Recently a YouTube video was posted on my homepage on Facebook that really disturbed me; someone was praising God that the atheists in Japan had been destroyed. I actually have my doubts if this was “real” but the fact is that we all sometimes have a tendency to condemn others that believe or think differently.
I am reminded of the story of the woman who was caught in the act of adultery and brought to Jesus to be stoned. She obviously wasn’t making good choices. Not only was she in need of repenting, but the law issued stoning as a punishment for adultery. When Jesus invited “he without sin” to cast the first stone, each accuser left one by one. It was then that Jesus addressed the woman. (Notice that this was done in private and without humiliation) I suppose he could have cried, “repent, you sinner” or “I damn you to hell” but he did not.
John 8:10-11 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
Instead of condemnation, Jesus showed love and compassion. This love and compassion did not mean that Christ condoned or overlooked this woman’s actions. On the contrary, he encouraged her to sin no more. I think that what Christ did was to love and accept the sinner but hate the sin itself.
But you might say, what about Jesus cleansing the temple? He didn’t seem to be showing love and compassion to the money changers. I think a lot of us use this example to justify condemning others.
John 2:13-17And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise. And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.
One of the first things that sticks out at me when I read this passage is Jesus’ control. He drives out the money changers and the animals but he does not touch or overturn any cages that could injure an animal. If he was in a rage, people or animals could have been injured. When he tells those that sell doves to take them, it seems to me that rage is not what is driving him. What seems to be driving him is his love for his father and for that which is sacred. He does not individually condemn the money changers, but he openly protects that which is sacred; the temple. Can we love others and still protect that which is sacred to us? I think we can and Jesus’ example tells me that we should. We too need to protect those things that are sacred to us; our rights and freedoms, our religion, a safe place to live, etc. We can fight for what we believe in without injuring or condemning others who believe differently. Christ condemned the practice of making his “Father’s house a house of merchandise” but he did not condemn the people themselves. Loving others is the key to change not condemnation. Then the question of Jesus’ condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees arises. Shouldn't he have loved them instead of condemning them?
Matthew 23:29, 33 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! …Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
There is no question that Jesus is openly condemning the scribes and Pharisees but again, probably not individually but collectively. I think the first question to ask is who are the scribes and Pharisees? The Pharisees were the religious leaders of the Jews and the scribes were religious teachers; many scribes were also Pharisees. They were supposed to be teaching the people but instead they were leading them astray. His condemnation of the leaders as a whole was out of love and concern for the people that they led.
Isaiah 3:12 … O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.
Matthew 23: 13 But woe unto you, scribe and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.
I see here a responsibility that leaders have to their people; to lead them in the right way. The Pharisees and scribes as the only ones with access to the scriptures had been given a charge to teach the people. Their hypocrisy in teaching the people was causing a whole nation to go astray. I am very grateful for the Holy Ghost or the “Spirit of Truth” (John 15:26) that if we follow will never lead us astray. The Lord does not expect us to follow the bible, leaders, or teachers blindly. He has given us the spirit to guide us to know between truth and error (1 John 4:6) and to guide us to all truth (John 16:13). Instead of judging each other in regards to beliefs and condemning others "to hell”, can’t we assume that we are each doing our best to follow the spirit in our lives? We don’t know each others hearts or the purpose of God in each others lives. If we truly desire to help change another for good, it will only come through love and acceptance not condemnation. What kind of change would the woman found in adultery have wanted to make if Jesus has openly condemned her to hell? I think it would have turned her from Christ, not towards him. Christ is the example of how we should treat each other with compassion and acceptance. He used wholesome words that uplift, not words that tear down.
1 Timothy 6:3 If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; 4 He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, 5 Perverse disputing of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.
2 Timothy 2:2-25 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, 25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves.
We are proud when we get into “strifes of words” with each other about our differences in beliefs or persuasions. The Lord tells us not to strive with each other but to be gentle, patient, and meek with those that oppose us or our beliefs. Disputing with men even if they are corrupt is still perverse in the eyes of God. I think this is because disputing is not of God and we cannot have his spirit with us when we do this. Railing against others beliefs are not of the Lord either; it shows a sense of pride. The belief that I am right and you are wrong is pride. When we argue about religious beliefs or political persuasions, it is pride. When we judge others because of their actions, it is pride. When we condemn, it is pride.
James 4:6-7 …Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
We need to resist the devil who wants us to be proud. He wants us to find fault with each other. When we engage in disputations with one another or find fault with one another, we are no longer serving God. Instead of focusing on a common belief in Christ, Satan wants Christians to be divided and find fault with one another. What power we could have if we could set aside doctrinal differences and be united as common believers in Christ! I have great respect for people of all religions. I honor Mother Theresa, a catholic nun, who literally gave up her whole life in the service of God and of others. I see my good friend who is a non-denominational Christian and I admire her prayerfulness. I have another friend who studied and became a Jehovah’s Witness; I respect her diligence in study. I revere men such as Wycliffe, Luther, Calvin, and Tyndale who sacrificed much to bring forth freedom of religion. I esteem our founding fathers as men of God. I also have great respect for you who are reading my blog of whatever religion you may be. May this blog increase your determination (and mine) to be a better Christian!