Matthew 23-24, Psalm 93
In the movies one of the highlights is generally when the "bad guy" gets what's coming to him either physically, verbally or both. Many remember Arnold Schwarzenegger saying the famous line in Terminator 2, "Hasta la vista, baby". One of my favorite movies, The Patriot, ends with Benjamin Martin played by Mel Gibson delivering some final words before killing in battle the wicked Colonel Tavington. Though this is the movies, we must all step back and ask ourselves if we also derive pleasure "setting the record straight"? Do we contrive elaborate conversations which often never actually occur how we will tell someone what we really think? Do we derive any pleasure at all telling someone off, even if the truth is on your side? Though this is a natural human reaction, this is not the example of our Savior who delivered the comments necessary, but who literally weeped for them for having to do so.
We read in Matthew 23, Jesus delivering His seven woes to the Pharisees. He begins by making a general statement in 23:2-4, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers." He goes on further to describe their hypocritical nature in 23:13,15, "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in...Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves." As we read this pronouncing of woes by Jesus and certainly if you were one of His disciples, you would have probably said it is about time that He finally told them off and took the offensive in this fight. But then we truly see the heart of Jesus after delivering this rebuke to the scribes and Pharisees in 23:37, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!"
We must all step back and ask ourselves what is the condition of our heart for those who wrong us. The truth must be spoken, but is it done so with righteous indignation or with love. Reflect on political debates and bantering. There is no love on either side of the aisle, just a determination to defeat and humiliate the opposing side. We are not to live our lives this way. Like our Savior, truth is truth and strong and difficult conversations are often necessary, but as Paul said in Ephesians 4:15, we are to speak the truth in love. If we are angry and can't do that we should step back for a little while until we have controlled our emotions and have allowed mercy and grace to be at the core of our character. We should not deflect from these conversations but our purpose should be towards restoration, not triumph and demoralization. This holds true in every relationship including family, friends, and co-workers. This also holds true for strangers as many feel the need to tell off other drivers who in our minds are wrong 100% of the time. I never forget how upset my almost 90 year old father was when his driving skills were not what they were, and he would be at the receiving end of comments like, "get off the road, old man," etc. He was at an age when this was true and he soon stopped driving, but woe to those drivers who made this beautiful man feel this way at that age. So, we have a choice when delivering a message, whether to beat someone in triumph or whether to restore someone in love. The facts don't change, only the method of delivery does.
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: