Thursday, October 23, 2014

Jesus the Hater

“Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked,  ‘Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!’

Jesus replied, ‘And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, “Honor your father and mother” and “Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.” But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is “devoted to God,” they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.  You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

“These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.”

Jesus called the crowd to him and said, ‘Listen and understand.  What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.’

Then the disciples came to him and asked, ‘Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?’ He replied, ‘Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots.  Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.’” (Matthew 15:1-14 NIV)

When I was in grad school, the professor of one of my classes asked two gay men to talk to our class about their life experience, particularly navigating a then very hostile culture to homosexuality.  Their basic message was this: anyone who did not approve of homosexuality was homophobic.  Fast-forward 20 years and the word used is not fear, but hate.  Anyone against homosexual practice is no long considered a homophobe, but rather a hater.  While the labels may have changed, the assertion is still the same: You are wrong to disagree.  And the reaction is the same as well: I am highly offended by your stance on this.  

In a generation where we were told tolerance is one of the highest cultural values, what has become very clear is there is growing intolerance for disagreement.  If you don’t agree with (fill in the blank), then you are a hater, to be despised, ridiculed, and, in some cases, arrested.  And it runs the gamut of our society.  This is not just limited to liberals and conservatives, or the pro-this or the anti-that crowds.  It’s everywhere.  Dare to speak your views among others than your own like-minded crowd, and you will likely be quickly confronted or rejected. There will be little, if any, rational discussion.  

And the effect on us as followers of Jesus by living in such times is we draw back and hesitate to speak the truth.  We don’t want to be labeled a “hater” or an “extremist.”  Or among our friends or fellow believers, a “busy body” who should mind our own business and stop judging.  We just don’t want to be those people who are so reviled by the world.  

Yet, the example of Jesus should give us courage.  He offended a lot of people, but He didn’t seem to care.  Not that He went out of His way to be offensive, but He always spoke the truth without concern for the reactions of others.  In this account, the disciples were very concerned at how offended the religious leaders were by what Jesus had said to them.  They sat at the pinnacle of Jewish society.  They were highly respected men.  And they were offended by Jesus’ remarks.  I can imagine the disciples thinking they needed to help Jesus in this situation, help salvage His reputation by letting Him know how offended these men of standing were so that He could go to them and apologize.  He didn’t care.  In fact, he doubled down on His criticism by calling the religious leaders “blind guides.”

When it came to truth, Jesus was not going to hold back for fear of what others might think.  The religious leaders hated Him for it.  And I suspect if Jesus were walking the earth today, there would be many who would call Him a hater.  And He wouldn’t care because speaking the truth is far more important than what people might think of you or how they might react.  

Today, in a world where people want to be told what they want to hear, take courage from the example of Jesus.  He was not afraid to offend people if truth was on the line.  As He demonstrated, sometimes people need to hear the truth no matter how they will react.  

© Jim Musser 2014

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