Monday, January 30, 2012

You're Kidding...Right, Jesus?

Have you ever thought that when reading the Bible?  I totally have!  There are some things that Jesus commands that seem outrageous.  Turn the other cheek??  I can't do that...I'll get crucified!
Look at what Jesus says in Matthew 5:48.  "Be ye therefore perfect, as your Father also is perfect."  You're kidding...right?  You want me to be perfect?  Whatever happened to the Jesus I heard preached about who 'accepts you just as you are'?  Or think about what God commands in Leviticus, then Peter quotes in his first letter: "But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation.  As it is written, be ye holy for I am holy."  ALL manner of conversation?  We're supposed to be holy in every area of our God is holy?  Don't you think you're setting the standard a little high, Peter?
Let's face it.  Sometimes the things the Bible says seem a little hard to grasp. We recognize that the principles should be true for other people...just not for us.  "You know the Bible says you should be patient and...okay, you should know that I get really impatient when people don't listen to me."
God's been convicting this of me with how I treat my sister.  Of course, I realize what the Bible says about kindness...but I think a certain level of rudeness is justified when I'm obviously right, and she's obviously wrong.  You know what I mean?
For example, if she says something rude, I should let her know how wrong it is, by saying something really cutting.
I tend to set the standard higher for my sister, than I do for anyone else.  After all, she lives in the same house as me, and how will it look if my sister isn't lining up?  I teach Bible studies, after all!  So while I may not even notice something about somebody else, I'll pounce on it when I see it in my sister.  "Elise, are you stupid?  Can't you see that skirt is immodest?"  "Elise, only an idiot would talk that way to a mom who sacrificed so much for them."  I mean, come on, I understand kindness, but kindness has its limits...right?
But God has been showing me something.  I'm treating my sister one way...when I want God to treat me another.  I'll go for a while without praying, then I'll pray for mercy.  I'll let my thoughts wander to places they shouldn't, and then pray for mercy.  I'll get irritated with my mom, dishonor God by the way I respond to Him, etc., but I expect God to look past my faults.  On the other hand, I see areas where my sister isn't right, and I'll jump right on it.  After all, mercy has it's limits when dealing with my family.  Then I read convicting verses like these:
(Mat 5:7) Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
(Luk 6:36)Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
(Philippians 2:1-4) So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (ESV)
(1Peter 2:1-3) Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. (KJV)
You're not serious, right God?  This is intense stuff.  He's actually saying that the basis for how we treat others should be how He treats us.  If there's any consolation in Christ... If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious... Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus...  Not only that, but just like forgiveness, He says we'll obtain mercy when we show it. (Matthew 18) Just like the parable of the unforgiving servant.  God has shown us so much mercy...but we're so reluctant to show it to others.  (Notice I'm saying 'we', not 'I' now?  I was feeling lonely... haha)  We tend to think if we're RIGHT, we are justified in treating people harshly.  We don't have to show mercy or grace if we are right and the other person is wrong!  But the Bible presents a very different picture.
If we started treating others the way we want God to treat us...the way He does treat different would our reactions be?  Recently my pastor preached about God's mercy.  In the message, he mentioned that the Bible tells us something very significant about God's character.  He delights in mercy, and judgement is His strange work. (Micah 7:18; Isaiah 28:21)  That means God's first response is mercy, and even though He'll resort to judgment, it's His strange work.  In fact, like Mark Hamby, the president of Lamplighter, points out, the ratio of God's mercy to His judgment is thousands to four. (Exodus 34:6-7)
Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying that God just blows things off, or brushes sin under the rug.  He by no means clears the guilty.  But He delights in mercy.  And I'm clearly not saying I like it, because this concept completely goes against my selfish nature.  It opens me up for pain and hurt!  But it's what God has been showing me.
Now know that if you start testing how well I'm practing mercy...well, you may get popped, because I'm still working on it.  But I believe the more God reveals His nature to me, the more I'll be transformed into His image.  And I believe the same about you.  God bless!