Anger Is Weak

Do not judge, Christians are told, and we really don’t need to if we want to do justice. Doing justice is seeing something that is not right and making it right. How do we do that? Not through judgments, not through slander, not through yelling and arguing. Some people think they can do the hell fire and brimstone thing, telling people that they’re going to hell. Some people even decide to start protests.

I don’t think that’s how we should go about doing justice. I think we need to do it the right way, the way God does it. We need to make things right through love. We need to make things right through truth. I think that is what Jesus is trying to say. Not only do you need to share the Gospel with people, but you need to share truth with people in every way, with love. I think that is absolutely what Jesus stood for. I think that’s why He came into play.

I don’t think you’re going to bring anybody to understanding who Jesus is through a heated debate. I know, because I used to get pretty heated on certain topics and certain issues. There were times that someone would come at me and I would get really frustrated and angry. Then we would get into a heated debate. I’ve come to understand that getting heated is a reaction of my zeal.

reason-for-God-Tim-KellerThere are people out there that do it the right way. Timothy Keller is one of the best I’ve ever seen at it.  I’ve seen some of the most intelligent people in this country try to challenge him on his faith. You don’t see him react in frustration. He doesn’t get angry. He simply shares the truth in love, and he does a really good job.  People like hearing him debate because he does it in the right way, plus he’s very smart and he’s very intelligent. He tries to bring justice, but he does it righteously. I think that is the key to why people like Timothy Keller and others like him, whether they believe in Jesus or not. They like him because he’s willing to explain his beliefs without getting angry.

Angry people are weak. I know that when I’ve reacted in anger, it’s because I’m at a weak point. The anger could be over a challenge to my beliefs, or it could be about a small thing from my daily life. Whether I’m angry with a stranger who is challenging me on my faith, or with my wife or my kids, I’m at a weak point. I’m not mentally strong enough to handle things in a calm manner. It’s not right. You have to remember the fruits of the Spirit, and one of those is self-control. Self-controlled people are strong people. They’re strong in their minds.

Jesus shows us everything we need to know about this. I’ll tell you about it next time. See you Thursday.

 

Saving Zacchaeus

Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.”

Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.”

And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19:1-10

Last time I blogged about how God deals with injustice by making things right. God does justice, and He shows us how to do it too. Jesus gave us so many good examples of how to do justice in the world. I don’t think that going out on demonstrations or protesting was one of them.

zacchaeusI’m not really big on protesting. I do things to fight human trafficking, but I don’t stand around shaking signs or shouting. I don’t think protesting is always the best idea. In fact, protesting is rarely the right way to go. Protests can bring a lot of anger to a situation, and all too often, hate comes along with the anger. Plus protests can escalate into rioting, and even into war. I don’t think Jesus protested. I think He just stood for what was right, and that’s an awesome example for all of us.

But standing for what is right is not the only thing Jesus did about injustice. Jesus was all about love, and making things right by loving people into the truth. That’s the example I want to follow, man, because that is powerful stuff. Love is so much more powerful than anger.

When Jesus saw Zacchaeus in that tree, He decided to take him in. He said, “Hey man, I want to come to your house for dinner.” A lot of people protested that, saying, “Jesus, what are you doing? He’s a tax collector, a sinner, he’s the worst person on the planet, and you’re eating with him?” But Jesus did it anyway. He said, “Yes, but I’m doing justice here. I live a righteous life and I see a man that is not living in truth. So I’m going to go sit with him, and I’m going to love on him.” And by the time the conversation was over, Zacchaeus gave the people’s money back, with interest! So after sitting with Jesus, Zacchaeus made things right.

Jesus sought him out, and Jesus loved him into the truth. This is how Jesus created justice, and He did it everywhere. It’s an awesome lesson for us. Think of all the things we can make right through love.

See you Monday.

Justice is Served

Christians can get judgmental. I know that’s a mistake I’ve made. We’re flawed in that area because we have flesh, and sometimes we live in our flesh. We think we can create justice by confronting someone and making sure they know they’re wrong. But in reality, this kind of behavior doesn’t make things right. I introduced this last time. We think we’re doing justice by making judgment calls, but we’re not. I think we do better when we think of justice as making things right.

Righteousness and justice are at the right and left of God’s throne. This means that God does justice, and He does it righteously. So when He makes things right, He does it the right way. He makes things right by doing right.

Christians, in our good intentions to make things right, can really get it wrong. Instead of loving our neighbors and praying for our enemies, we tell our neighbors and our enemies why they’re wrong. We even warn them that if they don’t accept it, they’re going to be miserable and rot in hell.

I don’t agree with that approach. That is not how Jesus went about doing justice. Jesus walked the earth, and wherever He went, He saw injustice. He said, “I have not come to break the law. I’ve come to fulfill the law.” So Jesus saw holes in the pharisaical law. He saw a lot of holes in the ways that people were using the law. And what did He do when He saw injustice? He went and made it right. When people were hungry, He fed them, and when they were sick, He healed them. When they were lost, He found them, and when they were grieving, He consoled them.

it is finished

And eventually He died, to make things right between God and humanity. When Jesus hung on that cross, he said, “It is finished.” In place of the guilty, He served the sentence, and then like a judge, He banged the gavel and said, “Justice is served.” He said, “It’s over.”

We were separated from God because of sin, and through His sacrifice, Jesus made it right. So justice was served. His last words were, “It is finished.” He meant, “This is it, I’ve done it. I’ve made things right. I’ve created justice in the world.”

Now that does not mean that there is no injustice. Injustice still takes place, and it’s because of our sin. But there was One that came down and gave us a way to follow Him so that we would know how to create justice ourselves. More on that next time.

See you Thursday.

Making Things Right

Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. Luke 6:37

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8

Here’s a confusing thing about Christianity: you’re not supposed to judge, but you’re supposed to do justice. For some people, that might seem contradictory. It can definitely be confusing.

One way to think about justice is to think about a courtroom. In a courtroom, justice is served by a judge, and the judge’s role is to judge someone on the basis of the evidence put before him. In that situation, justice is founded on judgment. They’re almost the same thing.

But the courtroom scenario is only one way to think about justice. Outside a courtroom, judgment might not lead to justice. When I judge someone, I don’t make things right. I don’t make a situation right, and I definitely do not make a person right, not by judging them. For example, I might see someone in a bar having a beer, and make a judgment call that he’s a drunk. I’ve just told him who he is. But what if he’s not a drunk? What if the guy is just having one beer? Judgment calls can get it wrong. I might make a judgment call based on how someone is dressed. I’ll say, “Based on the way you dress, this is who you are.” But I could be wrong. That may not be who they are. So I think we have to be careful about judgment calls. We may not know the facts, and we may not be qualified to make the call.

Micah Six Eight

In fact, the Bible tells us not to judge. But that’s where it gets confusing, because the Bible also tells us to do justice. If we’re not supposed to judge, then how are we supposed to do justice?

There’s another way to think about justice, one that works independently of judgment. Justice is when something is made right. Justice is looking at something that is wrong, and saying, “That’s wrong. I need to make it right.” That’s representing Jesus.

The Bible says that justice and righteousness surround the throne of God. Righteousness is living right. God lives right. God is full of truth. God is full of righteousness.

And He’s also full of justice. He’s full of righteousness, so when He sees something wrong, He wants to go and make it right. He wants to do justice.

I see us doing justice when we fight human trafficking. Human trafficking is wrong. It’s wrong by moral standards. We stand up to human trafficking as believers and we promise to stand in the gap. We’re supposed to be like Christ, so when we see something as unjust as human trafficking, then we need to make it right.

Jesus did justice on the cross. He made things right. That’s what I’ll talk about next time. See you Monday.

Better Than a Pharisee

I posted recently about pastors and sin, because I think churches need to recognize that men are made of flesh and so they sin. It’s also true that women sin. Women are just as capable of having affairs, or getting divorced. They are made of flesh too.

People in the congregations act surprised or even scandalized when a woman cheats or gets divorced. “Oh my gosh! She got a divorce?”  Well, how is that a surprise?  53% of Christians get divorced. It happens! Women can make mistakes too. They forget to protect their marriages.

It’s not for us to judge them. It’s not our place to be shocked or to condemn them. Let’s just love on them. Why don’t we help them through it? When we do that, it’s grace, and grace is what we should be about. But people seem to think that she has to be held accountable. Held accountable for what?

When you condemn a woman who hasn’t succeeded in protecting her marriage, you’ve judged her. I’m waiting for Jesus to come and write in the sand, because you’re acting like a Pharisee.  Jesus will say, “I’m going to write in the sand. I’ll write everything that you do wrong, and then you can tell me why you think you’re better than her.” What would you do then? Don’t you think you’d just walk off?

JesusWritingInTheSand

Obviously I’m passionate about this.  It does make me angry.  But I’ve done it! I’ve sat there before, and read scripture, and then didn’t apply it. We all do it. We pick out a few verses and we live by them, discarding a lot of the rest of scripture along the way. But all that stuff about the Pharisees is in the Bible because most of us are them!  I know we don’t want to think that way. I don’t want to think that way! But we’re all vulnerable to legalistic thinking.

The answer is grace.  When we understand the identity of who Jesus is, holy and righteous, living in grace and love, we move away from pharisaical temptation. The temptation ends because grace gets us away from legalism.  Most of the Christians that are pharisaical are legalistic, law-abiding, Christian citizens.  But they are not grace-filled, free Christians. That’s why so many people don’t like them.

The free Christians, filled with grace, are the people that sinners want to be around. Sinners want to be around the Christians that share in the identity of Jesus. Think about it. Who hung around Jesus? Sinners!  Why?  Because He treated them like human beings!

Christians are popular when they are easy to be around.  People tell me, “Maybe we don’t agree.  But I don’t feel like you’re always condemning me.” When that happens, I say, “That’s Jesus.”

And then I tell them, “Hopefully, one day you’ll see that this love I have for you is the same love that Jesus has for you, and you’ll want to be a part of that. It is so liberating! You don’t have to lie in bed at night wondering who you are. You won’t be scared because you don’t know who you are, or afraid that you’re not going to add up. Instead you’ll find out how much Jesus loves you.”

He loves you so much that He’s given you freedom. In His eyes, you already add up. Your imperfections are why he died and He loves you. So you’re free to love like He does.

More on this next time. See you Thursday.

The Appearance of Evil

Doing anything to excess is bad for you. If you eat too much it’s bad for you, because you’re going to get fat. Obviously gluttony could be a sin. But we don’t say eating is a sin. We don’t say, “Hey, you can’t eat.” So why do churches say you can’t drink?

There’s seems a common rule among some churches that if you’re on the church staff, drinking alcohol is not allowed. I don’t personally agree with that. You’re saying that if I’m a pastor, or a youth pastor, or somehow on staff, then I’m not allowed to sit at the dinner table and have a glass of wine with my wife. Why not? Why do you think anyone should be reprimanded for that? Because of what it represents?

I’m not misrepresenting the church. Are you saying Jesus misrepresented God when He drank wine? No!

People talk a lot about avoiding the appearance of evil. But why is it evil to have a glass of wine at dinner with my wife? There’s no “appearance of evil” in that. The “appearance of evil” is if I’m drinking wine and standing on the table acting like a hoodlum. There it is. There’s your sin.

Simply enjoying a glass of wine with my wife is not the same as drinking to excess and losing control.  It’s not an appearance of evil. That’s just your judgment.  And it’s not appropriate to judge me or my wife, because we’re doing nothing wrong.

This is just my personal opinion, but I think that when the churches make this rule against drinking, they don’t do it out of fear of God. They do it out of fear of man, and that’s not a good place to live.

I feel like the churches are too afraid of their reputations. They’re afraid people are going to think bad things about them. They’re afraid if someone on staff has a glass of wine, people will think that staff person is a bad person. They’re afraid people will judge the whole church! But that doesn’t make sense to me.  Why should anybody think you’re not good just because you had a glass of wine?  You’re not doing anything wrong.

The answer is usually, “Well, the nonbeliever will think that you’re sinning.” Now that really doesn’t make sense to me. Why would a nonbeliever judge me over something they don’t even believe in? Suppose a nonbeliever sees me having a beer and asks, “Aren’t you sinning?” I would ask, “Well, do you think it’s a sin to drink?” And when they answer “No,” I would say, “Then why do you think I’m sinning?”

There’s no reason for a nonbeliever to think that! It’s just a judgment. If you’re doing nothing wrong, if you’re not living in sin at the time of your alcoholic beverage, then you’re not giving any kind of appearance of evil.

The standard is Jesus. Jesus, who I think drank wine, is the highest standard there is. The King of Kings, God in human flesh! His appearance is the appearance we should reflect.

See you Monday.