Jesus loved them but he wasn't their friend













Jesus of course loved the religious leaders (Pharisees) but he certainly was not their friend and certainly did not reconcile with them.  Yet, Jesus demands that we reconcile with our fellow man if we offend them.

Throughout the life of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Jesus constantly was confronted and verbally attacked by the Pharisees and in other accounts they tried to kill him, long before the crucifixion. Jesus would often lash out at them verbally and even used a whip on some folks who angered him by their irreverent behavior in the temple.  http://www.freedominchrist.net/sermons/parables/the%20parable%20of%20the%20pharisee%20and%20the%20tax%20collector--luke%2018.htm

Jesus came to die for the very people who hated and rejected him. Jesus even asked His father to forgive the people who hung him on the cross.  Jesus is love and knows no sin, but yet he continually did battle with and was no friend of the Pharisees and their kind.

Additionally,  Jesus was very divisive, he caused division:
Dividing the goats from His sheep, the wheat from the tares, he divided people (John 7:43, John 9:16)
Additional accounts:
A. Simeon told Mary that God had appointed Jesus to reveal men’s hearts (Luke 2:34-35). B. The Lord Jesus Christ caused a division in the nation of Israel (John 7:43; 9:16; 10:19).
C. The Lord Jesus Christ is precious, or a stone of stumbling and offence (I Peter 2:6-8).
D. Jesus Chhrist did not come to bring peace: He came to bring a testing sword (Matt 10:34-39).
E. The perilous times of the last days exalt a form of godliness, so that those contending for
apostolic religion make themselves a prey to other Christians (II Tim 3:1 – 4:5; Is 59:14-15).
http://www.letgodbetrue.com/pdf/is-there-not-a-cause.pdf

Paul was also divisive.  Throughout the Epistles he was constantly butting heads with people in authority, He rebuked Peter and even turned a man over to Satan. 1 Corinthians 5:5

I've been compelled to study this because I too have many enemies in my life. Mostly since dedicating my life to Jesus. Seriously, when I was in the world and of the world, I really didn't have problems with so many people not liking me and choosing to fight with me.   But once I became totally committed to Jesus was when I started running into serious problems in my relationships:  Oddly enough, many of my enemies are so called Christians and generally good, law abiding citizens. Others may not appear on the surface be my enemies, but we certainly are not friends. I don't know what category to place them. If I had to choose only between two, I'd have to say they are also my enemies.  Some unfortunately are family members. But Jesus told me not to be surprised because my very family would be my enemies.  Matthew 10:36 .

Because Jesus is coming soon, I am really searching my heart to make sure I'm all squared away with my Lord.  I wanted to make sure that all of my many enemies and I are in the right standing in the eyes of God.  I mean are we set in a way God approves.  Have I forgiven them and asked them to forgive me?  Do I love them? Do I ask and have I asked God to bless them even though they've cursed me?   Have I remembered one of them and recalled something I've done to offend them, and have I gone to them and reconciled with them so that I can be right with God?

I understand that Jesus told me to love my enemies. He told me to bless those who hate me and use me. To pray for them when they abuse me  Matthew 5: 43-48    He told me to always live in peace and make peace, reconcile  with someone who has something against me. Matthew 5:23-26 .  He told me to forgive them. Matthew 6:14 If someone has something against me (could be anything, very subjective) then I must go to them and make peace with them, reconcile,  before I can proceed to have a relationship  with God.

Have I done all these things?   Yes, I've done these things. However, many I've gone to have chosen not to reconcile. Therefore, I haven't been able to reconcile with many.

 I've tried to great lengths and finally it dawned on me the reasons we've not reconciled is the reasons we separated and those reasons are the same reasons Jesus could not reconcile with the Pharisees as Paul could not as well with  his adversaries.   I tried several times to be at peace with these people but my stand for Jesus alienated us.   I forgive them and I asked them to forgive me.

1 Corinthians 11:18-19 reads:  For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.

Titus 3:10 reads:  Reject a man that is a heretic after the first and second admonition.

Galatians 4:16:  Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?

But for me, a question remains.  Why would Jesus tell me he brought a sword and was so divisive and caused directly so much division and yet, on the other hand he tells me I must reconcile with my fellow man and seek peace.  And tell me he did not come to bring peace?

We are looking at a perfect case of PARADOX.

It is confusing to be a Christian, unless we understand paradox . We read the Bible and see it is full of Paradoxes. We see Christ's life and see it is a tremendous paradox and what he spoke is a paradox.

Only by combining the two mutually exclusive statements do we arrive at the whole truth. That is the power of paradox.

I'm compelled to seek deeper into why my dear Lord Jesus is causing me to experience this division and yet commanding me to reconcile. Laying these two truths side by side, I ask God to grant me the understanding to fully grasp the deeper truth of this.  Dear Jesus, please be formed in me. I pray in Jesus' name, Amen!

I was led to Exodus 4:10-12, 21.  In the same manner God told Moses He would teach Moses what to say when he went before Pharaoh, Jesus taught us what to say to our enemy. And in the same way God placed Moses, a very humbled Moses who seemed beneath Pharaoh in status, who stood before Pharaoh as a testimony and witness for God's purposes,  God puts us before people God wants to deal with. And the same way God hardened Pharaoh's heart for the purpose of using Pharaoh as vivid example of man opposing God and God's people, Jesus puts us before people who've hardened their hearts so that God may use us as a witness against them.   But, since vengeance belongs to God and not us, we're to have clean hands and a clean heart before God and man and allow God to do His perfect work. We as mere mortals are totally incapable of judgement and punishment on an eternal basis.

Only through a paradox can we truly see these truths combined to make a powerful statement of truth and divine wisdom. The ways of God are so much higher than our ways. It is foolishness in the eyes of man.

Great article on Paradox: http://www.theocentric.com/spirituality/christian_living/living_paradoxes.html

"A paradox [is] a statement that seems absurd or self-contradictory but... turns out to be true."[1] A paradox consists of two truths that, when laid side by side, appear to contradict. However, upon further reflection, they prove to be compatible. "While real contradictions are impossible to reconcile, paradoxes are merely difficult to reconcile."[2]
The Christian faith is full of paradoxes primarily because the Christian faith is rooted in divine mysteries. Paradox is the language of mystery - the best way to speak of divine mysteries. We learn to personally participate in the mysteries of God by practicing paradoxes - by "living paradoxes." For example, the Apostle Paul wrote, "when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:10). How can Paul be both weak and strong at the same time? Doesn't the first truth cancel out the second? Or are we speaking of a kind of strength that goes beyond comprehension - strength that arises from participating in the divine mystery of God in Christ?
"The opposite of a great truth is also a great truth. A paradox is an interweaving of two great and opposite truths."[3] Physicist Neils Bohr affirms this same truth from a slightly different perspective: "The opposite of a true statement is a false statement, but the opposite of a profound truth can be another profound truth."[4] Some realities are too complex to be explained from a single viewpoint. Paradox allows us to capture the whole truth by simultaneously juxtaposing two seemingly contradictory assertions. When two seemingly incompatible truths are held in tension - to the point of even appearing to contradict - we have a paradox. Only the tension paradox contains can capture the unspeakable profundity at the very heart of our lives.
The ability to embrace paradox is a mark of spiritual maturity.
We hate paradox since it is so painful getting there, but it is a very direct experience of a reality beyond our usual frame of reference and yields some of the greatest insights. It forces us beyond ourselves and destroys naive and inadequate adaptations... The capacity for paradox is the measure of spiritual strength and the surest sign of maturity.[5]
Immature Christians - like infants, toddlers, and young children - are satisfied with simple laws and practical principles. Mature Christians have grown to need more. The growing awareness of the vast mysteries of their faith and the profound complexity of their experience demands it. They discover that only paradox communicates the fullness of truth - the whole truth. They therefore seek to participate in divine mysteries by "living paradoxes" - paradoxes that are often counter-intuitive, opposing common sense. Only paradox can capture the personal, relational, and mystical aspects that accompany authentic experience of the living God.

Christian Paradoxes

The Christian faith consists of many paradoxes that convey the mysteries of God. The "whole truth" of each mystery is only known when the dual truths of a paradox are fully held in taut suspension - in tension. Picture a rope firmly held by two men in a tug-of-war. If one man falters, the tension is lost and the man is pulled away from his foundation. In order for the rope to remain taut, both men must maintain their position while pulling with all their strength on their end of the rope.
The "whole truth" conveyed by paradox is like this rope when both men steadily hold their position. If one end of the truth is relaxed, the tension is lost, distortion occurs, and the whole truth is lost. Only when both truths are held in their fullness does the whole truth shine forth. Our temptation will always be to let one end loose in order to lessen the tension. But doing this causes the mystery to be lost, and the truth to be abandoned. Following are a few paradoxes central to the Christian mystery.
Trinity. God is one and God is three. One God eternally exists as three distinct Persons - Father, Son, and Spirit. The oneness of God is the plurality of Persons in community. God is profoundly relational. Overemphasize God's oneness and you end up with an eternally lonely and needy God - a God who needs to create in order to have a personal relationship. Overemphasize God's threeness and you end up with three Gods - a polytheism that would never be compatible with Jewish monotheism. Retain both and you have a profoundly relational God.
The Incarnation. Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man. The fullness of his humanity does not detract from his deity. The fullness of his deity does not lessen his perfect humanity. This mystery entered our world through another mystery - the virgin-mother Mary. Exaggerate Jesus' deity and his humanity is compromised. Exaggerate Jesus' humanity and his deity is compromised. Retain both and you have the perfect bridge between God and man.
Holy Scripture. The Bible is the word of God. The Bible is the word of men. The Bible is God's inspired revelation to humanity through human authors. The human authors did not lose their humanity in writing the Scriptures. Each author retained his own personality, style, and particular emphases. Peter recognized Paul's writings as Scripture and yet still spoke of Paul's writings as difficult and hard to understand (2 Peter 3:16). Overstress divine authorship and the human element is inconsequential. Overstress the human authorship and the divine authority is compromised. Retain both, and you have a book that speaks God's words in human language in an authoritative and accessible manner.
Transcendence and Immanence. God is both far and near, beyond and within. The heavens cannot contain God and yet God dwells in his church. Even more particularly, God dwells in the hearts of human beings. We intimately pray to God ("Our Father") who is transcendent beyond fathoming ("who art in heaven"). Overstate God's transcendence and you end up with the remote God of deism. Overstate God's immanence and you end up with the confusing God of pantheism. Retain both and you have God, the Creator of all things whose presence pervades all things while remaining distinct from all things.
Human beings. We are both physical and immaterial, earth and spirit, flesh and soul. The early Church Fathers viewed humanity as the nexus between heaven and earth, created from and for both realms. Because of this, we are capable of great glory and great sacrilege. Overemphasize the physical and human beings are little more than overgrown monkeys. Overemphasize the immaterial, and you become a Gnostic, devaluing creation as insignificant and unspiritual. Retain both, and you have the divine image-bearer who is given a holy stewardship over all creation to reflect God in a way no other creature can.
Christian Experience. We are both saint and sinner, torn between two ages - God's new creation and the old creation. We are caught in the "already/not yet" tension that redemption brings. We already possess the blessings of the coming age and yet we anticipate experiencing their fullness at the consummation of all things. In the meantime, we follow the once and future king, Jesus, who reigns and will reign.

Living Paradoxes

Paradoxes call for practical application. Often, living paradoxes is counter-intuitive. Yet, they are rooted in redemptive realities that are greater than this world. The New Testament is full of such paradoxes:
  • The humble are exalted. The exalted are humbled. "Those who humble themselves will be exalted." (Luke 14: 11)
  • Lose your life to find it. Find your life and lose it. "Those who find their life will lose it and those who lose themselves for my sake will find it." (Matthew10:39)
  • Slavery leads to freedom. "Having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness." (Rom. 6:18; cf. 1 Cor. 7:22)
  • The foolish are wise. "If any one among you think that he is wise in this age, let him become foolish that he may become wise." (1 Corinthians 3:18; cf. 4:10)
  • The poor are rich. "Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom." (James 2:5)
  • The weak are strong. "...for when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:10)
  • Die to live. "...always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body." (2 Corinthians 4:10)
  • Give to receive. "It is more blessed to give than to receive." (Acts 20:35)
  • The first are last. The last, first. "The last shall be first, and the first last." (Matthew 20:16; Mark 9:35)
Simple rules, rigid moralisms, and practical principles cannot possibly contain the wisdom of paradox. Each falls short of possessing the whole truth. Each can exist apart from mystery. Yet, divorced from the mysteries of faith, paradox makes no sense. Only in light of the mysteries of redemption does living paradox make sense.
Because of human sin, things are not as they should be. We live in an upside-down world. God's truth always appears upside-down in an upside-down world. Jesus' message was simple: The Kingdom of God is invading this upside-down world. This kingdom turns the world upside-down, and thus, right-side-up.
From the very beginning of Jesus' kingdom message, he emphasized the upside-down-yet-right-side-up nature of God's kingdom through his beatitudes. Jesus' beatitudes are paradoxical from beginning to end. Vic Grounds highlights this in his short description of each paradox:
  • Wealthy Paupers (Matthew 5:3)
  • Happy Mourners (Matthew 5:4)
  • Unaggresive Conquerors (Matthew 5:5)
  • Lusting Saints (Matthew 5:6)
  • Self-Enriching Benefactors (Matthew 5:7)
  • Realistic Visionaries (Matthew 5:8)
  • Militant Pacifists (Matthew 5:9)
  • Winning Losers (Matthew 5:10-12)
Jesus is not suggesting that the beatitudes were practical principles concerning how the world works. In this present world, the poor don't usually overcome the strong, mourners often remain uncomforted, the meek don't inherit the earth, and those who long for justice often go to their grave without satisfaction. But now, through Jesus' teaching and activity, God's kingdom is invading, putting things in their proper order - an order not of this world. Though the beatitudes may seem upside-down, it is really the world that is upside-down.
The kingdom of God overturns everything "normal," in a way that could never be predicted: "God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are" (1 Corinthians 1:27-28). The kingdom brings a great reversal which makes normal seem abnormal and the crazy seem sane.
In his latest book, Jesus Drives Me Crazy! Lose Your Mind, Find Your Soul, Leonard Sweet reminds us that the Christian life is anything but normal.
Once you become a disciple of Jesus, normal isn't good enough anymore. Christians are part of the wisdom of the world that is to come... Everything Jesus taught goes against how "normal" people see and function in the world. Turning the other cheek, going the second mile, giving the spare coat, washing underlings' feet, heaping blessings on those who curse you, living without anger, laying down your life - all these things "normal" people have a hard time understanding, much less thinking and living. The truth is, Jesus stood "normal" wisdom on its head... Christian spirituality is anything but sane if "sane" means logical, predictable, serious, or safe.[6]
A commitment to "living paradoxes" is to live in harmony with God's kingdom, not in accord with the world's wisdom. Thus, living paradox is to indwell the mysteries of faith. It is not routine or programmatic, but wild, free, and unpredictable. It does not make sense, but it does connect us to transcendence. It is not tidy, but messy. It is not safe, but good.
Is this the way the world views us? As wild, free, unpredictable, messy but good people who are in touch with transcendent truths, indwelling the mysteries of God by living paradoxes? Or are we simply known as boring, hateful, angry conservatives who complain more than inspire? Francis Schaeffer was right, "One of the greatest injustices we do to our young people is ask them to be conservative. Christianity is not conservative, but revolutionary."[7]
Jesus was considered mad by his own family (Mark 3:20-21). Religious leaders labeled him demon-possessed and insane (Mark 3:22; John 10:19-20), a drunkard, whore-monger, and rebel. He was constantly misunderstood by all those around him, including his own disciples. He was betrayed by a good friend and suffered the most humiliating and shameful death possible. Viewed solely from a human perspective, Jesus' life appears to be a comedy of errors, a miserable failure, the pathetic loss of a well-intentioned yet relatively harmless man. Yet, from the perspective of faith formed by the mysteries of God, Jesus is the fullness of God, the heart of God's redemptive purpose for humanity.
Christ Jesus is not only our Savior but our pattern. His life demonstrates the power of paradox to upset the world's wisdom even in the midst of apparent defeat. By living paradox we participate in his life, death, and resurrection. In other words, we participate in more than "mere religion" with all its rules, prohibitions, and principles. We participate in the divine life itself, the very mystery of God in Christ through the Spirit. Michael Card has expressed the paradox well in his song entitled "God's Own Fool."
It seems I've imagined Him all of my life
The wisest of all of mankind
But if God's holy wisdom is foolish to man
He must have seemed out of His mind
For even His family said He was mad
And the priests said a demon's to blame
But God in the form of this angry young man
Could not have seemed perfectly sane
When we in our foolishness thought we were wise
He played the fool and He opened our eyes
When we in our weakness believed we were strong
He became helpless to show we were wrong
And so we follow God's own fool
For only the foolish can tell
Believe the unbelievable
Come be a fool as well
So come lose your life for a carpenter's son
For a mad man who died for a dream
And you'll have the faith His first followers had
And you'll feel the weight of the beam
So surrender the hunger to say you must know
Have the courage to say "I believe"
For the power of paradox opens your eyes
And blinds those who say they can see
Will we settle for mere moralisms or embrace the mystery of God? Will we rest content with practical principles or know the power of paradox? Will we settle for common sense or reach for transcendence? Will we strive to secure the world's approval or humbly follow God's own fool by believing the unbelievable, content with being labeled fools for Christ? Will we seek to experience the mysteries of God by living paradoxes?

Conclusion and Confession

This is the fourth and final installment in a series entitled "Meet the Pastor." The intention of this series is to highlight four major themes that weave through my life and teaching - practicing God's presence, nurturing a childlike faith, embracing mystery, and living paradoxes. Now that I've introduced you to all four themes I have a confession to make.
I have not personally mastered any of these great themes. I constantly have to remind myself of their importance. I get so busy that I miss God in the moment and thus need to remember to practice God's presence. I sometimes feel so self-important that I forget the playfulness and simplicity of childlikeness. I am such an "egghead" that I often need to recall that man is more than intellect, that mystery is bigger than the mind. I am such a pragmatist, that I need to consider anew that I only participate in mystery by living paradoxes.
In short, I am on a journey with you. I am not a tour guide but a fellow traveler. I share the same desire to grow in each one of these areas myself. My desire is that we would share life together in a voyage of discovery and growth together - knowing God's presence through embracing mystery by living paradoxes with childlike faith.

[1] Dr. Mardy Grothe, Oxymoronica: Paradoxical Wit and Wisdom from History's Greatest Wordsmiths. (New York: HarperCollins, 2004), viii.
[2] James Lucas, Knowing the Unknowable God: How Faith Thrives on Divine Mystery (Colorado Springs: Waterbrook Press, 2003), 9.
[3] Ibid., 6.
[4] Wilkie Au and Noreen Cannon, Urgings of the Heart: A Spirituality of Integration (Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 1995), 8.
[5] Robert A. Johnson, Owning Your Own Shadow: Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche(New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991), 75, 77-78.
[6] Leonard Sweet, Jesus Drives Me Crazy! Lose Your Mind, Find Your Soul (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2003), 14-15, 19.
[7] Francis Schaeffer, The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1970), 81-82.

© Richard J. Vincent, 2004


Comments

  1. Trav,
    This was really! Thank you for pointing out the paradoxes! I may be posting this on the blog!
    peace,
    Deirdre

    ReplyDelete

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