Thursday, September 26, 2013


Often we look at the big picture and think, "that's just the way things are." Human tendency is to let life go on as it is until it spills over into our own lives or effects us directly.

But Jesus took time to look at the details!

The religious leaders of Jesus' day were tolerated and accepted by many as being approved by God. They were perhaps not really embraced in the hearts of the people but they were the leaders and should not be questioned.

Jesus, however, as He so often does, turned this concept on its side. He did not look at the education level of these leaders, their dress, their resumes or their references from others like them. He saw into their hearts and He saw the truth about the details in their lives!

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith...
24 Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.
26 … first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.

27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.
28 … you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Matthew 23:23-28

The church is notorious for being afraid to look at the truth in the details. We are greatly discouraged from being critical thinkers and are encouraged instead to "go with the flow" and keep the "status quo."

Wisdom is needed here! We are not to be troublemakers, always questioning our leaders on ever minor point. At the same time, we must learn to discern between that which is minor from that which is major but glossed over!

Love is cited as the motive behind sweeping details under the rug! Again wisdom and discernment come into play. We must know when we do not need to broadcast someone's faults and shortcomings and when they must be addressed!

Many have been hurt by overzealous legalism in the church. Legalists feel the need to call a meeting about every violation of written, or unwritten code in the church. This error in this thinking is often stated in the current church. Because this hurt has been observed or experienced, we are told we must stop this kind of overzealous legalism at all costs.

However, as so often happens in the church, we allow the pendulum too swing too far in the other direction! As many as are hurt by a judgmental spirit, an equal number has been victimized by allowing offenses to be overlooked!

Mercy is a wonderful blessing and giving those who have sinned another chance is godly. Yet at some point, if an offender is given unlimited mercy, we allow them to continue to victimize the innocent or to create new victims!

What if we give unlimited mercy to the bully? We are allowing him to continue hurting his victims! 
What is we extend a criminal unlimited mercy? He will continue to steal, assault or murder his victims!
What if the church treasurer steals from the church - should we allow him to continue in his position?

There are times when we can show mercy but still act to remove that person from his position! A person can be removed from a position but not cast out from fellowship. There are other times when we have no choice than to cast out the person!

We must avoid allowing the pendulum to swing to far in the other direction!

Joseph McCarthy was a US senator. In the 1950's, he went on a rampage against communism. He made over-the-top claims that "communist subversives" were rampant in the US. He accused many of being communist because of even the smallest connections. If your cousin's friend's maid attended a communist meeting, you also were probably a communist!

This is obviously not the kind of critical, detail-oriented thinking I have in mind!

But just because there are extremes does not mean that we should go to the opposite extreme and sweep  everything under the rug.

We must develop wisdom and discernment to know when we should overlook and when we should bring the truth out in the open.

We should always act in love but should not be overly influenced by those who imply that any kind of critical thinking or careful examination is pharisaical!

When the time comes to confront sin and wrong, we should not be "guilted" into thinking that we are sinning by doing so. We should not be quick to act against another or to lock them out of our lives, but we should be willing to do so when necessary!

Great men from Martin Luther to Martin Luther King, Jr. have acted in opposition to the "status quo!"

They were criticized and ostracized for doing so but their decisions to think an act critically have resulted in freedom for many!

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