Bella Vista Church of Christ

LIFELINES

01/09/2019

Randall Caselman

 

A New Year

A New Way Of Thinking Like Jesus

 

  A few weeks ago, Martha Moser handed me an article titled “An Entirely Different Approach.” As I read it, I thought wow, what a great way to start the New Year, cultivating a different attitude toward people, all people.

 

  It’s interesting to note that God saw fit to remind Peter of this new way of thinking about others as he approached the house of Cornelius. In fact Peter would never have gone there had not the Lord intervened three times in his wrong thinking. Three times God had to remind him that others, all others, had worth and that none should be judged impure or unclean. “God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean” (Acts 10.28). The msg reads “Common or unclean,” the CEV says “Unclean or unfit.” Here it is; none, not one of God’s creation is beyond His grace, beyond His blessings. Titus 2.11 tells us “His grace has appeared to all men.” "He sends both rain and sunshine on the righteous and unrighteous" (Matthew 5.45).

 

  In light of these Scriptures, why do we insist that we have a right to judge others? Then proceed with a behavior based upon our own judgments. Listen folk, we are repeatedly told not to do this? Why do we insist on labeling or pigeonholing anyone as common, unclean, or unfit?

 

  Interesting isn’t it that such judging and labeling seem to relieve us of our God-given responsibility toward those we judge. We say, oh he’s a drunk, she’s a prostitute, they’re Catholic, Muslim, Buddhist, she’s been married twice, he’s a liberal, he’s a bum. She is a floozy. They’re just old. They’re just kids. She's too young to understand. They made their bed; deserve what they getting. We’ve all guilty, all made such judgmental statements, right? Indeed, we will never rise above the labels we place on others, just or unjust.

 

  True, there are occasions where we must make righteous discernment and judgments concerning the behavior of others. But, we must be careful that we do not intrude into God’s territory. Revenge, withholding our grace, goodness, and mercy based upon our personal judgment is condemned. “Do not take revenge, but leave room for God’s wrath” (Romans 12.19).

 

  Think about this, labeling people stops our compassion dead in the water. According to Jesus, making such unrighteous judgments may serve to make us Levities and Priests, but does not make us pleasing to God. Consider the narrative of the Good Samaritan. He did not judge or label the man in need, so he proceeded with goodness mercy and grace. Where are we in this narrative? Who am I, who are you? Are we withholding mercy or even the good news of the Gospel from another because we have judged, pigeonholed, labeled, instead of being Mercy People, God’s People? We have studied, analyzed, preached, on the Good Samaritan to the point that we’ve worn it out! But we’ve missed the point of why didn’t the Priest or Levite help him? You decide! Could it be because they mislabeled him?Mother Teresa is credited to have said: "If you judge people, you have no time to love them." Indeed!

 

  You see, God takes a much different approach. He’s not about excluding others, but about inclusion. “Not willing that any should perish.” Think about it “The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood” (John 1.14 msg). Jesus came into our world to show us how to live. Are we listening? “He went about doing good.” He went home with Zacchaeus, a rich man from Jericho; called a hated tax collector to be an Apostle; praised some floozy he met at Simon’s house. Let us be careful that we do not become exclusive but inclusive with our mercy and grace behavior.

 

  Paul tells us that Jesus, who had equal status with God, dethroned, emptied Himself walking in the mess of this world to become two things, human and a servant. To be a servant, one must serve, not find ways to excuse and exclude ourselves by judging, labeling, pigeonholing others wrongly. From the lips of Jesus: “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6.37). Whoa! I wonder how many blessings we’re missing out on, what forgiveness we have been denied, because we’ve judged others unfairly? Plus, categorizing others, any others, creates distance and affords us an exit strategy instead of our reaching out to minister, serve, or share Jesus with others. Shame on us!

 

  Truth is, it’s all about motive. Why are we judging? What’s the purpose? Are we trying to help? Or trying to provide an excuse for not helping? You may judge me and Jeff righteous because we are preachers and are here three times a week. But the real question is why are we doing this? Is it for money? Would we still be preaching, teaching, visiting, if there were no paycheck? Perhaps our ministry is about some misplaced idea of power, prestige, popularity. I mean, over the years we’ve all been fooled by preachers whose motives were not correct. Gotta ask, why are we at church: Is it to impress someone; is it because this church will enhance our career networking opportunities; is it because there are available bachelors or available good looking ladies? Or am I here to praise God and grow in holiness. Come on folk… Motive is everything!! Our King James has Solomon saying: “As a man thinks in his heart so is he.” (Proverbs 23.7) “As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man” (Proverbs 27.19 NIV). We are what we are to God out of proper motive, not out of behavior. Behavior can be faked. Motive is real. It’s all about motive, because with proper motive proper behavior will follow.

 

  Indeed, the message from Jesus is “Don’t call any person unclean or unfit for our love, mercy, and grace” (Acts 10.28 CEV). So the question becomes: Are we thinking like Jesus or thinking like the world? What good deeds, proper behavior, has our judgmental labeling stopped us from doing this week? Sobering question, amen?

 

—Randall Caselman