What I Read Today;

Exodus 11-12; Psalm 23; Matthew 23; 1 Corinthians 7

Jesus goes after the most powerful religious leaders in Israel.  He pulls out condemnation that will leave a gaping hole in the two groups.  Jesus does not hold back.  The Scribes and Pharisees were arrogant, self-righteous, and did more harm than good.  As a group, these men would put law after law on the backs of ordinary people.

Both groups of men would then declare that they had kept the whole law but the others had not.  Jesus knew that the Pharisees showed no mercy to sinful people.  They were only interested in those who strictly followed the law.

Yet in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus had told them that they too were missing the mark.

Jesus taught that following the law was more than the outward appearance of following the law.  No, following the law was introspective as well.

It was understanding that following the letter of the law had to be followed by following the intent of the law.

More importantly, the law was never intended to be used to build ourselves up at the expense of someone else.  No, the law was to be used as a mirror for our souls.  A mirror that would show us our need for Jesus.  But the Pharisees and Scribes missed the intent at every step.

I went to a church once where the Pastor would gather the Board of Elders and discuss individuals who attended the Church.  He was fixated on the private lives of his Church members.  If he suspected that someone was “living in sin” he would demand the Elder responsible for that person’s family go and investigate the situation.  Every time some strand of Gossip would surround someone, rather than doing what the Bible commands and putting a match to the Gossip, he would spring into action and demand we investigate.

He wanted us to become the “Church Police.”  What was even sadder was that he encouraged an environment of Gossip.  People started acting like they were in grade school running to the teacher tattling.

There was a woman who attended a church where I ran the youth programs.  Her children stopped coming to the Youth Group I ran.  She disappeared from the church altogether. When her three kids had stopped coming to the Youth Group for some time, I went to see the woman.  I told her that I was worried about her kids and wanted to know what I could do to help.  She then told me the reason she stopped coming to church.

You see she was humiliated by a rumor that had been spread by a teenage boy who had fallen out of friendship with her two sons.  As teenage friendships go, it was all in the normal process of growing up.  Now, normally these things are ignored by most.  However, the Pastor of the church had heard the rumors and ran with them.  It all came to a head when the minister in question began to go to every church committee he could and demand this sinful behavior be investigated.

In spite of his outrage, he never took the time to speak to the women in question. The woman was humiliated.

My co-leader of the youth group and I confronted the Pastor.  He attempted to justify himself.  In the end, he was forced to issue an apology to the woman and her family from the pulpit on a Sunday morning.  But things were never the same.

I left a few months later.

I have a question for you.  Do you look down on those who are living in sin?  Do you look away at those who’ve done horrible things?  Do you compare yourself to those people?  If you do you could be in danger of becoming what Jesus condemned.

In Matthew 23 vs. 23, Jesus calls us to be people of “Justice and Mercy and Faith.”  In the above story how different would things have been if the Pastor would have just walked away from the rumors or even defended the woman instead of joining in.  Instead of activating the Church Police, what would her response have been if the Pastor or someone else would have talked to her about the rumor and warned her of what was being said by the teenage boy?  Or how about confronting the teenage boy about spreading rumors?

In his large catechism, Martin Luther writes these words about the eighth commandment, “Knowing about a sin, does not involve the right to sit in judgment on it.  I am of course able to see and hear my neighbor sinning.  But I have no business reporting it all around town.  If I poke my nose in and judge and condemn,  then I fall into a worse sin than his, let your ear become a grave and shovel the dirt in on top of it and do not resurrect it until the day you are appointed judge and thus have the duty to administer punishment by virtue of your office.  Those are to be labeled scandalmongers who are not content with that they know but rush forward to pass sentence.” Martin Luther Large Catechism.

I think he does a good job of summarizing what Jesus is saying in Matthew 23.  The church’s job is to preach the word, disciple people and love people.  Rather than running for a TV camera, our Twitter or Facebook feeds,  every time people do something we object to, we should start showing the mercy and grace that God commands us to show!

 

One thought on “January 23, 2020

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