“You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!” (Matthew 23:24)
We’ve been looking at harmful attitudes that are becoming quite prevalent in today’s churches. We looked at the consumer mentality, and judging others. Today…
Three) Major rejection… over minor issues.
I am often amazed at what causes squabbles (and down right knock-down-drag-outs) among people who supposedly love Jesus and say they follow His teachings.
I have heard some amazing (and heart-rending) stories about such things…
Like churches who split because they “went to war” over the color of carpet to adorn the church foyer – or the “right” kind of worship music (hymns or choruses) – or the “godly virtue” of pews over chairs.
Or like the church whose members had such a massive disagreement that one group of members took a chainsaw to the church (splitting it in two!) – leaving the incredibly outlandish “our side – your side” scenario.
This would all be actually humorous, except… it involves real people doing real things (who supposedly represent Christ). And we wonder sometimes why the world looks at Christians and thinks: “wackos.”
The “funniest” thing of all is that nearly all of these major conflicts are about the tiniest of issues. Things that, in light of eternity, don’t matter one bit.
This all points to the fact that it is possible to get our hearts involved in the silliest of things – and lose sight of what really matters.
That was Jesus’ point in addressing the religious leaders of His day (Matthew 23!).
They majored on all the tiny details of the Law – but completely missed the spirit behind the Law. They were sticklers for all the “right” ways to worship God – but had no heart for worship. Jesus had the perfect description: they strained out gnats and swallowed camels (What a picture!).
It was the spirit of the Law that Jesus came to fulfill (Matthew 5:17)… and to give that spirit a permanent place within the hearts and minds of His people (Hebrews 10:16). The Bible sums it up for us… “God is love” (1John 4:8) and “love is the fulfillment of the Law.” (Rom. 13:10)
Here’s the important thing… the religious leaders actually believed they were honoring God by how they lived – and that they were right to judge and criticize those who failed to live up to “God’s” holy standards. When Jesus came, the One Who gave them the Law confronted them and confounded them.
When it comes to church people today… our approach is more often like the religious leaders, than Jesus. We latch onto our “pet” theologies or dogmatic doctrines – and judge all other believers by what we hold onto so tightly. We THINK we are honoring God by upholding His truth (as we understand it) and by criticizing and rejecting those who do not have our same view. “We are so right – so that makes all others so wrong…” is the justification we often use to make us feel like we are doing what is right in God’s eyes.
As the woman caught in adultery can attest… true righteousness is not found in doling out condemnation – but in extending grace… even to the undeserving.
How did we get so consumed with being right that we have missed being righteous? How have we become so adamant about “honoring” Jesus that we have missed being like Jesus in how He openly loved and accepted people?
Sure, not every Christian’s theology may be exactly “right,” but if they claim Jesus as Lord… they are members of God’s family – just as we are!
The Biblical principle is pretty straightforward: “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” (Romans 15:7; this in light of discussion about points of disagreement; Romans 14!))
God’s people are called to love. JUST AS God has loved and accepted them.
Anything less than God’s kind of love, coming from our hearts, toward all people, and all members of God’s family… leaves us straining gnats and swallowing camels.