Sunday, November 24, 2013

Dogs, Pigs and Pearls

Don’t judge so that you won’t be judged.
For in the way you judge - you’ll be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 
Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but don’t notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother,
‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’
… and behold, the log is in your own eye?

You hypocrite! 
First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Don’t give what is holy to dogs, and don’t throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.
Matthew 7.1-6

God, dogs, pigs, brothers, hypocrites, you; specks, logs, sacraments and pearls
… these are the characters and objects in this section of Jesus’ sermon. 
How can we turn this scripture into something to obey without “judging” someone and deciding if he’s a pig, she’s a dog, he’s my brother, or if I’m a hypocrite? 

There’s a difference between being judgmental and being discerning, and this is what we need to understand about Jesus’ teaching.  I’ll take a risk and summarize this section of the SOM in this way: “Cautiously treat people appropriately.” 

In order for us to do what is appropriate, we don’t need to judge, but we do need to be discerning, and in this section of the SOM Jesus gave his disciples an “Intro to discernment,” or “Discernment 101.”  Longer versions of these lessons are found consistently in the bible.  Let me try to explain…. 

People – Problems – Prescriptions

People are different, obviously.  But what we often miss is that different people have different needs, and sometimes two people with the same need can be helped in different ways. 

For example, teaching kids to swim is important for their safety.  But some children are very afraid of the water, while others are foolishly bold.  They both need to have the proper respect but without fear, and they both need to learn to swim … so we teach them differently. 

Parents who have more than one child can tell you a thousand ways in which their kids are different and need different approaches to raising them.  Teachers can tell you that some kids learn visually and others learn by listening. 

Doctors make a great example for us because they have different patients at different ages and with different medical conditions that require different prescriptions.  

So Jesus said some people have specks in their eye, others have logs.  Some people are your brothers, some are pigs. 

For Jesus’ audience there were different kinds of people.  They would divide the whole world into Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews).  Jews (including our Lord) would call gentiles dogs. 
Check it out:
Jesus said [to the Gentile woman],“Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”
She answered,
“Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table feed on the children’s crumbs.”
And He said to her,“Because of this answer go; the demon has gone out of your daughter.”
(Mark 7:27-29)

It seems pretty harsh, but it’s true.  Jesus came to the Jews, and no one else.  Only after Jesus’ resurrection could Gentiles be allowed to become part of God’s kingdom and one of His children.   There are few cases where Jesus had anything to do with gentiles, and when he did, there was always an extenuating circumstance. 

Not all Jews were the same, either.  Among Jews there were those considered “sinners,” who would have been people who were working for/with the Romans, or were sexually immoral or had other behavior that was frowned upon.  Much like “Christians” in our day and age … if you go to church, you know these people.  They’re not the “good” kids - they may smoke or party or have sex with someone other than their one and only spouse in their whole lifetime.  Other “good” people look down their noses at us sinners, because we are “bad.” 

Then among the Jews there were conservatives and liberals, those who loved to preach and pray in public, and those who showed up for “church” and were good people, but didn't do much else. 

I hope you see a theme

As I pointed out in the previous lesson, love demands that we help each other.  That means we must be discerning – or at least learn to be so.  For our day and age, the different groups are probably obvious to you. 

First, Jesus’ “sacraments to dogs” and “pearls before swine” lines refer to pagans, infidels, non-believers, or whatever you choose to call those who are not Christian.  Like Jesus giving first priority to Jews, so we must give first priority to brothers and sisters.  They get our help – first.  Read carefully what Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia:
Brothers, even if anyone is caught in any trespass (you who are spiritual), restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.
Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each one will bear his own load.
The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith(Galatians 6:1-10)

This section of Paul’s letter is almost exactly the same as our section of the SOM.  Do good to everyone – especially those in our household.  They come first.  When someone in the household is caught in a sin, we should “restore him gently.”  That’s a command of God through Paul, it’s not an option.  Remember back when we studied forgiveness, grace and mercy?  This is how it works in God’s household (what we call church). 

Outside the household sins are many and vile.  People are dogs and pigs, and they (usually without knowing it) follow their false gods (self, Satan, Mohammed, the Pope, Martyrs, ancestors, “saints,” Joseph Smith, Buddha, etc.).  “What do we have to do with judging outsiders,” asked Paul (1 Corinthians 5.12).

So do we just ignore the lost and let them live like pigs?  No!  But the prescription for their “disease” is different!  They need to “come home” like the Prodigal Son (Luke 15), not be yelled at for living with pigs!  They need to be changed from caterpillar to butterfly; not judged for crawling around!

Our "Christian" religious culture has a big problem with this.  Politicians are having an effect on our churches, and using them for their purposes.  They are convincing us that we need to make sure pagans act like Christians ... that they have to obey God’s law about marriage, sex, drugs, etc.  This is wrong. 

Again: this is in direct conflict with the teachings of Jesus!  How dare we call him “Lord,” and then disobey him?  If Jesus were the true Lord of these “Christians,” they would not cast their pearls before swine – they would not insist that non-Christians live to our moral standards, or be judgmental of anyone.  Instead, we would love all, and recognize what that means to each individual.

Not only is this casting pearls before swine, but it is against the practice of the apostles and believers in the bible.  Never did Paul (or Peter or John or anyone in the NT) appeal to Caesar or the senate that they should pass laws about morality.  The walls of baths of their day were covered in graphic XXX porn – but nowhere in the NT are people encouraged to tell Greeks or Romans or anyone else they had to obey God’s law.  Rather, they tried to bring their ministry of reconciliation to the lost gentiles! 

If you know a “Christian” who is judging outsiders, please “restore him with a spirit of gentleness” if possible, and encourage him or her to stop trying to “legislate our morals” onto others.  It only makes it harder for us to be able to reach them with the truth: that God is love. 

Wolves in Sheep’s clothing

Beware of the dogsBeware of the evil workers!  Beware of the false circumcision!  For we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh. (Philippians 3:2-3)

In Paul’s letter to the church of Christ in Philippi, he told them to beware of the dogs.  The wording in Greek is just like our signs today that warn us to “beware of dog.”  In this case Paul wasn't talking about gentiles.  He was talking about hyper-religious Jews - men who had appointed themselves as “authorities” on religious matters. 

Just like we have today, they had those judgmental people who I usually refer to as simply: jerks.  (I confess that sometimes I use more colorful terms, which, I confess means I’m judging rather than discerning)  They smile in your face, and then stab you in the back.  They are the famous “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” because although they are dogs or wolves, they don’t look like wolves!  We think they’re the good guys. 

Let me put Paul’s warning differently for us.  If you see a person you believe is a good Christian, maybe even a pastor or elder or deacon … you may be seeing a wolf in disguise.  Stop for a moment and consider the good Christians you know – and you would never suspect of being a wolf in disguise! 

And then … consider Paul’s warning and Jesus’ teaching not to give them your pearls. 

Remember the difference between judgment and discernment?  We aren't trying to identify these pigs just to judge them and then bash them or out them, but rather to protect ourselves and our brothers from them.  Discernment is necessary. 

Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruit.” 
“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?  So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.  (Matthew 7:15-21)

Paul wrote that these people are more concerned with earthly, physical things than with spiritual ones:
Let us therefore, as many as are teleios, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.
Brothers, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. For many walk, of whom I often told you (and now tell you even weeping) that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior….”  (Philippians 3:15-20)
Here you see the “fruit” of their tree.  These are people more concerned with what you eat or drink physically than your spiritual food.  These people are more concerned with how you vote – than with the kingdom of God.  You know who I mean … the person who is distraught over the “decline of America,” but has done little to strengthen or expand God’s kingdom.  Is this a person who leads the lost to God?  Or … is he mostly concerned with getting the “right” guy in the White House? 

Evil in disguise is something that should concern us all.  If you have “brothers” who are more engaged with the soldiers of the US than with the soldiers of the Kingdom – who care more about US policy than they do with a single person becoming a follower of Jesus – you may be dealing with a disguised wolf.  And if so … you need to remember Paul’s words and “beware the dogs.”  You need to remember Jesus’ teaching that they will turn and tear you to pieces. 

Jesus taught his disciples to do this.  He treated the most religious people the harshest, and the sinners with the greatest gentleness.  He called the religious folks names like hypocrites, false prophets, and blind guides.  But sinners and Samaritans and children and women, he treated with gentleness. 

He never condoned sin, but his prescription for their disease was different! 
And so we must also be hard on sin, but reserve the harsh “chemo therapy” for those who claim to be strong, and be gentle with the repentant sinners, the young, and the fragile. 

After all … haven’t we all been one or the other ourselves from time to time? 
Sometimes I've needed a hug more than a whipping.  Other times I've needed a strong wake-up call.  Aren't we all like that? 

And as we grow we change.  Give a break to young, new disciples, but once a person sets himself up as a teacher … he will certainly receive a stricter judgment from God (James 3.1), so he may need a stronger treatment now. 

When you see someone … be discerning!  Don’t give your pearls to pigs.  If possible, help the pigs to change their nature and become faithful disciples.  If not, then be careful or they will turn and tear you to pieces.    

And … be discerning, but never be judgmental, for we know our Father will judge us by our own standards. 


  • People are Different
  • Problems are Different (in Kind & severity/degree)
  • Prescriptions are Different

To make this teaching simple, try this.  Maybe even write your thoughts down (privately), and use it as a guide for how to help people as your Lord wants you to. 

First, recognize that the world is divided into those who claim to follow Yahweh, and those who don’t.  Specifically, there are those who claim to be Jews and/or Christians.  These are people who at least have access to the book, and believe in the same God. 

Those who are outside of this group (most of the population of the earth) don’t need your judgment or condemnation – they need to get to know our God.  If you meet one of these folks, introduce them to Him.  Not to a church, or beliefs or rules or even the bible … just tell them about God.  Tell them how He created us all, and that He feeds us all, loves us all and cares for us all, whether we’re good or bad to Him!  Tell them how wonderful He is, and tell them about judgment day and eternal salvation.  (See how Paul did this for his particular audience in ancient Athens in Acts 17.22-34)

Those who claim to be Christians and/or Jews can be further divided into those who are committed disciples of Jesus, and those who are not.  Remember: you will know them by their fruit – not their doctrine! 

If they “seek first the kingdom and God’s righteousness,” then their life will show it (fruit):  
  • They will be out loving people and caring for them. 
  • They’ll be the ones who: 1) Go, 2) make disciples, 3) baptize them, and 4) then teach them to obey (Matthew 28.19-20). 
  • They’ll be feeding the hungry, caring for widows and orphans and those in distress (Matthew 25.31-46; James 1.26-27). 

Note what is missing from that list!  Nothing there about church attendance, political affiliation, following rules, or bible knowledge.  Hell will be the eternal home to many “good” church-going bible scholars.  Our Lord said, “You will know them by their fruit;” not their singing, praying or religiousness. 

If a disciple doesn't know the truth about baptism, then teach him.  If the disciple has fallen away, restore him.  If she’s living willfully, help her surrender to God again.  In other words … if a disciple has wandered away … restore the brother or sister (if possible).  Be gentle when it’s needed, and be harsh if that will work.  But love the fallen or broken disciple enough to care for him or her. 

If the person is a Christian or Jew but not living like a committed disciple, then get to know why.  Love the person enough to help him.  Don’t merely judge the person as “uncommitted” or “sinful” or even as a judgmental hypocrite!  Instead, offer them hope for something better than they now have.  If they reject you … move on.  And move on like Paul did: “weeping.”  People who are not obedient, loving, committed disciples … are to be pitied, not judged. How can we not pity the person who goes on “sinning willfully”?  
For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?
For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.”
And again, “The Lord will judge His people.”
It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
- Hebrews 10:26-31

The world is full of people.  Learn to be discerning and provide the right prescription to the right person at the right time.  Judge no one - - but be discerning!  Give your pearls with wisdom, for there are many pigs, and only a few who will accept our Father’s invitation.  Try to sew your seeds on good earth, not the freeway.  And keep your eyes open for the disguised wolves.  Our enemy is genius, he is mean, and he is very successful. 

Discipline yourselves, be vigilant!  Your adversary (the devil) prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.  1 Peter 5:8

Sunday, November 10, 2013


Note: Did you study “the household”?  If not, stop and read the post before this one first (Family Business,11/03/2013). 

Don’t judge so that you won’t be judged.
For in the way you judge - you’ll be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.
Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but don’t notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother,
‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’
… and behold, the log is in your own eye?
 You hypocrite!
First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Matthew 7.1-5

Don’t you hate getting something in your eye?  I've gotten junk in my eye many times, and I hate it.  When I was about 9, I got a speck of iron in my eye that rusted and had to be drilled out by an ophthalmologist.  Yikes.  Fortunately (believe-it-or-not) it’s a lot more comfortable to have your eye drilled than your teeth! 

There are some things about my experience I’ll never forget.  It didn't hurt me at all.  The speck in my eye didn't hurt, and neither did the drilling.  But I could tell my mother was freaked out, and trying to hide it so I wouldn't freak, too.  The thought of a man drilling in her son’s eye was only slightly less horrible to her than that I might go blind.  So … SHE was more concerned than I! 

I had some friends at church with two beautiful adult daughters.  One daughter had a fine family, and the other was a homeless junkie.  They had been a typical middle-class family.  The father was an outstanding engineer, and the mom was a kind, stay-at-home, “June Cleaver” type mom.  I don’t know what happened to cause their younger daughter to rebel, but once she started down the road of drugs and promiscuity, she got past the point of no return.  It was like watching someone stuck in quicksand – but she wouldn't take help, and one day she died in the street. 

Her mom (like mine) was horrified with what happened to her child.  And the junkie daughter (like me) wasn't so concerned.  She was happy (at first) to live foolishly, so she wouldn't let her mom “take her to the doctor” to have her issue resolved.  And the truth is that her addictions and problems surely hurt those around her more than they hurt her. 

But also at our church were those who whispered about the girl and talked behind her back.  I heard her called all sorts of bad things.  People looked down their noses at her, and to some extent even her parents.  Gossip and judgmentalism like this are common in churches, as are their sister: hypocrisy. 

This is what Jesus was talking about: 
He was talking about the snobbish, judgmental attitude that some of us have toward our brothers and sisters who are struggling with some sin.  These people are the older brother in the prodigal son story (Luke 15), and the Pharisees of Jesus’ day.  These people say they are forgiving, but their actions speak louder than their words. 

This is NOT what Jesus was talking about:
He wasn't saying that we should let people go about with debris in their eyes!  How could a loving mother, brother or sister allow another family member to be in danger?  How can we not want to stop him or reach out to help her?  Make no mistake: we are our brother’s keeper (Genesis 4.9)!  We are supposed to care for our brothers and sisters, even to keep them from trouble, and even when they don’t want our help. 
“If anyone doesn't obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and don’t associate with him, so he’ll be put to shame.  Yet don’t regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”
     (2 Thessalonians 3:14-15)“Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him”
     (Luke 17:3)
There are many other scriptures like this. 

So is Jesus contradicting himself?

No!  Remember the context.  Jesus is speaking to Jewish disciples.  These people were aware of the “religious” Jews of their day who gossiped, criticized and condemned (just like “Christians” today) others.  This was the reputation of the Pharisees, a religious group within Judaism.  They were the “good” people.  And, like in our “church” above, they were those who gossiped and disregarded the junkie girl and her mother. 

When Jesus said for us not to judge our brothers, his intention was that we not condemn them or look down our noses at them as if they’re especially “bad,” and therefore unworthy of our help. 

When I discuss our groups, I’ll use two different terms: disciples and Christians.  The way I use it … I consider us disciples to be those who are truly devoted to Jesus.  We are family, brothers and sisters, and devoted to helping each other be good kids.  “Christians” (the way I use it, at least) refers to the larger Christian community.  These are “good” religious folks who go to church and don’t cuss or drink or sin … and don’t associate with those of us who do. 

I do this because it’s just like Jesus’ audience.  There was the larger religious community of Jews, and within them were Jesus’ followers.  In the SOM he was speaking to his own disciples, and here he was telling them not to judge like the hypocritical “religious” folks. 

The Rules

I hate rules, but sometimes they make things simple, so in this case I’m going to list for you “the rules” of judging others (or not) from the New Testament here:

  1. Leave outsiders alone

The first rule of judging is that we are responsible to and for our brothers and sisters only.  What those outside of Jesus do is not our business.  If people in the world want to lie, cheat, live wildly sexual lives, have same-sex marriages, or whatever they do … that’s between them and their lord.  Most of them worship their one true god: themselves.  They do what they think is right (or not), and it's not our place to judge them.    

We have a different Lord: God.  We do what God says, whether we like it or not.  And God helps us to obey Him!  We (who have been baptized into Jesus’ death) have received His Holy Spirit, Who helps us with our weaknesses (Romans 8.26).  Since outsiders don’t follow our Lord, and don’t have this help, how can they possibly be expected to act like us?  They can’t. And the fact is, many of us struggle enough as it is. 

We MUST STOP trying to control the behavior of outsiders!  This is what Paul wrote: 
“For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Don’t you judge those who are within the church”?
    (1 Corinthians 5:12) 

 2.  Keep our own house clean

Paul wrote that it is our job to “judge” those within the church.  Jesus said we should “rebuke” a brother if he sins.  But remember the stories above.  We judge and rebuke our brothers and sisters to help them, not to condemn or criticize.  Sometimes they’ll take it the wrong way, but we still must do it.  Like the junkie girl above who rejected her mother’s attempts to help, sometimes even our own family will reject us.  So be it.  But we are obligated to try to help those who call themselves “Christian.”

We are our brother’s keepers!  Consider this:
All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal.
   (Hebrews 12:11-16)
The writer is encouraging us to strengthen one another, and yet we see to it that “no root of bitterness” rises up.  We help each other by accountability and encouragement.  Like fat people weekly stepping on a scale, there’s some judgment … but other fatties don’t look down their nose at the person who didn't lose this week.  Rather, they offer encouragement (within their group).  Outsiders may call some people drunks, but within AA, they help each other.  Certainly there’s a form of judgment within any 12-step group, but it’s not for putting someone down … but rather to see how they are progressing! 

But beware of something I've learned the hard way: most people at church don’t want to be better.  They want to be justified. 
They don’t want to improve; they want to be told they’re wonderful just like they are. 
They don’t want to grow stronger; they just want an easier life. 
They don’t want to learn; they want their ignorance validated. 

If you rebuke those people, get ready for them to tell you: “Judge not!”  They don’t know the context, and they don’t want to know it.  This is the reason the religious people killed Jesus.  He came to help, to convict, to teach, to improve … they didn't want to admit they needed help, growth or improvement; and they certainly didn't want to be convicted. 

3.  Judge Not

The simple lesson here is that we should not look down on others.  This is easy for those of us who are (or have been) “bad” sinners.  I’ve committed sexual sins and taken drugs and done all those sorts of worldly things.  And the people who also do those things (or have done them) are usually not very judgmental.  We know we suck, so we don’t look down our noses much – except at religious hypocrites!  Religious people look down on us for being “bad,” and we look down on them for being judgmental.  Shame on us! 

We who are tempted to tell someone not to judge … watch out! 

I write that because most of the more judgmental, hypocritical people won’t ever even read this blog, and even if they do, they won’t change.  They “know the difference between right and wrong,” and they will never find a way to help those of us who don’t have their discipline or money or blessings or talents or looks.  But we who are sinners, we who are ugly, or dopers or drunks or sluts, or adulterers … we also are tempted to look down on the religious people.  Let’s help each other to not become just like them.

4.  Clean up

Jesus said, “You hypocrite!  First take the log out of your own eye….”  That’s because there’s value in looking at ourselves - first. 

If you've ever struggled to overcome sin, or depression or even judgmentalism, you know how hard it is!  Once you discover how hard sin is to defeat (and how much help we need from God) it makes humility much more natural.  I’m not gay, but I've struggled with sexual sins, so I can imagine how hard life must be for a gay person.  I've struggled with laziness, lying, smoking, drinking and lots of things … including several things that are just scary.  Overcoming those shortcomings has been very hard, it never ends, and now I can relate to other “losers” like me who will struggle for the rest of our lives. 

Struggle leads to humility, humility breeds compassion

Not only is it humbling to “clean up,” but it’s instructive.  Overcoming struggles teaches us how to overcome.  I quit smoking several times before I finally found one way that was effective for me.  Since then, I've found others who struggle with it, and I know that some things work for some people, and other things work for others.  My job is to be patient and encourage them to … KEEP SEARCHING until they find the thing that works for them! 

And if you die searching … then at least you will die with me cheering you on.  For it’s not the success that makes us forgiven in the eyes of God, it’s His grace!  His grace alone is what saves us!  So … He honors the fact that we will spend the rest of our lives trying to be the kinds of sons and daughters He wants us to be. 
Just as a father has compassion on his children, So Yahweh has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.     (Psalm 103:13-14)
He already knows we’re weak and stupid and lazy.  He already knows how powerful Satan is.  He already knows how badly we will mess up - and He has already forgiven us.  Now … back to work.   

We are saved by grace – not success

If you struggle with something, consider keeping a notebook or log of some kind.  Then, go to it when you see someone else struggling, and use what you learned to be humble and encouraging.  That’s how others can benefit from our weakness. 

Others can learn from our mistakes

The risk of love

Jesus was a name-caller.  People these days say we’re “not supposed to call names,” but Jesus did it.  Here, he looked at his audience and said, “You hypocrite”!  The question is … why? 

You can decide for yourself, but here’s my opinion: 
Sometimes people don’t realize how bad they are until confronted harshly. 

Religious people are like this.  As I type this on a Sunday morning, millions of these hypocrites are cleaning up and putting on their “Sunday best” to get ready for church, where they will pretend to be something they’re not (good) and meanwhile be judgmental of those who are “sinners.” 

How will anyone get their attention?  
Their preacher or pastor won’t – because he knows they pay him to say things they want to hear, and they do NOT pay him to call them hypocrites (or any other names)!  He may know they’re hypocrites, and even be aware of his own hypocrisy, but he needs his paycheck, and he needs his popularity, so he will try to find another way, or he will just be quiet. 

Jesus loved me enough to call me a hypocrite.  
He knew I might ignore him.  He knew he’d never get rich, or popular or accepted by his own people.  Even his own brothers despised him.  But Jesus loved me so much - he took the risk. 

If one of you sees your brother sinning, will you take such a risk? 

If so, then you’ll find a way to talk directly to a person you know is a sinner and offer him or her help.  If not, you’ll go on gossiping about the person behind his or her back, but not fellowship with them or let your kids do so.  You’ll be judgmental and tell yourself you’re protecting yourself and your loved ones from this “sinner,” and you’ll be safe.  I told a brother once that he needed to spend more time with sinners, helping them, and his answer was, “But I don’t like sinners!”  I love his honesty.  Truth is, sinners are scary to religious folks, just as religious folks are intimidating to us sinners.  But we really could help each other … if we only loved enough to try. 

The great tragedy: some people can’t be helped

Jesus knew it, so did all the other prophets and even Paul:
“I’m telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen….”
     (Romans 9:1-3)
If you call someone a hypocrite and she responds by calling you ‘mean’ or ‘bully’ and won’t listen … if you’re gentle and they won’t change … if you bring God’s word and they won’t listen … then at some point you have to give up and move on.  Paul was known as the “Apostle to the Gentiles,” because his own people (Jews) wouldn't listen to him.  He was kind, and he was harsh, and neither was effective. 

Jesus told his followers that if they went to a village and weren't received, to shake off the dust of the village and move on.
“And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave. As you enter the house, give it your greeting. If the house is worthy, give it your ‘peace.’ But if it’s not worthy, take back your ‘peace.’ Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet.”  
     (Matthew 10:11-14)
I had a friend and brother who struggled with sin.  He came to me and confessed and asked for help.  Another brother and I were working with him, and after only a short while he “fell off the wagon.”  We asked him about it, and he simply quit.  He said he couldn't do it, and would stop trying.  So … we no longer had anything to do with him.  He had a family who would suffer and struggle a great deal because of his issues, and today none of them has anything to do with me or the other brother who tried to help.  They don’t know the whole story, only his side of things, and so they think I’m a horrible person.  It hurts, but it’s what Jesus said to do.  And Paul wrote the same thing to a church … here are excerpts:
    “It’s actually reported that there is immorality among you….  You have become arrogant and haven’t mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst. For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present. In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled … I've decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.    Your boasting isn't good. Don’t you know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened.
    I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one.  Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.”(Excerpts from 1 Corinthians 5)
Paul is teaching them an idea that was already taught by Jesus: if a brother sins, rebuke him in private.  If he repents, forgive him.  If not, then take someone with you and rebuke him.  If he still doesn't repent, have nothing to do with him.  Why?  Because sin is contagious!

When Paul wrote about “leaven” … it was like our idea of a contagious disease.  I want to help a person who is sick, but I don’t want her to cough on me.  If she won’t receive help, then I’m not going to expose myself to her illness.  Sin is like that.  When we excuse it or justify it or quit trying to fight it, we become contagious.  Soon others who are tempted like us will share rationalizations and we’ll be downright “forgiving” and “understanding.”  And when that happens, the whole group is poisoned. 

A church group is like a Navy warship.  If one gunner fails to hit targets, the whole ship can be sunk.  So, we train the gunner.  Then we test him, and retest him.  If he gets lazy, we “remind” him to get back to work.  If he refuses, we replace him.  Not because we hate him, but because the fate of the ship hangs in the balance. 

Like any smart enemy, Satan will exploit our weaknesses.  Even in some cases, he has learned to help us confuse forgiveness and tolerance.  We can forgive a new gunner and help him learn.  We can forgive a sinner and help him grow.  But if he refuses to learn, to grow, to repent … then we must shake him off and move on for the sake of the boat. 


I suppose I've over-complicated this, but I really want to be thorough and help you know what Jesus meant.  He despised hypocrisy, but he understood weakness.  And so he knew that there’s a difference between a loving rebuke and a hypocritical bit of judgment.  We know that difference, too, if we’re honest. 

Will you learn to love enough to rebuke, protect, and also not be judgmental?  It takes time and work.  This doesn't come naturally to anyone.  

So … if you’re willing to learn, let the process begin. 
And if you're doing this with a three column-group, hopefully you'll id your own struggles and grow.