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Friday, July 22, 2016

Jesus Speaks about Dealing with Other People's Faults

Jesus Speaks about Dealing with Other People’s Faults

Every time we Christians pray the Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to forgive our sins in the same way that we forgive those who sin against us.   Part of the Lord’s Prayer reads: “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us,” (Matthew 6:12).  Jesus taught this prayer to the disciples when they asked Him how to pray.  And then right after teaching this prayer Jesus added: “If you forgive people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive people their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  (Matthew 6:14)  

These are tough words from Jesus.  God, in forgiving us, has a peculiar respect to our forgiving those who have injured us.  Our selfish nature hates to comply with this.  We love to stay angry at people who have slighted us and we are good at playing the part of the victim. Over and over in Scripture we are commanded to forgive, so we must bind ourselves to it. We have a promise here.  “If you forgive, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”    Christ came into the world as the great Peace-Maker, not only to reconcile us to God but to one another. 

Then Jesus also tells us not to judge others.  This is what He said: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck of dust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye.  Now can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye.  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  (Matthew 7:1-5) 

Jesus is telling us here not to sit in the judgment seat or despise our brother and put him down.  (Romans 14:10) We must not judge unkindly or with a spirit of revenge or a desire to harm the person being judged.  We are to leave all of this to God.  There will be a judgment day.  It is God’s prerogative to try the heart.

After Jesus gave this lesson about not judging others He finished with these words: “Do not give dogs your sacred treasure and do not throw your pearls before swine.  If you do they may trample them under foot and then turn on you and tear you to pieces.”  (Matthew 7:6)  Bible scholars believe that the ”sacred  treasure” or the “pearls” Jesus was talking about in Matthew 7:6 is the gospel.  And the “dogs” and “swine” are people who are too brutish to care about the gospel. And we would have to judge that a person was a “dog” or “swine” in order to heed Christ’s warning. Scripture warns us not to judge others but then calls us to test everything.  Doesn’t that sound like a balancing act? We are to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”  (Matthew 10:16) Perhaps Jesus is calling for his followers to put up some boundaries and protect themselves from harm by not preaching to those who make fun of the gospel.  Jesus also says: “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet.” (Matthew 10:14) Perhaps the words” shake the dust off your feet” may mean to write it off and move on.  And to not allow toxic people to tear you down.    

As children of God we are commanded to love one another.  That is one of the ways that Scripture tells us that we can know that we are Christians.  Scripture says: “By this everyone will know you are my disciples if you love one another.”  (John 13:35)   Constant criticism often destroys love- the love that our heavenly Father desires his children to have for one another. Sadly, groups who profess to know God while constantly criticizing others have done a lot to scare people away from Christ.  There will always be reasons to criticize, but Jesus calls us to turn the other cheek.  (Matthew 5:39) He loved us and forgave all our faults so He calls us to love others and forgive their faults.

 Once, years ago, we were almost destroyed in a Christian group that was very critical.  So today we belong to a church that is very loving.  It makes all the difference. Over and over in Scripture God calls us to love one another and bear one another’s burdens.  (Ephesians 4:2)  To work for the common good and not just for ourselves.  We must not overlook this all important call to love others when we follow Christ. 

Christ calls us never to make fun or bully another person and never to call another person names.  Here are His words: “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother without a good cause will be subject to judgment.  Again, anyone who says to his brother, “Raca” must answer to the Sanhedrin (religious leaders).  And anyone who says, “you fool” will be in danger of the fire of hell.”  (Matthew 5:22)   Scripture says: “Blessed is the person who does not sit in the seat of the mocker,” (Psalm 1:3) Malicious slander is a poison under the tongue that can tear down the other person.  But Christ is calling us, His followers, to build up the other person.  We are to carefully preserve Christian love and peace with our brothers and sisters.  

One day while Jesus was out teaching and healing the people, His disciples turned to Him and  asked a question. “Who is the greatest person in the kingdom of heaven?” To answer the disciples question Jesus called a little child over to Himself and said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoever welcomes a little child in My Name welcomes Me.”  (Matthew 18:3-5) 

The disciples had been jockeying among themselves for who might have the higher position in heaven.  Competing against each other as to who might be the most impressive or the smartest or the best.  We humans so soon learn to shove others aside in the struggle to get to the “top”.  But Jesus holds up this simple child to show us the danger of pride and ambition.  Wasn’t it pride that threw the sinning angels out of heaven!  Instead Christ is teaching his followers to be humble.  He shows the honor and advancement that attend humility. And He teaches that we are to become as humble as a little child if we are to enter the kingdom of heaven.

When we are humble like a little child we can simply follow our Father’s call and love imperfect people.  A little child just follows what her parents tells her to do.  When pride doesn’t get in the way we can forgive people easier when they hurt or insult us or our loved ones.  Jesus set his reputation aside and endured the shame of the cross for our sakes and when we are humble like a little child we can set aside our reputation and love and forgive those who hurt us, as Christ has asked us to do.

One of the Pharisees asked Jesus which commandment in God’s Word was the greatest.  And Jesus answered: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  (Matthew 22:37) 

Observe the weight and greatness of these two commands.  Jesus is saying here that everything hangs upon the law of love.  Take away love and everything falls to the ground and comes to nothing.  Love is the root and spring of all other duties. Jesus calls us to a greater and even greater love – greater than I am capable of having without His help. Let us pray that God will give us the power to love Him with our whole heart and mind and soul and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  If we want to be what He wants us to be, He will answer our prayer give it to us.   



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