Wednesday, October 12, 2011

B22. The Flaw in Biblical Correction

How many times have you heard someone tell a depressed person, "Cheer up!"?  Does the depressed person immediately become happy then?  Of course not!  It usually brings him down even more!  Why?  Because "Cheer up" is something we need to tell ourselves when we are down, not others.  When others are down, my response should not be to tell them what to do, but rather to ask myself what I can do to bring them a smile.  They already know they need to cheer up, and if they knew how, they would have already done so!  If I really care, I can spend some time with them so they won't be lonely, or I can take the time to listen to all they are going through.  But telling them to "cheer up" is better left unsaid!

I read an interesting article recently about Pharisees, in which the author pointed out the following observations:

Pharisees knew their Bibles.
Pharisees were disciplined in prayer.
Pharisees fasted twice a week.
Pharisees gave about a third of their income to their church.
Pharisees were moral.
Many Pharisees were martyred for their faith.
Pharisees attended church regularly.
Pharisees were evangelical/orthodox.
Pharisees were evangelistic.  (Jesus said they would even cross the ocean to win a convert!)

So why do the Pharisees get such a bad rap?  I suggest 2 reasons:  1)  They were legalistic, holding the words of the law as their highest authority;  2)  They used the Scripture to keep everyone else in line.

Look back at the characteristics of the Pharisees.  Were the Pharisees really very different from 2011 church people?  It should scare us if they were not, because Jesus was harder on them than on any sinner we have record of him encountering!

When I see someone whose life I perceive as sinful, what should be my reaction?  I believe God does not call me first and foremost to admonish the person with Scripture.  I surmise, rather, that the Scripture is intended to guide me in how to respond to him/her.  Just as it is counterproductive to tell a depressed person to cheer up, it is equally counterproductive to merely tell a sinful person (that, by the way, is a description of us all, if we believe mainstream Christian teachings) to stop sinning.  If s/he saw the need and knew how to stop, s/he would have already done so.

What were the Pharisees lacking?  Love.  A word so overused and misused that it has almost become meaningless, perhaps especially in the Church.  Yet it is the key to the entire Gospel.  God is love (1 John 4:8).  1 Cor. 13 tells us clearly that we can do all these things perfectly, and yet, if they are not done in love, they are nothingDo I love the other person enough to apply the Scripture to my own proper reaction to him/her, rather than sounding it as a gong to her, or as a clanging cymbal?  Do I love him enough to lay down my prejudices (prejudice is not just about
racism!) and befriend him as an equal, allowing myself to get to know him on a deeper level than that of my judgment?  To spend time with her?  To take him to a ballgame or go jogging with her?

Why does Biblical correction not work?  Because we are applying it to the wrong person!  If applied to my own life, it is transformational, for me and for all those around me! The flaw of Biblical correction, is not in its substance, but that we are using it to judge others rather than allowing it to guide and shape our own life and reactions, as God and the Biblical teachers intended.

4:8 He who does not love does not know God; for God is love.

7:3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

6:4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.

O perfect Maker of heaven and earth, if we are living as Pharisees, please hear our plea for forgiveness.  Transform us, and teach us to apply Your Word as You meant us to apply it.  Not my brother, not my sister, but it's me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer!  Amen

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