of his day didn’t like him. The people who claimed to love God the most, - the people whose entire lives revolved around holiness, and purity, and piety, and following the most conservative (safe) interpretation of God’s word totally reject Jesus, God in the flesh.

    You see, - he didn’t fit into their religion. He kept insulting all the hard work they were putting into living holy lives. I can’t really imagine it was easy OR fun to live a Holy, by-the-book life.

   Worried about the rules, - worried about even the APEARANCE of evil.  If Jesus was right, and there wasn’t any eternal benefit, - they would be forced to ask themselves why  they were so miserable!!

   These people loved rules. They felt safe. They knew where they stood, - they knew how and when to feel guilty, and when and how to feel proud of their devotion. Their lives were bound by box after box that effectively sealed the love and joy and freedom right out of their lives. They were going to live by morals and honor and conviction if it killed them.

And as it always will, it did, a little bit every day.

   And then Jesus showed up and claimed to be God’s son, - and he didn’t have respect for any of the rules. He walked, talked, ate, slept, worshiped and preached condemning the only way that people believed one could really please God.

    And the world hated him.

    Not the world that already didn’t care.

    Not the people who already knew they didn’t fit into the lovely little church going, - prayer offering, family devotion-ing, - missionary supporting families with smiles and generous acts of charity. The people who didn’t fit that mold were astonished. They were filled with hope.
 Could there really be a God? Could he really love them!?

   Did he really care about them; - even if they had long ago decided a life of rules was something they could never live. Hmmmmm. They could love that God.

   But not the ‘Holy’ world. Not those who had been banking everything in their life, - their hard working, Holy life on God’s approving nod and smile. They had earned it! They had never indulged in the base desires others had, - they had never rashly put their happiness above the proper thing, - they knew God was real and that judgment was coming….

   They would have thought that Jesus would have pointed to them, - and brought the cheating, thieving tax collector and pointed to them and said, - ‘See, - THIS man is living a holy life, - he is honoring to God.’ Instead he called them pretty graves full of bones and death, and cunning snakes and vipers.

  So they hated Jesus.

They made fun of his race, his home town, his family, his parents.
Even worse, they questioned his motives.
Some even claimed he was demon possessed.

    I have known that fact for my whole life, - and yet a few Sunday’s ago it sunk in.
God came to earth, and the most religious, most ‘holy’, noblest people on earth who had the inspired word of God in hand called him demon possessed.
Wow.

     The truth offends people.

     Why?  I think it is because these ‘godly’ people had something to lose.

  Jesus message was terrifying. It was worse than being demon possessed. Demons; that the leaders of the ‘church’ could handle. They KNEW there was good and evil. They were proud to battle the evil.

     But being told that they were irrelevant? Realizing that an entire life of hard work, - doing the right thing, saying the right thing and living exactly like the written word of God was in vain? That was unthinkable. Like the rich man who loved his earthly possessions, I am convinced not just because of what they gave him, but what they represented.  He wasn’t willing to let his (and possibly his parent’s) life time of hard, sacrificing WORK go to waste and leave it all for Jesus.
In the same way, stood the righteous, the godly, the conservative, the upright.

   They had so much to lose. Everything they had stood for their whole lives, - every decision of self restraint, and patience, of worship, of restraint, every moral battle fought…. They would all be lost.

     So they stood and look wistfully perhaps, at care free, loving Jesus. Wishing desperately it could be that easy, that simple. Then that wistfulness hardened into resolve. 

    God intended for convictions and life style and rules to govern a life of holiness, and they would continue to live it, no matter what a miracle worker with love in his eyes said. They would follow the commands, and precepts and principles even if they were the last one on earth, and they would stand for right. No matter the cost.

   As for the man of mercy who roved around healing and preaching, and leading people to believe that all the order and self denial and lives of sacrifice was in vain, - this man had to be stopped, - before he led more astray. He must be silenced.
How else were people to know the way to God, which he had clearly written down to the slightest little rule.

      My heart breaks.

      As a recovering conservative, I see their resolve, their stand, arms crossed, heart long since broken and cold, - but steadfast. Who lost view of God’s love long, long ago, or quite possibly never knew it. Who know who they are. They know what is right, and wrong, and how to make sense of the world. So fragile really, - under the ice cold certainty they embrace. If it is not the comfortingly rigid law that guides you, than what?  The appallingly vague sound of ‘just loving Jesus’ is far too terrifyingly permissive, and with that, a crack of the door offering freedom slams shut.

    What if?

   Dear friend, what if it is true? What if it didn’t matter? What if the rules, no, - rule is the wrong word, - that list of
 ‘guidelines by which you can make sure your life reflects the love you have for God’,
- what if all of them didn’t matter a bit?

  What if the hardest thing you’ve ever done, ever endured for the sake of ‘doing the right thing’ and living your faith, didn’t matter at all?  What if it was never ever necessary?


That fear?
That is freedom talking.
Run to it. Stare it in the face.

 Let me tell you about the God I know now.

25 At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. 27 "All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

 Love from a former Pharisee,
This present mom,

5 comments:

  1. Great thought provoking post. I do have a few questions if you don't mind. :)
    Was Jesus saying that all that they (the Pharisees, Godly people etc.) had been doing was vain, or was he saying "you were doing what you thought was right, but I am here to show you a better way"? Was he saying that they should have been doing something different, or that it was now time to change? I know that some of them were just following a lot of their rules and laws for outward show, but what about the ones who honestly thought that they were pleasing God and doing what he commanded? How would them following Jesus now that he had shown them a different way make their previous life of no value? Would Jesus have rather had them be living like sinners until he came to show them the way of life? Why would they be afraid to follow Him if their hearts were really right?
    I am not sure if I was able to get my question across coherently, but any thoughts or answers you have would be appreciated. Again, thank you for the post, it raised a point I had not thought of before.

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  2. Anonymous,
    Thanks for you questions...
    As someone who came from extremely conservative back ground, I absolutely did love God and wanted to please him, - that is why I thought rules were so important. I really believed that they were how God and others could know the depth of my commitment to God. I really thought that living by principles is what would please him.
    This however was a God I created in my own rule loving image. The truth is so much better!!
    However there came a day when I had to face that the 'righteous God of severe rigid right and wrong' I was trying to please was one of my own creation and I had to choose.
    At that point choosing to follow the God of Love very much meant that my whole life of faithfulness and work was of no value. Because truly it isn't.
    Just as my efforts can not earn my salvation, they cannot earn favor with God.

    When you asked, - 'would he rather they lived like sinners' I answer, - the whole point is that they already were.... they were just to 'clean and respectable' to realize it. They were very much separated from God, - they were just to devout to know. Realizing that is just to much of a bitter pill for some to swallow.

    You asked 'why would they be afraid to follow him if their hearts were really right?'
    Well, - that is a wonderful question.
    Why do you think it is?

    Could it be that no matter how much you love the idea of God and want to please him, - you can still be hopelessly lost?
    I love that you are asking questions, and I promise it is the most important thing you'll ever question in your life...
    Can I recommend a good book, called
    'The Prodigal God, by Timothy Keller'....

    I think it might really help as you continue to ask...
    I will be praying for you as you continue on your journey!
    Love from this present mom
    Rebecca

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  3. Would it be correct then to say that in summary this is your point? "God is a God of love not of rules. He only has two commandments, love Him, love others. You can't gain his favor or love by following certain lists of rules. No amount of rules or works will change his love for you. All he asks is that you love and follow him."

    On a different tangent, in the Old Testament God was a God of rules was he not? He had at least three books of Commandments. If you did not follow them to a T you were severely punished. But that was kind of his point, when Jesus came he said "You have been trying to follow all these laws and commandments but all they bring is discouragement and death. Follow me now and leave your old laws. For my burden is easy and my yoke light."
    Am I understanding this right?
    Again, thank you so much for writing these posts and being willing to to discuss them. I really appreciate it!

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  4. Anonymous,

    You seem pretty concerned about getting the details ironed out, - and I am not sure I will have the answers for which you are looking.
    I would encourage you to read the Gospels and note all the interactions Jesus had with others and really ask why!?
    This allowed me to see who Jesus IS and what his attitude is towards me and others...
    God bless on your journey!

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  5. You are right. I am sorry.
    I will do that.
    Thank you.

    ReplyDelete