(Disclaimer: This is not the typical type of blog article that i post.)
So i created a meme a few days ago and posted it on my social media. It also heads this article. After posting it, i realized that there are several ways in which it could be taken. Therefore, allow me to clarify in this post:
- Since Jesus spoke harshly to religious hypocrites, i don’t have to worry about my tone of speaking/writing.
- If we compare some of the things Jesus said to things i have written, then it becomes clear that by comparison i do not write in an ungracious, condescending way.
And it is the second of these possibilities that i meant to communicate. Jesus said, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34), and in our culture He could have also said, “out of the abundance of the heart the vlogger blogs/blogger blogs/social media poster posts.”
When Jesus took the Pharisees to task in Matthew 23, He was speaking righteously; He is God and He never sinned with His tongue. To take my meme and use it as an excuse to call people white-washed tombs, to belittle their character, to slander them, to say they are going to Hell, to call them hypocrites, or to otherwise speak or write against them is to attempt to say that your anger is just as righteous as Jesus’. Since it isn’t, because only He was capable of a purely righteous anger, using my meme in the first sense given above is sinful. Don’t do it!
I am very careful with what i write. As a writer, i write with a purpose. I want people to come to see Jesus as more beautiful than anything else in this world. And when i post a meme, i use it to challenge people in their comfort zone. Christianity is simple; but that does not mean that it is meant to be easy or comfortable. There is nothing comfortable in the words, “Take up your cross and follow Me” (Mark 8:34), which should be emblazoned at the starting line of the Christian race.
However, while i claim that i am very careful with what i write, i am by no means perfect. I do not claim to be Jesus. And the simple fact that the meme has two very easily possible interpretations is clear proof that i am not always as careful as i should be.
This is when Psalm 141:3 comes into play. David writes, “LORD, set up a guard for my mouth; keep watch at the door of my lips.“
This is what i want. I need Him to actively protect my mouth from speaking foolishly, to keep my fingers from typing hastily, to sift through my words–whatever form they might take–and only allow those that are righteous. I want the words posted on this blog to be acceptable and pleasing to God (Psalm 19:14). I want to bring Him glory. I don’t want to cast shame on His glorious name. This has to be given to God; i am not capable of accomplishing this on my own.
I chose Psalm 141:3 for a reason. It occurs in a Psalm where David prays that his every action would be pleasing to God. (After much study, i believe that it was written around the time he spared Saul’s life [1 Samuel 24, 26].) This was the first chapter of Scripture i ever exegeted after taking a hermeneutics class in college. In that paper, i explain that David is not asking that God keep him silent; rather, “David simply wants God to guard his tongue from speaking profanely or viciously towards God or others” (page 4).
To get back to my meme, the bottom line reads, “Have you ever read Jesus’ conversations in the Gospels?” The point of this question is worded perfectly. I did not mean to write the following:
- “Have you ever read some of Jesus’ conversations in the Gospels?” — e.g. the ones to the Pharisees.
- “Have you ever read all of Jesus’ conversations in the Gospels?” — ergo, that all of Jesus’ conversations carried the same tone.
I wrote, “Have you ever read Jesus’ conversations in the Gospels?” And this was done purposefully. For the most part, Jesus was more gracious and loving than any human being in existence today. I pray that i could be even a fraction as loving as He.
- He ate with tax collectors and sinners.
- He even ate with Pharisees.
- He touched lepers.
- He even touched dead people.
- He would sit down to eat with a homosexual couple today.
- He would even give everything to eat a meal with you, the reader of this post.
This was the tenor of His life. He spoke of the Kingdom of God, and simply asked that people repent and believe. He told people that their sins were forgiven when they acted in faith. He said that His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30). And ultimately He died a humiliating death on a Roman cross in order to procure our salvation.
So when we get to Matthew 23, and when He starts blasting religious hypocrites, it is a stunning contrast.
What changed? we ask.
By Jesus calling out the religious leaders as hypocrites in 7 different ways (Matthew 23:13-36), He was reiterating His message as true. The religious leaders had hounded Him at every turn (as early as Matthew 12:9-14, and as recently as the last four sections of Matthew 22). They wanted to destroy Him (Matthew 12:14). They wanted to trap Him in His words (Matthew 22:15).
Jesus wanted there to be no confusion for His people about who spoke the truth. The whole tenor of His life was one of glorifying God and showing love to people. He is the Truth (John 19:28-38).
And ultimately, that is the goal of this blog. I want to let the Scriptures speak to who Jesus is. He is all we need. The Scriptures speak authoritatively about Him. And the Scriptures also speak authoritatively about the rest of life: money, marriage, sex, etc. I don’t want to give you my opinion on these subjects. I want to give you the Bible’s.
If it comes across arrogant or prideful, then all i can say is that i’m sorry. I believe that the Bible is authoritative, and as such i can stand behind it and what it says. This is what i seek to do.
One reason why my posts may seem to be “ungracious and condescending” is because i often point out areas in Christian culture or even my own life (and potentially by extension: your life) where the truth of Scripture is being missed.
Reformed rapper, Shai Linne, said, “Today the only heresy is saying that there’s heresy,” and while i have clearly delineated elsewhere what constitutes true heresy, i’ll use it here in its looser sense as being anything opposed to Scripture.
The fact of the matter is that, as Christians, everything we say and do and write must be viewed through the lens of Scripture. If we fail to do so, we are potentially deceiving people. And if this is not corrected, it could eventually lead us to be as bad as the Pharisees and deserving of a rebuke Matthew 13 style.
I will never call someone a whitewashed tomb, but i will challenge you (and myself) to make sure that Scripture is being properly interpreted. This is why i posted about women preachers; this is why i posted about the Parkland shooting; this is why i posted about Steven Anderson and 1 Samuel 25. There are other touchy subjects interacted with on this blog (like the simple fact that i don’t capitalize the letter I when referring to myself). But the point of it all is to help us cling tighter to Christ, to take our eyes off ourselves, and to help us better love both God and each other.
This is the general tone of this blog. Appeals to see Christ more clearly. Appeals to believe in Him for the first time. Appeals to better love His people.
Love is the name of this blog. But love does not mean never disagreeing with someone. The gospel is the most loving thing you can offer someone, but the gospel itself–if presented correctly–screams, “Everything about you is offensive to God, unless you repent and believe.” But that is the message that God has chosen to use to save people from their sin. It doesn’t sound loving, but there is nothing more loving than to risk sounding unloving in an effort to snatch someone out of the fire (Jude 1:22-23). The same carries over to topics that could potentially cause someone to stumble–or places in which people are already stumbling (cf. Mark 9:42-48; Matthew 18:15-17).
Jesus is our model of love and truth. While He was abrasive with the Pharisees–whose hearts He could intimately see–we must never claim that right for our finite, sinful, human selves. We must give grace, and we must disseminate truth as graciously as possible. If it turns people off to us and our message, we must pray for them.
But above all, we must follow the advice of James: “Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger” (James 1:19), and we must follow the advice of David and pray, “LORD, set up a guard for my mouth; keep watch at the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3). Or, to put it in the words of a song i learned in Sunday School as a child:
Be careful little mouth what you say
Be careful little mouth what you say
For the Father up above is looking down in love
So be careful little mouth what you say
Soli Deo Gloria