Friday, July 13, 2012

Matthew 5-13

All passages from the NKJV.

Matthew 7:1-2
Judge not, that you not be judged. For with what judgement you judge, you will be judged; and with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you.

This week, Rachel Held Evans posted on this exact topic. It's all been said there already, but for those who, for whatever reason, can't or won't open a link in a new tab, i'll sum it up for you: give people the benefit of the doubt. Assume good things about the motives and hearts of others.

Matthew 7:7-8
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.

I'm going to refer to Rachel again, and to her brilliant book Evolving in Monkey Town, where she talks about the evolution of her faith. A little background: Rachel grew up in Dayton, TN, the town that hosted the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial. Things haven't changed much since then. Rachel was raised to believe that evolution was of the Devil, and was given handfuls of pat answers to those who would suggest otherwise. Then she discovered that there was a huge, compelling, empirical body of evidence to prove evolution, and that there were many people of all religions who embraced both science and faith. She also discovered that most people in the world didn't care that much about evolution. They were way more concerned with things like AIDS, and poverty, and bigotry, and rape, and hunger, and not having access to schools or water or clothing. When Rachel's heart broke for the 'least of these' that she saw, she began to ask how God could allow something like this to happen, which is a question that we nearly all ask at one time or another. But when she asked this question at home, she was told that God's ways are greater than our ways, and that we should have faith like a child.

Rachel, rightly, called bullshit on this. Have you ever spent any time with a child? What do they CONSTANTLY do? They ask questions.

Faith like a child doesn't mean that you're not smart enough or knowledgeable enough to care about facts and truth and explanations. It means that you ask questions out of a thirst to know and understand, and out of a desire to have your Father talk to you. Answers only lead to more questions, but an honest and open dialogue leads to a relationship.

Ask. Seek. Knock. This is what leads to loving Christ more. You won't always like the answers, but that's how it is, kiddo. Just keep asking, seeking, and knocking. You've got a lifetime for this.

Matthew 7:16, 20
You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, not can a bad tree bear good fruit . . . Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

(emphasis mine)

I wrote last month about a similar passage. The point still stands: stop worrying so much about what is or is not "Christian" and focus on loving people and God and doing good things. You know how people are always complaining about Christians being hypocrites? That's because they're looking at the fruit they bear: hatred, fear, bigotry, anger, condemnation, divisiveness, condescension, rudeness, etc. Don't be that guy. Bear good fruits.

Matthew 9:12-13
But when Jesus heard that, He said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.' For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance."

This makes me think of the modern Church. We spend so much of our time, energy, and talents ministering to people who are already Christians. We have Bible studies catered to each stage of development, we have Sunday School classes and fun get-togethers, we have ministries and book clubs and movie nights and fundraisers, and all of it is good and important. Anything that promotes fellowship and personal spiritual growth in the Church is good and important. But what about ministering to the people who don't go to church? Sometimes we forget about that in all the kerfuffle of the bake sale to raise money for the sixth-grade girls Bible study to go to SoulFest.

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