Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Straining out gnats + swallowing camels (March 25)

But as for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi,’ because you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers.  Do not call anyone on earth your father, because you have one Father, who is in heaven.  And do not be called masters either, because you have one Master, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant.  Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.  (Matthew 23:8-12 HCSB)

Jesus was warning His disciples not to get bigheaded, as spiritual leaders. They didn’t realize it yet, but Jesus knew that they would be the founders of the Early Church. He was emphatic that they saw themselves as servants and not masters. The Pharisees, on the other hand, made Jesus sick. They were proud religious leaders, suspicious of anything that wasn’t exactly their way, even calling Jesus the prince of demons. They felt threatened by Jesus’ radical ideas. Jesus’ teachings were in perfect alignment with all of scripture, but they were so obsessed with holding onto power and position, they couldn’t see God the Son standing right in front of them.  

There are self-labeled Christians so lax and disinterested in obeying God’s Word that they’re no longer saved. But there are others who are just as obsessed and suspicious as the religious leaders of the past, who will divide, accuse and exclude instead of encourage or build up. Jesus was harsh with them as He said in verse 24,  “Blind guides! You strain out a gnat, yet gulp down a camel!”  

Be very careful of religious attitudes of superiority and exclusion. Even if a fellow believer has sinned, they are to be helped back on the right path with love. But Jesus had tough love for those who chose to assume the worst of others and burden them with judgments. Yet even though He was harsh, He welcomed any Pharisee who sincerely sought to know Him.  

As Jesus has so graciously forgiven each of us who don’t deserve even a scrap from His table, we should be tenderhearted towards each other. When we pick at the little comments that others make, the snatches of conversations we may overhear, the behavior we don’t quite understand, we are straining out gnats and swallowing camels. We forget that we also say and do things that others can easily misinterpret. We need grace just as much as our brothers and sisters in faith need it. When we forget about demanding our way, humbling ourselves, serving and believing the best in each other, God’s promise to exalt us becomes reality. 

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