Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Look in the Mirror

One of the most difficult things to do as a Christian is to honestly look at ourselves in the mirror of God's Word.  It is so easy to read passages that are condemning a group of people for their sins and self-righteously pass over it thinking that we are nothing like that group of people.  The passage I have been mediating on lately is one such passage.

Matthew 23 is Christ's warning to the people about the duplicity of the scribes and Pharisees, and a harsh condemnation of their behavior.  This passage is often looked at with the viewpoint that those scribes and Pharisees were really terrible people and we are nothing like them.  But is that really the truth?

Matt 23:3-11 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.

At first glance, the horror! How could the Pharisees and scribes do such horrible things?  They say one thing and then do the opposite, they want everyone to see all the good things they do, they place heavy burdens on others.  Our righteous indignation starts to simmer.  Then the tough part-let's look at ourselves.  How often do we disciple new Christians by giving them a list of rules:  read your Bible, pray, come to church every time the doors are open, tithe, give to missions, don't listen to that, don't watch that, don't go there, don't wear that, only wear this, go out soul winning.  Before long we have heaped a heavy burden onto a new Christian.  When we disciple teens they get the same list plus the added pressure of: make sure your are in the center of God's will, don't date, don't play video games, don't have facebook, don't go to the movies, have the right friends.  Even the adults: are you reading the Bible enough?, are you praying enough?, are you knocking on doors enough?, are you tithing enough?, are you confessing all your sin enough?, are you going to the altar enough? are you memorizing the Bible enough?.   Did we miss the part,  "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest, take my yoke upon you and learn of me for I am meek and lowly in heart and ye shall find rest for your soul for my yoke is easy and my burden is light"?  

We are so busy binding heavy burdens onto ourselves and others that we have become just like the Pharisees.  We don't even consider the rest the Christ offered us.

 We are all guilty of hoping that thing we did will be seen and praised.  That special we sang in church, the work we did to clean up after a meal, the meal we took to others, the Sunday School class we have taught, the bus ride we have taken, the people we have ministered to, all those things and more we want the praise.  We may do them so spiritually, but we secretly hope someone will notice.  If no one notices we try to casually work it into a conversation so we get at least a little bit of praise.  We revel in the praise when someone calls us out publicly for the good we have done, or we make it a "praise" during a time of public praise.  Are we not just like the Pharisees?

Matt 23:23-28 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

Maybe this doesn't apply; We don't tithe spices, surely this isn't talking about us.  Look back in the mirror. How often are we so worried about how the teens are dressed, how the adults are dressing, if the women are wearing the right clothing, if the music is exactly the right style.  We worry so much about these issues, but what about judgment?  What about mercy?  What about faith?  What about love? What is most important to us?

Is it that the teen sitting beside us is wearing a top that is a little too tight or is it the thought are we showing Christ's love as we address her?  Have we stopped to consider her situation?  Have we stopped to actually talk to her instead of talk at her.  Do we listen as she tells about the difficulties she is having at home, or are we too busy thinking of all the right verse to use to tell her how she is not dressing appropriately?   When that family comes in that smells strongly of smoke do we quickly judge them and find them wanting; or do we sit beside them and learn about them and the struggles they are having?  We look good, we dress right, we say all the right things, but inside we are full of condemnation and judgment.  Even with other Christians, we overhear about an activity that they are doing during the Sunday night service instead of coming to church.  We smugly think to least my family will be in church.  

So now what?  The picture in the mirror is not looking to good. Do we ignore it?  That won't do much good.  We walk away the same way we came.  What can we do?  Pray more...that will do it.  No, maybe reading our Bible more....if we read for 1 hr every morning surely that will do it.  It might help.  Beating ourselves up about it....that might work.

Christians, let's take our eyes off ourselves and look to our Savior.  The only one that can save us from our wretchedness is not ourselves.  No amount of work or works that we do can ever change us.  The change can only come through Christ and Him alone.  Instead of teaching a list of rules and regulations that must be kept in order to be a good Christian, let's teach His love.  Take the focus off works and put it back on Christ.  Ponder his love, we who were dead in our trespasses and sin yet he saw fit to love us.  He gave up everything to demonstrate his love to us.  He loved the unlovable; he loved the diseased; he loved the dirty; he loved the children; he loved the doubters.  As unlovely as we are, as hypocritical as we are, as sinful as we are-He loved US.  That love transforms us, that love cleanses us, that love redeemed us, that love sanctifies us, that love frees us, that love never leaves us, that love saved us, that love compels us to live for him, that love strengthens us as we walk in Him.

The solution for the image in the mirror is Christ, always has been and always will be.  It's not any easy thing to look in the mirror, it's not any easy thing to admit that we are hypocritical, but it has never been difficult for Christ to love us!

Romans 5: 6-9 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.