One thing I have learned over time is that you can never satisfy the religiously minded. I should know, I was one. Many of us are, without knowing it. I didn't think I was until I went through a series of events where our Father showed me grace after grace. Suddenly many of the things I used to judge people came tumbling down as my eyes were opened to the ugliness of my heart in comparison to our Father's glorious love, compassion, mercy and grace. My eyes were also opened to see how much we judge people without possessing knowledge or understanding of the greatness of our God. It is like when a teenager gains a bit of knowledge and then suddenly thinks he knows everything. It can get ugly.
As we turn from Matthew 11 to Matthew 12 we see that Jesus comes face to face with a group of people who had a little bit of knowledge and almost no understanding. They had the knowledge of the law but no understanding of it. They knew the words but not the heart. In fact, they tried to better define the words by adding definitions to the law so that a simple thing became very complicated. There was a reason for this. The Pharisees were the guardians of Jehovah worship. The nation had been subjected to the rule of other nations since their captivity. Each nation had impacted and influenced Judaism so much that it had become almost unrecognizable. The Pharisees went to the extreme to hold on to the Mosaic law and their identity as a nation.
Understanding this then, we have Jesus arrive on the scene, who wants to take God's people from a surface understanding to the revelation of the Father's heart. On this particular Sabbath Jesus and his crew were walking through the grain fields. It was the accepted practice at that time that a person was not considered a thief if he took a little for his own consumption, so this is what the disciples did. However, the ever watchful religiously minded folk were watching, as they always do and they accused the disciples of "working" on the Sabbath. Remember, these folks had come up with a definition of work which also included how far a person could travel in a day. It had nothing to do with God's law but instead man's interpretation of that law.
Jesus gently gave them two examples to show them how ridiculous they had become in over-defining God's law:
Haven't you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven't you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent? I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. (Matthew 12:3-6)
Keep in mind that these people had the best of intentions but they only had a little understanding. They had forgotten the purpose of the command to keep the Sabbath Holy. It wasn't to shackle people but instead to free them to give thanks and to worship. The religiously minded had stolen the joy from the the purpose of the day. Jesus reminded them of some Holy Scripture that was more revealing of the Father's heart:
If you had known what these words mean, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath. (Matthew 12:7-8)
If only we could all understand these words. They are at the heart of what Jesus said to Nicodemus:
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17)
It's what Jesus was saying when he rebuked his disciples for wanting to see the cities destroyed where Jesus had been rejected. It is what Jesus was talking about when he told us not to hate our enemies but to love them. It is a hard thing for the religiously minded people to understand because it is all about love, mercy and grace. They operate in the realm of clearly defined rules that go beyond the Word of God and are wrapped up in denominational thinking or based upon the traditions of man, just like the Pharisees. They have the best of intentions and love God (as far as they understand love) but they only possess some knowledge with very little understanding. Their judgments are often based on their own opinions. They follow the practice and thinking of those who are like minded instead of seeking the Father's heart for themselves.
It is a shame that as Christians shout at the homosexuals and abortionists we are revealing our ignorance of the Father's heart and how much we are missing the point, just like the Pharisees. Sin is sin no matter how you slice it. It doesn't matter which sin we are talking about, it all offends our Holy God. However, he has reached into this depraved world with a holy hand of love and said that he has not come to condemn but to save. There is one day reserved for judgment and we need to leave it to the only one who has the knowledge and understanding to do it. The rest of us in the 'here and now' need to learn what is meant by 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice' , because we are missing the point big time and a world that is dying is not being given the opportunity to see the heart of the Father.
Let's stop being so religious and get on with the task that has been given to us. Let's put away the language of judgment and follow the example of Jesus. The only ones he ever spoke harshly to are the ones who should have known better, the supposed mature and leaders of the people. Let's acknowledge our own lack of understanding and ask for help to put into practice the bit of knowledge we presently possess. Let's stop accumulating knowledge for the sake of knowledge and let's start living according to the heart of the Father as revealed in the words and actions of the Son. If Jesus showed love, mercy and grace to sinners doesn't it only make sense that we are to do the same? Stop with the "love the person and hate the sin" because all you are really doing is condemning the person. Set that aside and just get on with loving people. Yes, find a way to tell them the truth of their situation, as Jesus did, but do it in a way that convinces them you are telling them because you love them not because you are better than they are. Convince them by being part of their life regardless of what they do and say. You are going to have to get a whole bunch "dirty" if you want to honestly walk in Jesus' steps.