This is a continuation of my thoughts in my previous post, and a post titled, “Jesus jujutsu: a brilliant strategy for Biblical self-discovery.”
The Living Word’s work in us is sheer brilliance because He’s a “a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb.4:12), always compassionately pointing to what’s lurking in the deepest and darkest part of us. An honest response usually entails reluctantly dropping our rocks and looking at the log in our own eye. Jesus flips every justification we think we might have to not be gracious on its pointy judgmental head.
(And now for something completely different… 🙂 )
Jesus has the inconvenient audacity of popping our piously delusional bubble by telling us to forgive others as much as we want to be forgiven, judge others as much as we want to be judged, and extend the same grace and mercy to others as we would want extended to ourselves (See Matt.5:7; 6:14-15; 7:1-2, 12; 18:26-34; Mark 4:24; Luke 6:38).
He leaves no legalistic loophole that allows us to point our self-righteous finger at what’s wrong with anyone else. He has locked Himself in the room with us and thrown away the key! Our only choice is to either submit to this mortifying process or go on pretending we’re following Christ.
The former is beautiful and compelling; the latter is…well, it can look pretty ugly.
This is the very essence of the “Law of Christ,” and I would argue, the essence of authentic Christian living. As I pointed out last time, Jesus put all the Law and the Prophets succinctly in one two-part statement (emphasis added):
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt.22:37-40 NIV)
Paul essentially said the same thing: other-centered love fulfills the Law of Christ.
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. (Gal.6:1-3 NIV)
What both Jesus and Paul are saying is that we fulfill every jot and tittle of the Law by first receiving God’s love (1 John 4:19), loving Him back, and then showing that same unconditional love to everyone else.
And, by the way, unconditional love has no conditions.
So, going back our Galatians text, when anyone is caught in a sin, we who live by the Spirit are to restore this brother or sister, realizing that we ourselves could fall just like them. In other words, we put ourselves in their shoes.
Also notice that punishment or retribution are not in view here. The purpose is restoration, which is God’s form of justice (think Luke 15:20-24).
The only people who can be trusted to do this are those who live by the Spirit; in other words, those who are cooperating with Jesus’ tailor-made log removal program themselves.
As our “log” is experientially removed, we begin to see and love others the same way Jesus sees and loves them. But until then, we’re the proverbial blind leading the blind, only hurting people rather than freeing them.
You could argue that from the beginning God’s ultimate intent was to bring about a culture of grace and other-centered love. Israel was told over and over to look after the widows and orphans, to be hospitable to strangers, to show mercy and kindness to all, as the prophet Micah summed up so well.
He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8 NASB)
This is the Law of Christ—other centered-love—which inevitably leads to living by grace through faith. When I actually take Jesus’ teachings seriously and start to follow Him (instead of just believing in Him), I can no longer see myself as better or more deserving than anyone else.
7 For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? (1 Cor.4:7 NASB)
Instead, I see that I need Christ’s life, His grace, His other-centered love flowing through me, and that this same life is flowing through everyone around me (emphasis mine):
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Eph.4:1-6 NKJV)
I’m sure at some level we all believe this, yet, why is it so common for Christians to think they have the right to judge sinners, even though Paul said, “For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside?” (2 Cor.5:12).
So, instead of us looking like Christ (and the getting the same results), we look more like the hypocritical Pharisees in Jesus’ stories (and Monty Python lampoons). Perhaps this is why the world around us still has a high view of Christ but a very low view of Christians. Something to think about.