Monday, January 31, 2011

God Said 'Do Not Murder', So Stop Killing People

We are quick to use a lot of labels in the Body of Christ, almost as quick as we are to judge something we do not understand. We are quick to forget where we come from and what temptations or demons we struggle with in our own life. That is not to make it sound like there is a demon behind every lamp post or that our lives are filled with deception. It is only a recognition that there can be a struggle between the flesh and the spirit because we are constantly surrounded by things in this world that want to tempt the flesh. It may not be major things but even minor things like enjoying our sleep too much, having a love affair with too much food, being offended too easily, putting work ahead of God and family, go against the perfect law of God.  Before we throw that first stone we should consider our own lives, especially before using the dreaded label of "hypocrite".

I believe most of us understand that hypocrite comes from the Greek word hupokrit─ôs which means "one who plays a part". It was used in early English for those who played a part on the stage. A fitting name for those who claim to hold to certain beliefs and practices in life but in fact do not and only play at it for personal gain. However, we use this label as an accusation against leaders and other people who fail to live up to our expectations. There is a big difference between the two. One is a complete pretender, the other a fellow sojourner who fails and then is picked up to continue the journey. The unfortunate fact is that leaders fail in their walk from time to time and because they are leaders it effects many people, but they need to be restored like anyone else, not labelled and rejected. They are not complete frauds, only men and women who have been called to something greater than they are.

Jesus knew a group of leaders who were hypocrites. They were deep into the law without understanding it's heart. They were into rules and making people follow the rules without knowing the rule maker. Their purpose was control and profit. They were very much into playing a role for personal gain:

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

   “Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’" (Matthew 23:1-7)

It was something to be a Pharisee, to be included among these men who swore to protect and uphold the law of Moses. They were the saviours of Israel and her identity. They stood against the great Greek influence, the defenders of Jehovah worship. Perhaps they started with noble purpose but it soon became a class of men who used the law to control people. This is far different from what or who we call hypocrites today. A hypocrite is one who does not believe in what he teaches and preaches. He is a person who insists that people should act a certain way, live a certain life-style but fails to do it himself because within himself he doesn't believe it.

Today we use hypocrite as a label for anyone who tries and fails. It is easier for us to point out someone else's  faults and failings then to deal with our own. However, would we consider David a hypocrite? He failed more often then not, yet God still loved him, considered his heart precious and continued to show him grace and blessings. It was because David desired to know God and to live a life dedicated to him. Would we consider Peter a hypocrite for his denial of Jesus? After all he did deny the Son of God. Yet Jesus restored him by allowing Peter to express his heart, which was filled by a profound love for Jesus. This would also describe most of the leaders and fellow sojourners in your life. These are people with a profound love for Jesus but who have their moments of failings. If they continued in these failings and began to act the part, allowing the heart to grow cold, they would become hypocrites. God did not leave David in that condition nor did he allow Peter to be destroyed in it. God has his way of dealing with his children so that they confess their failings to him in brokenness which is where he renews and restores them.

We know that we fail in our walk from time to time. We shouldn't, but we do. This does not make us hypocrites if we are willing to to be corrected by God. Somehow we need to move away from killing the wounded in the Body of Christ and instead work with the purpose of restoration because we cannot afford to lose one person, not a single person. This means the labels need to go away and the Word of God needs to be put in place. There are people who take upon themselves the position of judge and executioner but God has called leaders for the purpose of being correctors and restorers, and he has equipped them for this task:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

If you attempt this without the anointing you could cause great damage and make a bad situation worse. There are some believers who have a little bit of knowledge in the Word and so use it as a license to kill. Those who have been called to the task understand that God is not interested in destroying a person but instead in restoring his child. As long as there is repentance there is forgiveness. When God confronted David through his prophet Nathan, David quickly fell into repentance. That was the purpose of the confrontation, to give David that opportunity to repent. It is why Jesus met Peter on the beach, to allow him to repent of his denials and to be restored in his relationship with Jesus. God was not interested in punishing or destroying, only restoring.

Let's put away the labels and walk in the love and forgiveness that Jesus demonstrated for us. Let's consider what we have been forgiven and realize that we were shown such mercies so that we would be merciful to others. Let us not become like the Pharisees, where the law became more important than the heart, and realize that God's grace means something, something incredible. We are not a people of the law but a people of grace; our salvation is based on that fact. Grace should be mixed into everything we say and do, especially in our dealings with one another. We need each other as forgivers and encouragers. If this is a struggle for you, if you have a tough time forgiving then ask God to deal with you so you do not become what you may accuse others of being. The Body of Christ, the family of God, is a great place of love and forgiveness, of correction and  restoration. Let's put the killing fields to rest.