April 21, 2011

Show Not Tell

 "Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly." Matthew 1:19

In Joseph, the earthly surrogate father of Jesus we see an interesting balance that we will also see in Jesus. Joseph by law could've embarrassed Mary horribly and her family by making this episode public. Also, by law, he could've had her put to death because of the shame her pregnancy would've had on him. He chose to do neither because...

"...after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit." Matthew 1:20

We see in Jesus' earthly masculine role model a balance of righteousness and love. This is the man God chose to raise Jesus. A carpenter and a carpenters son. A man full of grace and truth. We need to understand that it needs to be a balance too. Too much grace and we cripple a person, too much truth and we can kill them. A man that, by law could've had Mary put away but by mercy and grace not only accepted what was told to him (that it was conception by the Holy Spirit) but was also willing to marry her but also face the lifelong ridicule of flapping gums in Nazareth. Gums that surrounded tongues that spewed salacious rumors and biting comments about his wife, his son and himself. A man that put is own needs and wants in submission to his wife and his son. Mary too would put many of her needs into submission also. It is a quiet submissive leadership that serves to nurture Jesus. We must remember that Jesus

"...grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man." Luke 2:52

We know that the example of humility and servant leadership that He gained and learned in His youth primarily came from Joseph. Joseph adopted Jesus as his own. Jesus would take on the sinners as His own. Through His work on the cross the Gentiles would be adopted into the family also.

In Jesus we see a man that would be willing to suffer humiliation and suffering for the well-being of another. Another (one) that wasn't necessarily his (at least not yet ;) at the time as they had not even been born yet. Yet Jesus would suffer even death on a cross for those unborn sinners yet to be born and sin.

The example of mercy over law shown by Joseph in the birth narrative will again surface in other places in Jesus' life. The one that comes to my mind is Jesus being Lord of the Sabbath.

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” Mark 2:23-28

What we see happen here is quite simple. The Pharisees had created so many legalistic rules that fenced in and surrounded the Law. The true purpose of the Law had been subverted. What did Jesus say all the laws and prophets hung on?

"Jesus replied: “‘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." Matthew 22:37-39

The purpose of the Law was to bring the people back to God and the first sign of this would've been a love for others of God (or your neighbor). If you love someone you are more concerned for their well-being and comfort if they are within the acceptable practices outlined by God. You will not care if they are bending some unknown legalism outlined by the culture. The Pharisees and their stupid rules? Their legalism alienated man from both their fellow man and God. If a man is loving God and his fellow man  he probably wouldn't be sinning to begin with which then wouldn't require atonement. No sin no need for forgiveness. Hosea outlined this thought quite nicely...

"For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." Hosea 6:6

Jesus comes not to judge but to save. He came to dwell among the sinners and save them. To dwell among the sick and heal them. To dwell among the poor and help them.

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him,  and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his teaching the islands will put their hope.” Isaiah 42:1-4

The Pharisees in their arrogant hypocrisy made laws that separated themselves from people. Separated themselves from the sinners that they were charged with shepherding and teaching the ways of the Lord. Jesus came to build the sinner up and help them understand the errors of their way. The Pharisees came with their legalism and bludgeoned them over the head with nonsensical rules surrounding the Law that not only did not make anyone holy it made the Pharisees sons of Hell and made their converts something even worse...They made the blind even blinder (if that's possible) and made to sinners more wretched.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are." Matthew 23:15

The suffocating 613 legalistic rules of the religious leaders built a fence around the true Law never allowing the sinners to even approach the true commandments of God. The rules of these hypothetical dopes burdened the people and beat them down. The people never had a chance.

Conversely, Jesus came to build people up. He explained to people that in an emptied state and in a contrite humbleness, man is most usable by God. An empty vessel can be filled but a full one overfilled with junk needs to be emptied first or it is worthless...and Jesus did this by example.

"And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!" Philippians 2:8

The Pharisees rules were a burden over the Law but Jesus...came to remove that burden. The burden in the following verse is the Law itself (the yoke). Jesus came to fulfill it thereby removing the yoke from the backs of the people (who could not attain it) and put it on Himself. The only requirement would then be to believe in the work Christ had done in His ministry.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus made things easy for us. We can only make it harder by trying to add to Jesus. We need to accept Jesus for who He is and what he did. We do not need extra rules or additional works to add to Jesus. When we add to Jesus we toxify Jesus and pollute the Gospel. We minimize what Jesus did. We demean it. Belittle it. That is atrocious. Our intents of adding to these things Jesus did are honorable but they can only work to destroy what He has already done.

God desires the mercy folks. Compassion for the sick (from illness and sin). Not divisiveness and argumentativeness that leads to division. Perhaps if we treated everyone like a father treats his son or the Father treated the Son we would learn to better understand how to handle and deal with a person that stumbles in sin. When our children fall or stumble in sin do we berate them because they have not agreed with our exact form of non-salvational doctrine or do we coax and guide them through lessons, ideas, stories. Do we bludgeon them with stupid comments or tell them how it should be or do we show them through example. Sometimes it pays to show not tell, instead of a show n' tell of all our self-righteous arrogant verbosity.

Do we use the words "you" rather than "we" or "us"? Do we tell people what they "ought to do" rather than "how to do it"? Do we extend our hands to point a finger or to lift someone out of miry clay?

1 comment:

Duke Taber said...

Awesome article. I agree whole heartedly. As a former performance mentality Christian who finally failed himself and had to come face to face with the grace of God, I find it rare to find someone who understands that Mercy triumphs over judgement.

Keep up the good work!

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