In my adult Sunday school class at church, we have been working our way through Matthew. We are currently in the Sermon on the Mount. I do not know if Jesus delivered the entire sermon at once, but it is quite lengthy. The sermon itself has a general theme. Jesus is laying down for His people just exactly what it means to be righteous in the eyes of God. The people of His time had been told many things about this by their leadership. Jesus took this opportunity to correct those errors. The standard set is high.
One of the things we discussed yesterday was Matthew 7:1-6; it's also discussed in a previous post here. This short section is about judging others. Jesus is emphatic. We are not to participate in this behavior - at least in the context that He is speaking. Our job is to love and help - our job is not to judge. We leave that to God. If the love and help is refused, we use our discernment of the situation and move away from the individual. That is what the whole 'pearls before swine' thing is about.
That is not what I wanted to discuss today. During our conversation yesterday, I asked a couple of questions.
1. Why is that the rank and file sinners of Christ's time were at ease - comfortable if you will - around Him?
2. Why is it that the religious people of the time - the God followers if you will - were so very uncomfortable in His presence?
Cursory answers to those questions come easily. The sinners of the time tended to know who they were. They knew each other. They knew they were entirely dependent on God for His love and grace and forgiveness. The religious folks of the time thought they were sinless and they did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God. Beyond that, they thought that Jesus was one of the "sinners" and not one of them - even though He taught in a fashion that had never been witnessed before and with authority much like the old prophets. He was, at the very least, a source of confusion for them that required sorting out.
Those answers really just scratch the surface though don't they? Sinners loved Jesus. Professionally religious folks hated Him, judged Him and thought He was of the devil. A few religious folks were on "the fence", but most had already judged Jesus as a charlatan.
The reasons for these attitudes is clear. Jesus did not judge for the most part. Rather, He loved. He would guide his listeners. He would reveal the Word of God to them. He would allow that Word to convict them and then He would help them and forgive them. This is one reason why the "sinners" were so at ease with Jesus. Beyond that, the very attitude of the sinners of the time toward their God was one of transparency. They knew who and what they were as I said earlier. They did not pretend to be anything other that who they were. And they knew they could not hide any of that from God.
The religious folk of Jesus' day were anything but transparent. They did not acknowledge the flaws or sins or imperfections in their spiritual lives and they resented anyone that would come along and point this out - as Jesus was wont to do. They would pretend to pursue God and His righteousness, but they would not acknowledge that perhaps they too had failed Him.
I think this is the cross road that we are at today in the Church. Many of us are not comfortable or at ease with people that are transparent about who they are or who they once were before Christ was in their lives. We want to shush up the fact that there are Christians that regularly fail in their walk with Jesus. It is some how in our heads that this might indicate Christianity does not work or that a person's conversion failed.
This is dishonest in the extreme. It is dishonest toward God and toward our brothers and sisters in Christ. It shows itself as hypocrisy to the unbelieving world. It is a lack of transparency if you will.
Christians sin. We are sinners. We are sinners saved by the grace and love of God through Jesus Christ, but we are still sinners. Even the best of us fails from time to to time. We need to acknowledge this and become churches that not only confess Jesus, but also confess our failures to each other and the temptations we have to deal with on a daily basis in our walk with Him. We are stronger together. We can help each other and we can love each other. Judgement should not be in this mix unless one's rebellion has gone beyond the point of conviction.
If we want to seek and save the lost, we have to be transparent about who we really are. We have to make the "lost" feel comfortable with us while we show them Jesus. Let Jesus convict them of the sin in their lives and show them the way of hope. Then we can all work together to move toward that goal that seems so piercingly impossible that Jesus laid out in the Sermon on the Mount.
"Be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect."
No, we will never make that goal here. Some of us are going to be much more dependent on His grace than others, but you know what? That well is eternally deep. Let's all have a drink of that water and love each other.
So let me ask you. Would sinners feel comfortable at your church or would they be faced with a facade of sinlessness blocking a transparency that really does not exist?
One more question. Would Jesus be comfortable in your church? Or would he be vexed by the lack of transparency in the lives of a people wearing His name as their label? Would He deliver Woes to you as he did the scribes and pharisees (Matthew 23) or would you receive His love and support for your efforts?
Let's lighten up and stop pretending. Let's love each other and not fear each others judgement and condemnation. Let's be who we really are and let Jesus change us into His Kingdom. Eternity is coming people. Let's get there together. I love you. So does Jesus.