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Archive for October, 2018

On Dogs, Pearls, and Pigs

October 26th, 2018

Do not give dogs what is holy; do not throw your pearls before swine. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces. (Matthew 7:6 Berean Study Bible)

In His teachings about not judging others, Christ places a proviso – that having a non-judgmental spirit toward others cannot be a backdoor entry into indiscretion. He does not leave us the option to simply say, “Well, since I am not to judge others, then I suppose I am not responsible to identify anything specifically as truth or falsehood, or any action as moral or immoral.” Christ does not leave us with that excuse.

If we did try and claim it – and many I know do take this approach, that in being non-judgmental they accept everything as being equally true – then even this command not to judge is meaningless. To be tolerant, gracious, patient, and self-effacing does not require us to be incapable of identifying truth from falsehood.

The best way to understand this command is to return to Christ’s teachings in the start of His Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes. There we see the attitudes He is instructing His followers to adopt: admission of personal poverty of spirit, mourning for sin, meekness before God, hungering and thirsting for God’s righteousness, mercifulness toward others, purity of heart (in the sense of receiving God’s forgiveness), seeking to make peace between people and God and between people and other people, and even helping people achieve personal peace within themselves. This non-judgmental attitude toward others is simply these attitudes working themselves out in application.

“Dogs” were both considered indiscreet in their appetites and in their morals. Jews did not commonly have dogs as household pets, rather they were considered as scavengers. They could attach themselves with loyalty to some pack, or to some people, but there was no ability in their own soul to ascertain truth. The title seemed appropriate for the Gentile world as a whole, that though they could behave with decency in some circumstances, they did not have an understanding of God, or of truth, or of proper morality.

The Greeks and Romans that had conquered Israel and controlled Palestine in those years, would be an example of this. Though impressive in some of their philosophies, creative artistically and powerful militarily, they also had peppered the known world with brothels, and promoted the immoral rites of worship of some gods and goddesses. They could not be made partners in forming some new mix of religions.

“Swine” or “pigs” were unclean animals to the Jews, and they were likewise indiscreet in their appetites. They stood for those who cannot distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil, or truth and falsehood.

“Pearls” were the nuggets of truth that could change a person’s direction in life, that could bring repentance, conversion, grace and forgiveness, and a new hope. A “pearl” might also be a rebuke – given in the right way, of course, given by someone who had in repentance and meekness let God remove the beam from his own eye, and came to another in utter humility and with a desire to only help.

Proverbs says:

Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse,
and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury.
Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you;
reprove a wise man, and he will love you.
Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;
teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. (Proverbs 9:7-10 ESV)

Followers of Christ should be compassionate toward all, and loving toward all. We should proclaim the gospel to the whole world and to any one who will listen. But there is also the time and place when we should pull back from those who would take the message and corrupt it, who would twist it and use it as some excuse to persecute Christians.

This prophecy was fulfilled in the early church, for the Gentile world accused Christians of things such as cannibalism, on the basis of the observance of Communion. Christ’s words, “This is my body, take eat,” were misrepresented and rumours were spread to create fear and disgust among the population for the Christian faith. And many other Christian teachings in our day are being twisted and misrepresented – child discipline, marriage and family, and abortion and homosexuality – and the church is being painted in the colour of intolerance, rather than compassionate concern for what is right.

So, in conclusion, we should know where we stand and should show discretion and wisdom in who we speak with, and how we speak with them. Love and compassion should be modelled with patience and kindness toward others, yet we should not backdown from the truth. And we should be very careful of those who seek to join the unbelieving world and create some new religious paradigm. We must stand on the Word of God and on the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

Daily Devotions

The Perspective of Our Own Faults

October 25th, 2018

Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. (Romans 14:10-13 ESV)

I am preparing to preach on Matthew 7:1-6 this Sunday and was struck by how easily and mercilessly we judge one another. It seems to be an impossibility to do these two things at once: to humbly evaluate the status of our own souls and to remain critical and judgmental toward another.

We tend to be more gracious with ourselves and less tolerant toward others. We should reverse this trend. Jesus, in the Matthew 7:1-6 section, gives us two reasons why we should not judge and reprove others: (1) we will receive the same judgment from them and (2) we will dismiss our own weaknesses as insignificant. We will make a great deal out of a trifle in another’s life and a trifle out of a serious flaw in our own.

Much better to focus on our own weaknesses and to be gracious and kind toward others. Christ taught us, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matt. 5:7). And the passage from Romans 14 above echoes the same thought – that by forgiving others, and by humbly receiving the witness of the Lord in our own hearts and lives, we stave off both the criticisms from others and the judgment of God.

Those who are critical toward others will receive the same from the hands of others. Those who are arrogant and unforgiving, and quick to judge and to reprove, will receive the same treatment themselves. And those who are tolerant, self-rebuking, and forgiving, will also be dealt with in a more gracious and tolerant fashion.

I like the way the old Puritan scholar Matthew Henry put it in his commentary on the gospel of Matthew:

A just reproof to the censorious, who quarrel with their brother for small faults, while they allow themselves in great ones; who are quick-sighted to spy a mote in his eye, but are not sensible of a beam in their own; nay, and will be very officious to pull out the mote out of his eye, when they are as unfit to do it as if they were themselves quite blind. Note … There are degrees in sin: some sins are comparatively but as motes, others as beams; some as a gnat, others as a camel: not that there is any sin little, for there is no little God to sin against.

I love his phraseology, that all sin is against God and “there is no little God to sin against,” so all sin is serious. The slightest can lead eventually to the greatest. So the proper attitude of our souls is to constantly dwell in the reality of His grace, and then to share His grace with others. To know our own soul’s weaknesses, and to focus on those.

By the way, the teachings of Christ on this subject also command us “do not give what is holy to dogs” (Matt. 7:6), so Christ did not teach that we cannot maintain some standard of righteousness and holiness, that we cannot differentiate between truth and falsehood. We can and we must, or this very command not to judge becomes irrelevant. So in our patience, graciousness, kindness, tolerance, and humility, we cannot dispense with truth, nor fail to recognize righteousness and unrighteousness.

This creates a challenge in our lives, but the Spirit is able to navigate these passageways if we will listen to Him. He will show us how to hold dearly and deeply to the truth of God, to know right from wrong, but to patiently, graciously, and humbly deal with one another.

Daily Devotions