For any of those who have followed this series, you may wonder if I will ever see any hint of an ‘Anything Goes’ gospel. Well, this chapter may bring a little balance. The relevant part to this study involves Christ and His disciples violating some of the culture of Sabbath Day observance of the time.
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Worlds seem to be colliding for myself and others at this critical time. I have been focusing some study on what the Bible does and does not say regarding unconditional love and tolerance, while at the same time the church puts out a controversial policy regarding same-sex marriage and children in such families. The timing is either really good, or really bad, depending on your point of view. In my prayerful study over this issue I felt lead to 1 Cor. 5 which seems to me to have direct parallels to current events.
In this short chapter, Paul speaks of the evil of fornication (a sexual sin), and how the people were ‘puffed up’ and ‘glorified’ in this behavior (tolerant). Paul’s warning is that these accepting attitudes will become a destroying leaven that will infect the entire lump. His instruction is to end the fellowship (church discipline) with these unrepentant sinners for a time, in the hopes that they will see the erroneous sinfulness of their actions and return to Christ in the end.
To me the parallels are striking with our current circumstances. Are the rapidly changing attitudes regarding serious sexual sins becoming a destroying leaven for the church today, and it’s leaders recommending a similar course of action as Paul made?
It seems like almost everywhere I lurk I see claims that the gospel of Jesus Christ demands absolute tolerance and radical inclusiveness. Lately, when I see this I have been turning to the New Testament to see if these claims match with what Christ actually taught. It has been amazing to me how much this is not matching up. Christ taught a narrow path that few find, and this continues in Matt. 11, and even if these posts are not drawing much attention, it has been a fascinating exercise for me.
Matt. 11 begins with John sending disciples to see if Christ is the one they have been waiting for. Christ summarizes the events of his ministry as a testimony that He is indeed the Messiah. Jesus then talks about the greatness of John the Baptist.
Jesus then begins to criticize the people for not accepting Him or John and saying that they ‘hath a devil’. He then upbraids the cities where his mighty works were done for their biggest problem: they repented not. This was Christ’s fundamental message, and it was not being heeded. Christ states that if these works would have been done in other places, that these places would have repented in sackcloth and ashes.
The chapter ends with the familiar invitation to come unto Christ, take his yoke upon us, and we will find rest because the yoke is easy and the burden is light. This is the inclusiveness, love and tolerance. The invitation goes to all. But the invitation is to repent and change, not to self-identify with, or deny our sins.
The recent controversy over the new handbook policy has brought with it additional claims that the gospel of Jesus Christ must be radically inclusive in its tolerance of pretty much anything. This has caused me to revisit my study of Matthew to see if this is indeed the case, and as fate would have it, the next chapter is Matt. 10, which does seem to address this claim negatively.
This chapter starts out with Jesus calling and sending out the apostles. His very first instruction to them is to not go to the Gentiles nor the Samaritans at all, and only go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (5-6). We may not know the reason for this exclusion, but there it is. Certainly the Gentiles would eventually have their season, but it was not at this time.
Much of the rest of this chapter is devoted to the idea that some people will accept the teachings of the apostles while others will not. The apostles are instructed to seek out those who are worthy, and to leave their peace with them. And to those who are not worthy, they let their peace return to them, and shake off the dust of their feet against those who does not receive them.
Jesus warns them against the wolves who will seek to persecute them. There will be some who will confess Christ, and those who will not, and those who deny Christ will be denied by Christ.
Jesus then declares that He did not come to send peace, but a sword (34). Man against father, daughter against mother, parents against children. He says that those who love even family members more than Jesus are not worthy of Jesus.
I do not think that I want to speculate much on how this might directly apply to recent controversies, but it does suggest that the gospel is not as unconditionally inclusive as many claim it is. Christ well knows that his teachings will cause division and controversy that will sometimes divide families and also bring persecution to those who preach this gospel. We should probably not expect different results than what Jesus predicted.
I would like to first state that I sympathize with those who are upset by this policy (see here for an official interview), and that even for those of us who can understand some reasons for this policy, it is not exactly something to celebrate. At best it seems that it may be an unfortunate remedy. I, like many others, would like to take a stab at expressing my initial thoughts on this controversial policy.
I went to the grocery store today. I grabbed a burger on the way and ate it in the parking lot. I threw the wrapper away and went into the store. After I put the grocery bags into the back of the car, I took my keys out of my pocket and noticed that the ignition key was missing. How could this be? I had the key chain, but the ignition key was gone.
I have made a series of posts reviewing the book of Matthew to see if Christ taught a gospel that demanded that his followers must be tolerant of any and all behaviors (as some claim). So far, this effort has shown that this is not the case at all. See previous posts here.