#49 – What the Gospels Teach – Judging Others #1 – Matthew 7:1-2

"Do not judge so that you will not be judged. "For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:1-2 NASB)

This may be the most misunderstood passage in all of scripture. Your typical unbeliever will whip this one out anytime it appears that a Christian is in disagreement with their lifestyle or values. The liberal will often use this passage as a means to overlook sin for the sake of unity, and will classify any discipline based on sin, or any standard set against sinfulness to be in violation of Matthew 7:1-2. At the same time many fundamentalists will skip ahead to the end of this chapter and read 'you will know them by their fruit' and use that to completely write this verse off. This verse is used wrongly to paralyze biblical discernment by one group, and at the same time it is rendered meaningless by another. Both groups are wrong.

When teaching this verse to youth I always fast forward to the book of Revelation, specifically Revelation 20:12. In this passage you see into the future, and there before John is all the dead lined up before a throne, ALL the dead includes you, and it includes me. Then books are opened then the dead are judged by what is written in those books according to their deeds. Who are they judged by... the One who sits on the throne, the one from whom heaven and earth flee His presence. Now, in light of the fact that you too will stand before the throne of the most high God and be judged according to your deeds, by what standard do you want to be judged? "For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you." This is very important to realize, be ready to answer to God by the very standard you apply to others. I always tell people, if you call a man a fool because He doesn't speak well, like say President Bush, you better be ready to stand before the Judgment Seat and be judged based on your speaking ability. Or if you say President Obama is a fool because He knows nothing about healthcare, be ready to stand judgment based on your knowledge of healthcare. Now be careful not to get too carried away here. You can believe that we should have someone who speaks better in the whitehouse, and you can disagree with a man's views on healthcare, but when you make character judgments based on those stances you are treading in treacherous waters.

Another thing to realize is that Matthew 7:1-2 moves us out of the teaching on worry and introduces what will be the remainder of the Sermon on the Mount. It is important to see the introductory nature of these verses. The rest of this chapter will be focused discernment, both discernment of oneself, and discernment of others. This introductory verse lays out the foundation upon which all discernment must take place, and that is on a foundation of self-examination, and self judgment. It is so important, especially considering the difficulty of the teachings that are to follow this, especially near the end of the chapter, that the foundation be laid. You cannot go out and preach the end of Matthew 7 before applying to yourself the beginning of Matthew 7.

Now a quick word about being labeled judgmental and then we will move on. How do you react when someone accuses you of being judgmental? The majority of people get angry, or dismissive, or self righteous, or even worse. The reality is that whenever anyone accuses you of sin, whether they are a believer or an unbeliever, whether it seems so far out there and just wrong or not, the first thing you must ask yourself is this: "Is it true?" If someone tells you that you are judgmental, it may very well be God using a person to rebuke and chasten you, so be very careful not to just write them off. Now it is also important to recognize that Satan in an accuser, and you will be false accused of all sorts of things as a Christian so you cannot take every insult as though it is a rebuke from God. You must be in the word and in prayer, and you must be ready to discern these matters and examine yourselves. Jesus always acted under control and was hasty about nothing. We too ought to be under control examining ourselves, judging ourselves first, and waiting until we know the proper course of action before we react.


#48 – What the Gospels Teach – Worry #4 – Matthew 6:34

"So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:34 NASB)

This is the practical application of Jesus' teachings in Matthew 6. Unfortunately this passage is quoted frequently to people who worry, and yet the quoters of this passage are oblivious to the previous passages leading up to this. This verse as a standalone passage is worthless in counsel. To tell someone who is worried that they have too many issues to deal with today to be concerned with their pile of issues to deal with tomorrow is a sure way to turn worry into outright depression. Telling a worrier not to worry is like telling a teenage boy not to lust. The question is not so much about is it OK to worry, or to lust, or insert sin here, the question how to repent and get a degree of victory over that sin. Now if you look to the previous three posts you will see the reasons Jesus arrives at this conclusion to 'not worry about tomorrow' and He gives very compelling reasoning.

If the master takes care of birds and flowers, will He not take care of you? If you are counseling someone who is in a perpetual state of worry, you certainly are to lead them to the conclusion that they ought not worry about tomorrow... but the only way to get to that conclusion is to get grounded in faith in a God who is a good and kind master and has storehouses of provision for all who are called by His name. The point of this verse is to conclude a section, not to provide a teaching or a precept. It is like someone telling you that you need to walk in the Spirit. Great... now how exactly do you do that? Or, love your wife! I would love to... can you tell me how? Or you need to get right with God... um, I would love to, but where do I start? Don't worry about tomorrow... how can I not worry?

The answer to worry is not found in Matthew 6:34, so never quote it directly to the worried believer, unless you precede it with verses 6:26-33, it would even be good to include 6:25 as well. Well I am crunched on time so I will leave this post right here, and start on Matthew 7 tomorrow, Lord willing.


#47 – What the Gospels Teach – Worry #3 – Matthew 6:31-33

"Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' "For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:31-33 NASB)

Jesus gives the purpose of His teachings on worry at this point. In the previous two posts you can see the reasons which we should not worry, and the reason we should not worry is because we can trust in the character of God our master. We know we are valued above birds of the air, and grass of the field, and most importantly that we have a good master who is not going to let His servants go uncared for. What then is our response? Our response is the reason Jesus has opened our eyes to not worry, and that is that we would "...seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." Because we do not have to worry about our clothes or our food we only have one thing to concern ourselves with... seeking Him first.

It is also incredibly important that we notice that we are seeking HIS kingdom, and HIS righteousness. Missing this critical point will leave you in a greater state of worry than you started with. If you were seeking to build his kingdom, you would be seeking to do a work that is impossible to do, and if you are seeking your own righteousness or to become righteous you will also leave yourself in utter disappointment. However the goal of the Christian life is singular, and that is to know God. Really, that is the only goal. That is what salvation is, to know Him, the one true God. All of our actions and intents must center around that one singular focus, the simple seeking of His kingdom and His righteousness... seek Him... seek Him... seek Him.

I have been in e-mail contact with a younger friend of mine, a dear friend, and he has mentioned his struggle in prayer, and his unworthiness before the Lord. Yet hearing him allows me to sit back with confidence knowing that his struggle will not be in vain, and that great blessing will come from it. Why? He has begun to seek the Lord, to seek His kingdom, and His righteousness, that's why. Now, it will not result in a best life now, but in a struggle against the flesh, and a desire at times to quit, and toil in prayer, and so on. At the same time fountains of blessing and knowledge of God will spring forth and he will be so grateful for the struggle.

Do not worry about the things the pagans worry about... what to eat and what to wear, seek the kingdom and His righteousness, clothes and food will become afterthoughts to you.

#46 – What the Gospels Teach – Worry #2 – Matthew 6:26-30

"Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? "And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? "And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. "But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! (Matthew 6:26-30 NASB)

Christ is teaching in this section starting at vs. 25 about worry (see last post). His primary focus is to not worry about food or clothing, which are two of the most basic essentials for life. Clearly if we are not to worry about the essentials, we ought to worry even less about the non-essentials. The portion to focus on in this passage is this "Are you not worth much more than they?" They being the birds of the air and the grass of the field. The foundation for lack of worry is faith that the master will provide all your needs. The foundation for this faith that the master will provide is the value which He has ascribed to you. Now, realize that this post is for the believer, the one who has been redeemed by Christ.

We must be careful not to turn this text "Are you not worth much more than they?" into some sort of self-esteem nonsense, but we must see that your value is rooted not in your own worthiness but in the price which was paid for you. People used to trade, buy, and sell baseball cards a lot more than they do now and I remember often going to the card shop to sell or buy cards. The process was pretty simple, you would pick up this magazine that gave you the suggested value of all your cards based on the condition they were in, you would find a few cards that were worth more than the rest and then go try to sell them at the card shop. Now if you had a card that was said to be worth $5 and you took it to the shop to sell it the man behind the counter would usually offer you like $3.50 for it, or less. You could argue that the card was worth more, and that it's stated value was higher, but it did not matter, you were only going to get $3.50. So how much was the card worth? The reality is that something is only worth the amount someone else is willing to pay for it. My baseball card's value was not for me to determine, the only one who could set the value was the purchaser. "Are you not worth much more than they?" Your value is determined not by your abilities, self worth, or anything else... your value is determined by the price paid for you. Do not get confused, you were not worth Christ dying for you, it had nothing to do with you being special, but you do have worth because Christ died for you. It makes all the difference in the world.

Now, in light of the great price Christ paid on your behalf, how can you expect to just be neglected and left to starve to death naked? Are you not worth more than that? If God majestically clothes worthless grass, and cares for little birds, how much more will He take care you... the one for whom His Son died? To eliminate worry, get a handle on who you are, the reason you are valued, and how God responds in light of the value Christ has given you. There is no legitimate reason to worry.

Also realize that this is still a struggle, and you are not reading the post of someone who is worry free, but at the same time my worry is a sin because it casts doubts on the character of God and the work of His Son.


#45 – What the Gospels Teach – Worry #1 – Matthew 6:25

"For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (Matthew 6:25 NASB)

The first thing to notice in this text is the transition 'For this reason I say to you...' which is a clear indication that this verse (6:25) is the next logical step from the preceding verse which reads: "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." In other words; because you cannot serve two masters... do not be worried about your life.

Serving two masters will lead to anxiety and insanity, but the very opposite is true when you serve one master, assuming the master is kind and not derelict. Anything that I own, I am responsible for and have to answer for. If I own a house and it is a mess and falling apart I am the one to blame for neglecting it, if I have a pet dog that starves to death, I am the one responsible for not feeding it, if I have a car that runs out of gas, I am responsible for not filling it up and so on. Now with that in mind, my own possessions reflect my character, if have been given much and neglect all of it, people could look at me and rightly assert that I am lazy, incompetent, and so on. Now, a master owns his slave, moreover the master's reputation as a good man, a caring man, a moral man, rides on his treatment of that slave. If a master constantly abuses a slave, does not feed that slave, and never provides for that slave you would be right in saying that he is a harsh master and a bad man. However if the master cares for the slave, yea even takes the slave in and effectively considers him as a son, then that master gets great honor and glory as a 'good man'. Moreover, because the master is good, the slave has nothing to worry about, except to do the master's will, because the good master will take care of everything else.

The parallel is obvious here, and the connection between the Father as a good master, and us as His servants needs little mention. The implications are huge though. I want to be careful how I say this so as not to be blasphemous, but in a very real sense God's glory is tied and even (in a sense) dependent upon the believers provision. Now be very careful here, God does not need to provide you anything to be God, or to be glorious. However at the same time, if indeed you God has claimed you as His servant, if He does not provide your basic needs He has proven Himself to be an unworthy master. So therefore, servant of the King, do not be worried about food or drink, or clothing, or shelter, that is the business of the master to take care of, and rest assured you have a wonderful master if indeed your master is the most High God.

A word must be said here so that you do not get the idea that Christ is teaching some bogus prosperity teaching about how as a believer you should have a big home, a Mercedes Benz, and so on. He is teaching that you will have clothing, shelter, and food... and freedom from the worry concerning those items. In fact in most cases if the Lord were to bless a servant with much riches the servant would come to believe himself to be the master because of his own wealth. Thus it is harder for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than a wealthy man to enter into heaven...

The foundation for the freedom from worry is confidence in the character of God as a master to provide for you, His slave.


#44 What the Gospels Teach – Slave of Wealth – Matthew 6:24

"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. (Matthew 6:24 NASB)

The idea of 'serving a master' is to be enslaved to someone or something. It seems logical that if you were enslaved to two masters you would have a very miserable existence, even if one of the masters was good. In fact if the two masters have opposite intent the slave then has an exceedingly miserable experience. This is part of why divorce negatively affects kids so much, they begin life with parents who are 'one' who share the same purposes, discipline, commands, and expectations, and essentially the child has one master, the parental unit. Now when the split happens it all changes, each parents individual preferences in discipline come out, and their expectations or lack thereof come out, and now the child has two individual masters and it is impossible to live up to two separate standards. The parents who at one point had to reconcile all their ideas and methods concerning raising their child in order to function as family, once they sever the bond of marriage no longer reconcile these ideas and methods and the child now has two masters. (I am no psychologist, but that has to mess a kid up.)

Now as a believer you may potentially be stuck in the same boat. Wealth and God, they are two very different masters, that make two very different sets of demands on you. Can you both store wealth and give liberally? Can you give your time and energy to the selfish pursuit of riches and still give that same time and energy to the service of the Lord? You cannot serve two masters. Slavery to both God and money is an utter impossibility. Now many people who have acquired much wealth and make a profession of faith in Christianity are far more enslaved to wealth than they care to admit. They call the wealth a blessing from God, which it might be, but they never examine themselves to see whether or not that wealth is providing any spiritual blessing either to themselves or to others. How can you know if you are mastered by wealth and possessions? Where is your mind? Do you give more worry to your financial situation than to your godliness, or glory of God in the world? Do your possessions receive more of your time than the Lord? When you have a free moment to sit and do nothing, where does your mind typically wander, to possessions, politics, work, money, etc... or to the Lord? It is not difficult to know who your master is, just look at your life, look at your free time, look at your conversations, and know that you cannot serve two masters!

Notice that we are not called to despise wealth, just not serve it, if we try to serve God and wealth we will either love God and despise wealth, or we will love wealth and despise God. In either case our existence is miserable, if we love God and despise wealth, then finances become a great source of woe to us. Bills, and savings accounts, the next purchase, and so one become items of contention in our soul and generate misery in our lives. Our love for God causes us to loathe our other master, wealth. Of course if we love wealth, we view God as this miserable kill joy trying to take away all of our possessions, as though God is a constant restriction upon our lives. The ideal situation is that God be the sovereign master over all our affairs including 'wealth' at which point wealth is no longer our concern. Wealth in our lives becomes subject to God, it is no longer a burden to us, because we trust that our Master will provide for our needs, and he always does. Bills, tithing, expenses, etc... become an opportunity to celebrate the faithfulness of God as He provides the means to meet them. Finances which were a hard master to us, now become a source of great blessing to us. You cannot be a servant to both God and Wealth... you just cannot, that is unless you are OK with hating one and loving the other.


Quick thought

You can't judge a book by its cover right? Ok... how about by its title?

I am sitting with a book called 'The Like Jesus but Not the Church' in front of me, and I have skimmed just a few paragraphs in different chapters. Honestly I have no intention of giving this book more that 45 minutes of my time, but there is a reason for posting this.

This notion that people love Jesus but not the Church is an impossiblity that the emerging church has been trying to ram down our throats for awhile now. Listen I understand that the church has failed in many ways, and that I as a part of the church have even contributed to that failure. Moreover not all who claim to be a part of the Church are truly regenerate and actually a part of it. They are part by association only. Nonetheless be very careful before you parrot some emergent in saying that you like Jesus but not the Church. If you believe in Christ, you love the Church... period. I recognize that this book is maybe a slight defense of the church which is a good thing, and it is an assement of our failures which is OK also, but the premise that someone can like Jesus and not the Church only proves that they do not know Jesus. (it should also be noted that the author is saying that unbelievers like Jesus not the Church, he is not saying that he personally does not like the church... at least he does not say that directly in what I have read... At the same time he does seem sympathetic to the world's disdain for the church.)

If you shower praise upon me for an hour, about how I am a good husband, and father, and youth leader, blah blah blah ad nauseium, but somewhere in that praising you say something like this "jay it is amazing what you do at home, espcially considering how difficult your wife is and how troublesome she can be to you" and then you continue to praise me for another hour. The only thing I will take away from that two hours of praise is the simple fact that you do not like my wife! I would say depart from me... That is my wife you are talking about... I love her more than you could know, and I do not care a lick what you think of me if you are going to talk bad about her.

Of course the obvious parallel is that the Church is the bride of Christ, and He loves her more than you know regardless of her short comings, and when you claim to like Christ but not the Church you are insulting Christ directly.

So then you go on and say, "it is not that I do not like the Church, i just don't like their stuffy style, reponsive readings, organ music, etc..." That is like coming into my house and criticizing the way my wife decorated, and the way she cooks, the way she sings, and the way she does everything. Be careful being that critical of my wife. It's like saying, I like your wife I just cannot stand everything about her. If you walk into a church building that has many believers within doing various works for the Lord, do not even dare consider being critical towards them because you know not the one whom you offend by your criticism.

Our generation of 20s and 30s (I am 28) does a continual disservice to the men and women who went before us, and in our little 'emergent' conversations we attempt to 'deconstruct' all the work of the bride of Christ. If you love Jesus, get in the church with other believers, learn the reasons that things are the way they are, stop dissing the bride which you proclaim to be a part of. Yes there are changes that need made, and you may very well be called to be the one to make those changes. Yes, sometimes tradition and ritual have mired our vision of Christ our husband, yes we do somethings that are utter vanity and we must strive to change that and be a more pleasing bride to Christ. At the same time realize that Christ's love for His church is unconditional, and when you disrepect her for not meeting the conditions, you disprect the Lord who is one with her.

I know this book is an attempt to show what unbelievers think about the church, but the same attitude exists among 20-30s within the church and our disrespect as a generation for the bride of Christ is absolutely pathetic and abhorrent.

Well, I have not ranted for awhile so there it is. Back to the Gospel Series tomorrow, and I probably won't do this again for some time, but just wanted to get that off of my chest.


#43 – What the Gospels Teach – The Lamp of the Body – Matthew 6:22-23

"The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. "But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! (Matthew 6:22-23 NASB)

The Sermon on the Mount as recorded in the Gospel recorded by Matthew has a very logical flow. It is not a random sampling of great one-liners from Jesus but an actual Sermon that flows logically from one teaching to the next. This is critical for our understanding of this teaching. The various points in the Sermon on the Mount must be viewed in light of the teachings around those points. A prime example of that is the section we just finished teaching about hypocrisy. The Lord's Prayer was tucked into that section and if we avoid the context surrounding the Lord's Prayer we will miss the whole point Jesus is making when He is teaching how to pray. The reason I bring this up is because Matthew 6:22-23 is the one text in the entire Sermon on the Mount that seems out of place to me, which leads me to believe I do not have a very good handle on what these two verses mean.

Preceding Matthew 6:22-23 we read about not storing up treasure on earth, but in heaven, and following Matthew 6:22-23 we read that you cannot serve both God and money. It is relatively easy to make the 'treasure in heaven', and 'cannot serve God and money' connection and their proximity to each other in the Sermon on the Mount just makes sense. The difficult thing for my understanding is that they are divided by the verses at the top of this post. When reading this verse as a standalone verse and not considering the context I would view as a verse about lust, or about taking care of what you set your eyes upon, thinking I could apply it to television, literature, advertising, and so on. The verse makes a lot of sense in that light. The things we look upon shape us and illumine us. If it is our eyes that we use to bring light (righteousness, purity, etc...) into ourselves, how great will our wickedness be if we have a 'bad eye' that looks upon wickedness? In that light this verse seems to make a simple command to look upon what is good in the sight of God, and certainly we are called in scripture to do just that. At the same time, given the context around this verse gives it an entirely different purpose.

This idea of 'if your eye is clear' is a call to discernment, and it is a call to discernment with regard to what is treasure on earth vs. what is treasure in heaven. The command in the preceding verses is to not lay up treasure on earth but in heaven, this verse is a call to discern what heavenly treasure is and what it is not. Moreover this passage explains the great darkness in lacking this discernment or having an 'eye that is bad'. The next verse in the logical flow will be an aid in this discernment concerning treasure in heaven vs. treasure on earth and will point out incisively that one cannot serve both God and wealth. Now I will agree wholeheartedly that these verses apply in the realm of lust, television, reading, and any other activity of the eyes, however the intent of these verses must be determined by their context. The intent is to teach that the eye must be good to discern the treasure which should be sought after, and the consequences of a 'bad eye' with regard to heavenly vs. earthly treasure.


#42 – What the Gospels Teach – Treasure in Heaven – Matthew 6:19-21

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21 NASB)

This seems to be one of those texts that everyone understands but few apply. Without a doubt our actions here on earth have some bearing on our reward received in heaven, the scriptures seem clear on that. Now there is not a second class heaven and a first class heaven, and heaven is heavenly because of the manifest presence of God and not a reward received, nonetheless Jesus speaks of reward so it is appropriate that we would as well.

A heavenly mindset will govern your actions, moreover an examination of your actions will reveal your mindset. So often people will struggle to understand what God wants them to do, or what the will of God is for their life, well this text is a very good test. When you are considering an action, or considering the will of God, what is the result of the action you are considering taking? Is there any eternal value? If you examine your life and the majority of the decisions you make are based entirely on temporal needs without consideration of the eternal implications then the truth is that you are earthly minded by definition. Human desire for treasure on earth is a great robber of joy for this life, and a great thief of reward for the life to come. Do you not realize that human desire is never satisfied? That treasure on earth never brings lasting satisfaction? It really does not, and everyone knows this yet most people continue to blindly pursue earthly pleasure believing somehow that the next thing they acquire, or see, accomplish will bring them the pleasure they were looking for, and in the long run it is usually disappointment.

Where your treasure is, your heart will be there also. Do not be mystical about what your heart is. Your heart is the seat of governance in your life, in other words when the scripture is speaking of your heart, it is speaking of your will and your desires, the very part of you that drives and motivates your actions and being. Your heart is not just your emotion, and it is not in the scriptural sense a blood pumping organ. Your treasure will drive your actions. Some men work in order to procure treasures for themselves, in turn their work becomes nothing more than a selfish pursuit, and their work itself becomes sin. Some people will labor to earn respect on earth, or to get their family to appear a certain way... it is all vanity, it eventually all passes away.

How then ought we store up treasure in heaven? To store treasure in heaven is to take action on earth that does not have personal gain as the primary objective of that action. To store treasure in heaven is to devote your resources, time, energy, money, mental capacity, ethic, yea your entire body to the will of God. To allow the heavenly vision to govern your actions and not mere earthly pleasure! Of course this leaves us worried about ourselves, how will we survive, have pleasure, be taken care of, etc if we are constantly looking to heaven? Have you read the end of Chapter 6 of Matthew? We will get to that in a few days.


#41 – What the Gospels Teach – Hypocrisy in Fasting – Matthew 6:16-18

"Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. "But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:16-18 NASB)

Jesus is teaching about hypocrisy in Matthew 6:1-18 using the examples of giving to the poor, prayer, and now in this text fasting. It ought to be noticed that in the case of giving to the poor, there was an expectation that believers would do it, but a warning not to do it for their own glory. The same can be said for prayer and fasting as well. This statement 'whenever you fast...' makes the assumption that indeed you will fast. If the text read 'If you fast...' it would be altogether different. Now I am not an advocate for mysticism, and self deprecation, or piety for the sake of piety, at the same time the practices of fasting, prayer, alms giving, and other acts of devotion are critical to the Christian faith and they certainly have their place. If you give these things too high of a place you become like a monk and fall into the very sins Jesus is warning about in Matthew 6:1-18, but nonetheless pious action is not optional in the Christian's life. Fasting is not a requirement for salvation, but it is expected that believers will fast from time to time.

Jesus is addressing one of the greatest temptations in fasting, and that is to make it known that you are on a fast. There are a number of reasons we want to make it known, the first is simple pride. It seems that fasting is a discipline that is not often engaged in, so the moment you engage in one your flesh rises up against you and you find yourself believing that you have ascended to some level of spirituality that others haven't. Notice how Jesus gives the warning here, the hypocrites are not out saying 'Look at me I am fasting...' they are simply neglecting their appearance and putting on a gloomy face. If you have ever fasted for a significant time, the odds are that you have had these verse come to your mind and have focused on not telling people about your fast, but the real temptation is to act like you have a headache or wince now and then to get someone to ask you what is wrong, at that point you feel justified in exposing your fast. Jesus is saying that you must go out of your way to keep your fast hidden. Acts of piety and devotion are not tools for witness or even encouragement to the brethren, they are for showing Christ honor. When you have done these acts the rest of your life will witness to Him, because you have been placed in close proximity to Him through those acts, but the acts themselves should remain secret.

Now this super secrecy can become hypocritical as well. Jesus is warning against fasting publicly to bring yourself glory, at the same to being the super stealth faster can be just as selfish. If you are married, you need to tell your wife you are fasting! If you keep it secret eventually she is going to ask you why you won't eat, then you will tell her and in some twisted way you will find yourself glorifying yourself before her. Just tell her at the outset you are going on a fast. If you have a lunch meeting with someone let them know why you are not going to eat. Do not do it with pain on your face or make any sort of big deal about it, just tell them and move on. If you attempt to keep it secret eventually you will be approached with the question as to why you are not eating and then more attention will be drawn to you than had you just said something in the first place. When discerning whether or not to reveal a fast you must simply ask yourself if it would bring less attention to yourself if you reveal it up front, or if you can simply conceal it altogether. If you can conceal the fast without doing significant manipulation or giving half-truths then conceal it. That is the ideal situation. At the same time, realize that sometimes concealing brings more attention to yourself when you can no longer conceal it, than had you just revealed it in the first place.

Just a couple words on the benefit of fasting, the first and primary benefit of fasting is that it gives God honor by devoting your body in a tangible and physical way to Him. Fasting also gives you an acute awareness of Him, and of self, as the physical feeling of hunger as well as the purpose for your hunger constantly reminds you Him. Another benefit of fasting is that it shows you a sliver of who you really are apart from the grace of God. We realize that food is provision for us because of His grace. When withholding food from yourself as your mood gets worse and worse, and your head throbs a bit, and you find yourself feeling temperamental, realize that is a mere fraction of who you would be if God withheld grace from you. Fasting gives you a small window with which to see yourself as you really are.

Finally, realize that fasting is not a super spiritual thing that only elite Christians do, in fact I imagine more Christian than you realize are fasting, they simply do it obediently making sure you never know about it.


#40 – What the Gospels Teach – Hypocrisy in Prayer #3 – Matthew 6:9-15

"Pray, then, in this way: 'Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 'Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. 'Give us this day our daily bread. 'And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 'And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.]' "For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. "But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. (Matthew 6:9-15 NASB)

Of course this is a familiar text, and at many churches this prayer is recited each week, and has been labeled the Lord's Prayer. It is likely that you have been taught about this passage a million times so I am not going to spend much time breaking it down. However it is appropriate to discuss the context. Most of us understand that Jesus did not mean this to be a word for word prayer but a template for prayer. I certainly would agree that this is not intended to be a word for word prayer, but I also do not see it so much as a template either. Recall that in the first half of Matthew 6 Jesus is speaking against hypocrisy, and is teaching how to do various acts of piety without hypocrisy. This prayer 'The Lord's Prayer' is more of a boundary than a template. Notice the words "Pray then in this way..." In other words, in light of what Jesus has said concerning hypocrisy, pray like this...

So how is He teaching us to pray? Look at how succinct this prayer is. It covers worship, request for provision, forgiveness, and deliverance... and it is short. Recall that Jesus made clear that we will not be heard for our many words, but that the Father already knows what we need. I have heard so often that this prayer is a template for praying, I have even taught that in the past, and as a template what people do is take each little section of prayer and fill it with a bunch of words. They take hallowed be thy name and fill it with many loft words of praise, and give us this day our daily bread with endless cries for provision, and so on. When we do this we are missing the point. The Lord's Prayer is a call to succinctness in prayer more than a model for prayer. Again, look at the preceding two verses:

"And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. "So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. (Matthew 6:7-8 NASB)

Prayer is a difficult discipline in the Christian life, however the difficulty arises because we have an idea that it is a performance of some sort. We find it difficult because we search for many words to explain to the Lord our requests, and we search for words to express adoration, and when we run out of words we feel as though something is missing, so we look for more words, and by the time we are done praying we find that the whole thing was empty. We see the words of the apostle Paul to be in constant prayer and it seems like a near impossibility. It should not be this way! When we look at Jesus example for brevity in prayer it becomes much more about listening, yes make your requests known, but then just consider the Lord and trust He hears, just listen and focus on Him. To pray without ceasing is a constant asking for direction not with long drawn out petition, but a simple 'Lord guide me in this decision.' 'Lord should I make this purchase?' 'Lord is it alright if I rest now?' 'Lord is what I am wearing ok for today?' and so on. It is not many words, just a simple seeking after Him that He desires.

Now the other critical part of this text that must not be overlooked is the simple fact that if you are not forgiving of others, then your Father will not forgive you. When Jesus gives the example of brevity in prayer He throws in 'forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors' and He knew that this would be a very difficult line for many, so He calls them and us out on it. If you are unforgiving you cannot be forgiven, until you repent of your lack of forgiveness. That is a harsh statement, but it is the statement of Christ here and not me. I will confess that I struggle with much sin, but the struggle against being unforgiving seems an easy one. Considering what Christ has done for me, how exactly could I justify withholding forgiveness from someone else? Moreover, considering the deliverance from a past lifestyle that He has given me, why should I not expect He can do the same and more for the next person? Considering the way I have acted towards others and yet received forgiveness, how can I not give that same forgiveness to those who have acted against me? I suppose I ought to qualify all of this, I cannot recall a time when I was severely wronged by anyone, it seems that most times when people sin against me it is of a trivial nature (speaking humanly, no sin is trivial in His sight). So to act in as though I am this super forgiving guy... I have not been tested nearly in the way that most have. Nonetheless the scripture is clear on this and Jesus goes out of His way to explain this after the Lord's prayer, you must forgive those who trespass against you if you have any expectation of forgiveness from Him.

I will leave it there for tonight. As you pray, keep it simple even childlike, a large quantity of words will destroy your praying.


#39 – What the Gospels Teach – Hypocrisy in Prayer #2 – Matthew 6:7-8

"And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. "So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. (Matthew 6:7-8 NASB)

In the previous verses we see Jesus warning against praying in public to be seen by other people, and it is clear that praying is not a performance. Moreover we recognized that the prayer which is most pleasing to the Lord is that which takes place in total privacy never to be seen by anyone else except the Lord. Now as we enter into this passage we see that mere privacy does not negate hypocrisy in prayer. You could still enter into a private room and hit your knees with nobody knowing it and yet remain in

hypocrisy. Look at this passage, 'do not use meaningless repetition'. This is an important warning, and it speaks hard against the countless 'hail Marys' and rosary prayers that are repetitions without meaning. However it is more than that, it speaks against the same meaningless repeated dinner prayers, or night time prayers. 'for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words' many times people will believe they have a firm foundation because 'they say their prayers' but their prayers are the same meaningless repetitions from the day before, and their consistency in this does not earn them any place with the Lord. Hypocritical prayer turns devotion to the Lord into a mere repetition, or devotion to a prayer or prayer time. We must go even further here, there are many who attempt to get into a prayer mode by repeating a mantra over and over again 'come holy spirit, come holy spirit...' or something like that. This idea of repeated chanting of a prayer will certainly cause things to happen in your mind, and even create sensations that seem supernatural but it is vain repetitions toying with the natural functions of the human brain. The word is clear, avoid meaningless repetition, your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. The final warning is that you will not be 'heard for their many words.' Prayer is more about devotion than duration. Now listen, you ought to pray for long periods of time, this is a good practice, but when you have spoken to the Lord your desires and devotion you do not need to drag out words upon words somehow believing if you use enough words He will hear you. Much of prayer is silent, offering God a still mind, speaking as the words come, not forcing the issue.

Now with this all said, there is a discipline required for prayer. Setting aside specific time each day to be alone in prayer is essential to the Christian life. Rigid discipline in your life is encouraged in the scriptures, and evidenced by Christ. This passage speaks nothing against discipline, and it is not an open endorsement to just float around and wait for the spirit to tell you what to do and what to say. At the same time praying is not to be a ritualistic repetition, and if the entirety of your praying is ritual and repetition this passage is calling out your hypocrisy.


#38 – What the Gospels Teach – Hypocrisy in Prayer #1 – Matthew 6:5-6

"When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. "But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:5-6 NASB)

Matthew 6 verses 1-18 are primarily dealing with hypocrisy, and verse 5 and 6 lead us into the Jesus' teaching about hypocrisy in prayer. It is so important to recognize that prayer is not primarily a public event. If you take this verse at face value you will see that a love of standing in the synagogues praying to be noticed gets you nowhere with God. The recognition you get from men and women for your public praying is your only reward... that is it, because that type of praying has no eternal value.

Now you must be a little careful here, it is appropriate to pray publicly in some sense, and it is appropriate to lead people in prayer, and pray in behalf of an entire congregation or people group. However prayer in the public meeting or service is not the normal mode of prayer. Moreover I often hear people saying that you should not prepare your words before you pray on behalf of a congregation publicly, I disagree. Be very careful, I would submit that a public prayer ought to be as prepared as the sermon itself. When you preach you are preaching to men, when you pray you are speaking with God. Who should you be more careful with, men or God? Also in public prayer you are going to the Most High God on behalf of a number of people, it certainly is appropriate to be prepared.

With that said, when you pray you are not praying to be seen by men, and you are not praying down a message from God, you are praying to God. You are not to come up with flowery words, or with praying that will somehow expose your theological prowess or anything else, when you pray for a people you ought to pray honestly, speaking the petitions and thanksgivings to the Lord with honest sincerity without a hint of self in them.

Look at the above passage, Jesus says 'But you, when you pray go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.' If you stand to pray publicly in a worship service I would hope that is not your entire prayer life. Prayer that has the ear of God is prayer which nobody but He knows about! If you tell me you are a prayer warrior (not a big fan of that verbiage) I will naturally question your sincerity. If you pray in secret your wife or husband will know because they have probably walked in on you a few times, or you have had to tell them you were going to pray, but the community at large ought to be oblivious. Hypocrisy in prayer abounds. At the same time there are likely many people in your congregation that have a very fruitful relationship with the Lord and a prayer life that has reached depths that you have yet to comprehend and the very reason they have reached those depths is the same reason you do not realize they have, it is in secret.

Just a final thought for this post, is it not ironic that just before Jesus teaches 'The Lord's Prayer' He instructs people to pray in secret, and yet in most mainline protestant churches 'The Lord's Prayer' is a public unison prayer? Hmm... that's odd.


#37 – What the Gospels Teach – Giving Alms – Matthew 6:2-4

"So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. "But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:2-4 NASB)

In Matthew 6:1-18 the primary teaching is against hypocrisy. Now clearly we glean more than just that, but even the 'the Lord's prayer' is an example of how to pray without hypocrisy. It is also important to note that there is nothing which seems to infuriate God more in the New Testament than hypocrisy. The Matthew 6:2-4 we hear the admonition to not let others know that you are giving to the poor. As it was stated in the last post, you can do pious acts for the purpose of being respected, and giving to the poor is certainly one of those pious acts. The purpose of giving to the poor is for the Glory of God by showing that He is a provider to all who have need. The moment in which you bring attention to your own act of giving to the poor you have robbed God of the Glory He ought to receive.

I serve on staff at a church which I attended before I ever was a Christian, and when I became a believer I looked across our congregation and wondered 'what the heck is going on?' I mean, are we not supposed to be out doing evangelism, and are we not supposed to be engaging in feeding the poor, and supporting widows and all these wonderful tasks. Should people not be studying their bible more, I thought, 'What is the matter with these people?' New believer read closely here, you most likely will never know who the most faithful believers in your congregation are because they are not placing themselves on a pedestal to be seen by you, what they do, they do in private and they 'do not let the left hand know what the right hand is doing.' On the great Day of Judgment you will see many people paraded before you to receive great reward, and you never would have guessed that they were so pleasing to God. What is done in secret is very pleasing to Him. I remember being very new at my current position and counseling with a youth who has a real heart for the Lord, and we are both the type who cannot really sit still so we just walked around the church talking. He expressed all this frustration and disgust in the state of the church, and how it seems that nobody takes seriously the call to discipleship and so on... and for the most part I agreed with him. However as we walked around the corridors of our church I stopped, and I bent down and picked up a piece of trash that we had walked by at least 6 times and both had seen. There are a lot of people who come into our church throughout the week and quietly serve the needs of the church unnoticed out of their love for Christ, and these same people go into the world and serve people in the name of Christ entirely unnoticed, and those people would never have walked by a piece of garbage in our facility without picking it up. Now it is just a piece of garbage, picking it up is no act of piety, at the same time walking by it with no care talking about how spiritual you are and how unspiritual the rest of the congregation seems is an awful display of hypocrisy.

Do not sound the trumpet, do not make yourself known, do your acts in secret. Who cares if some young youth director or youth looks at you as though you are derelict in your discipleship, that young man or youth are too immature to perceive the hidden work, and will be embarrassed on the day of judgment when gives you a greater seat than they at the banquet.

As a worker at the Church I have also come to notice that often times the most publicly involved people seem to be the least spiritual. This is not a rule or a sweeping stereotype, and public involvement is not a bad thing, but it is not necessarily that noble either. There is a place for public leadership and involvement, and some of us must take that place, however that is not place of great honor.


#36 – What the Gospels Teach – Hypocrisy – Matthew 6:1

Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 6:1

This verse moves us out of the section dealing with the law, and with how to exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, and into teaching on hypocrisy. In the coming verses we will learn about prayer and fasting, but the underlying message that is being communicated is how to avoid hypocrisy. Matthew 6:1 lays out the intent of this section very clearly, there is no reward for performing acts of righteousness to be noticed, period. Later in the scriptures you find Jesus talking about how those who are doing acts of righteousness in public have already received their reward in full. Understand that while the primary reason we perform any acts of righteousness is for the glory of God and the honor of His name, nonetheless there is reward involved and that reward is with the Father and from the father. At the same time acts of piety can get you great reward from men and women here. There is a great tension that exists in the lives of many believers, and unfortunately in my life as well, there is this desire to be pleasing to the Lord and to do everything in secret for Him, but there is often an underlying desire that others would know your works.

For those who have a constant desire to be respected and honored by people, the church is an easy place to feed that desire. If someone acts pious and spiritual in the context of the Christian community they usually receive respect and honor, for someone who is starving for attention and in bondage to pride the church is the perfect place to get yourself honor. Even people who enter into the ministry and appear to make some huge sacrifice to share the gospel will often do it knowing that they will receive the respect and honor of a community, which they may have not received in their previous employment. Beware of practicing acts of righteousness before men, the only reward for that type of devotion is the honor and praise of people, but those types of 'righteous acts' will put you a million miles away from God and His true blessings and rewards.

Be discerning believers when you see someone doing all sorts of wonderful works. Examine to see if those works just flow out of the believer's life and are like a light that cannot be hid under a bushel, or are you seeing these wonderful works because they are positioning themselves to be seen? There is a fine line here, we are to 'let our lights so shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our father in heaven' and at the same time we are to beware of practicing righteousness before men to be noticed by them.


#35 – What the Gospels Teach – Therefore Be Perfect – Matthew 5:48

"Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48 NASB)

Therefore you are to be perfect... I think it is absurd to take this text alone and teach some sort of sinless perfection, but at the same time let's not miss the whole purpose of this section of scripture. Starting in Matthew 5:17-20, we get an introduction which is basically stating that your righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, then Jesus lays out a group of laws and how you can exceed the righteousness of the letter of those laws.

After laying out 6 laws and how to fulfill them, and to practically exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees Jesus then concludes with Matthew 5:48. Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. The word therefore brings us a connection from all the previous teaching concerning those six laws and then draws the conclusion giving a command to be perfect.

This section of the Sermon on the Mount could have gone on much longer as Christ could have expounded the intents of each law and practical methods towards their fulfillment, but that would have been unnecessary. Jesus uses just enough laws to make His point and leaves it to the believer empowered by the Spirit to discern the intents and fulfillments of other laws, ie honoring your parents, not coveting... etc. Another important aspect of this section is that Christ is not taking the law as a group of 'shall nots' or items which are meant not to be violated. Christ turns the law on its head and changes it from a prohibition against certain behavior into a mandate to act. In other words instead of the law putting to death sinful actions, it should give life to righteous actions. Therefore be perfect... the command to be perfect is not a command to stop sinning as much as it is a command to act out the righteousness that exceeds the law. Jesus is systematically putting to death the religious notion of do's and don'ts and laying out a lifestyle of perfection. Not perfection in the sense of being without sin, but perfection in the sense of exceeding the righteousness of the law.

It is unfortunate that I cannot quite find the right words to explain this, my suggestion would be to read Matthew 5:17-48 through a few times, and take it altogether as one teaching, pray over it, and see what the Lord shows you. This should be a very empowering section of scripture, and it should give you great hope because when reading it as a believer you should get the sense that exceeding the law really is a possibility. Achieving the standard of the law by not sinning is an impossibility, we all know from life that a constant focus on not doing something will eventually lead you into doing the very thing you are focused on not doing. Jesus is offering practical application to laws giving us something to do with regard to law not a command that leads to death, but taking the command that produces death and turning it into one which produces life.

I suppose I am rambling so I will stop.


#34 – What the Gospels Teach – Love Your Enemies – Matthew 5:43-47

"You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.' "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. "For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? "If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? (Matthew 5:43-47 NASB)

The next post will wrap this section of the Sermon on the Mount with some concluding remarks. This section Matthew 5:17-47 is Jesus laying out the fact that your righteousness must exceed the Law in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, He then proceeds to explain using various laws for examples, how that can be practically done. He does this by stating the law, then stating the intent of the law, then stating how practically to exceed the law. If you read the previous so many posts you will see how this plays out. I think it is important to see that Jesus is laying out a pattern here, and the precepts being taught in Matthew 5:17-47 are not limited to the laws directly mentioned. The principles can be applied to all laws regarding moral conduct. This will be discussed more in the next post.

So for this passage:

Jesus states the law: You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy...

It is important to note here the words that proceed Jesus stating the law "You have heard that it was said..." hating your enemy was not a part of the original law, however it was being taught that way thus the disciples had 'heard it said'. Jesus is not misquoting the law, He is dealing directly with the disciple's understanding of the law, and the Pharisees' teaching of the law.

Jesus states the intent: Love your enemies.

Again, the law was to love your neighbor, however the intent was that we would love all.

Jesus states how to exceed the law: Pray for those who persecute you...

This is one of the most difficult commands of scripture for so many people. The call to love your enemies is at first a very difficult pill to swallow, but the reality of it may not be as difficult as people think. The reason this passage seems nearly impossible to most people is because of the warped idea of what love is. If love was primarily an emotional endeavor in which we muster up positive feelings and affections for someone then loving and enemy is an impossible task, in fact if that is what love is then loving an enemy is an utter impossibility because to have positive feeling and affection toward someone would mean they were not an enemy. However the true meaning of godly love is 'to selflessly seek someone else's good...' in other words to find ways and means to do good for someone else, even at your own expense. When you love a spouse that is exactly what you are to be doing. Now, loving an enemy in that way truly is doable for the believer who has been empowered by the Spirit to exceed the law. Whilst it may be impossible to muster up feelings of affection for your enemy it is not impossible to seek their well being and to take action that benefits them. Feeding them, caring for them, going out of your way to offer kindness to them, and doing these things extravagantly. When it gets slammed back your face well... turn the other cheek... and when you keep getting walked all over... keep laying down to be walked on. This sounds so passive in our self-righteous culture, and our best life now easy believeism, but the truth is that your are called to lay yourself, and thus exceed the law.

Jesus gives a very practical way in which you can love your enemies and that is to pray for them. Again, this is not a selfish endeavor, and this certainly is not praying about them, you are to pray FOR them, that is to pray for their benefit. This is not a simple 'God open their eyes so they see things my way' it is a 'God bless my enemy' type prayer. To pray for them, for their benefit.

Well I am going to leave it at that. Concluding remarks on the last so many posts should be coming soon.


#33 – What the Gospels Teach – An Eye for and Eye – Matthew 5:38-42

"You have heard that it was said, 'AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.' "But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. "If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. "Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. "Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew 5:38-42 NASB)

Well it is good to be back to posting. Unfortunately I do not have much time today to post, but I do not want to let it slide, so here it goes. It is important to recall from previous posts what the

structure of Matthew 5:17-48. You will recall that Matthew 5:17-20 is an introduction to

this section, which essentially declares that Jesus is not coming to destroy the law, but fulfill it, and ultimately that in order to enter the kingdom our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. In other words our righteousness must surpass the letter of the Law. In Matthew 5:21-47 you find Jesus laying out principles for exceeding the letter of the law using various laws as examples. Jesus uses this passage to train his disciples (the crowds were absent) how to exceed the letter of the law. The pattern Jesus uses is to first state the law. Second he states what the intent of the law was. Third He explains how to practically exceed the letter of the law in righteousness. You will find in previous posts examples of this with murder, adultery, divorce, oaths, and in the case of this passage retaliation.

Jesus states the Law: An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

Jesus states the intent: Do not resist an evil person. (Note that ‘an eye for an eye’ was in a sense a way to reduce a penalty from being greater than the crime).

Jesus states how to exceed the Law: If someone strikes you on one cheek, offer the other as well. If someone sues you for your cloak, give him your tunic also. I someone forces you to go with them a mile, go with them two miles. Give to everyone who begs and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

This is a difficult passage for many, and it flies in the face of the militant Christianity that is so pervasive today. Christian pacifism is an important thing, the Christian is a pacifist. Pacifist Christianity has seemed to be hijacked by the liberals and altogether discarded by conservatives and that is unfortunate. As a Christian you must be a pacifist. Certainly we are not speaking about wars, and peace protests and such, any coward can join a big group of people at a peace rally and moreover any coward can show up at some silly meeting about how God believes everyone should have guns (they just had one in Toledo.) The issue is not guns or peace rallies, I am neither for nor against either. The issue is this, are you a peacemaker? When someone defames your character do you defend it, or do you turn the cheek and expose yourself to more defamation? Your call is to turn the other cheek. When unjustly takes something from you, do you let it go and offer that someone more? Or do you seek to justify yourself and rectify the situation? This teaching is very difficult for us conservative fundamentalists, it really is, and so many times we right off these words in the name of ‘self-defense’ or being strong or whatever. The call truly is to be humble, and allow yourself to be walked all over.

If you are liberal and reading this, realize that the call to Christian pacifism in this verse is a very personal one, not a call to some great cause, but a call for you to personally lay down your life. We ought not take verses that are intended for the individual and apply them as though they are a corporate mandate for a nation or people group.

Well I hope that was not too much of a bore, but I have to get going now.