In the morning, I like to turn on the radio in the kitchen and listen to the news as I fix the kids breakfast. I don’t know if it’s the time of day, the position of the radio or a problem at this particular station but often something goes wrong. I can hear a man sharing the news and I can also hear a commercial just as loud. I’m not sure if it’s two stations coming in to my radio or a technical glitch from the source but I can’t listen to the news because of the mixed signals.
I’m afraid the world doesn’t want to listen to the good news anymore because of the mixed signals it gets from the church. The church has a difficult vocation; it is to share love and mercy while speaking truth that is sometimes hard to hear.
Jesus spoke many words of mercy, forgiveness and restoration.
But, not every word He spoke was so easy to hear.
Yes, He knelt down to the woman caught in adultery and said “I don’t condemn you, go and leave your life of sin.” Sure, He said “I have not come to condemn the world, but to save it.” He said the most important things in life were to “love God with all you are and to love others as yourself.” He said, “come to me, all you are weary and carrying heavy loads, I will give you rest for your soul.”
He told a beautiful story of a son who disrespected his father and jumped into a life of sin. Only to have the story end with the father forgiving the son before the son could even get his apology out.
Jesus did say some very clear words of warning also. Most would not go over well in any politically correct culture. He spoke against hypocrisy constantly. He spoke against divorce, lust, hate and many other things. He said following Him is the only way, sometimes a difficult way. He warned of judgment and the need to change immediately.
In the church today are some who only mention the loving merciful words of Jesus. That doesn’t give the whole picture. Then there are those who seem to only mention the difficult words of Jesus, again not the whole story. So sometimes I think the world hears mixed signals, two contrasting partial views of Jesus. Like me with my radio, they tune out.
There is something very important to consider when thinking about the words Jesus spoke.
To whom was He directing His words of love and who were the recipients of the harsh words?
I haven’t done the math but a huge percentage of the “harsh” words Jesus spoke, were directly to the religious leaders. Jesus did say some difficult things to the crowds of people who came to see him. But the vast majority of his harsher words were spoken to the religious of His day. The words of love and acceptance were to the sinners, the forgotten and ostracized.
In Matthew 23 alone, Jesus warns against; religious leaders who love titles, leaders who wear robes to be seen by men, who love the best seats in the meeting place. Religious people who love to be respected, who do everything they can to win a convert but in doing so make him twice the son of hell that they are. Who give their money to the temple but ignore the poor. Who are hypocrites, whitewashed tombs, killers of prophets, a broad of vipers and a few other choice words.
Then he ends the “rant” with words of how much He loved them but they refused to accept Him.
In John 10:10 Jesus warned that some false religious leaders will “kill, steal and destroy.”
Jesus even cleared the temple, He seemed quite angry. I’ve heard this quoted to show that Jesus wasn’t “all love and flowers.” True He wasn’t, but what would the modern equivalent of the temple clearing be? I don’t think it would be a restaurant, a bar or even a court house. It would be the church. Imagine Jesus coming in to a church and turning it upside down. There would be people worried about the carpet and walls as he turns over tables. Some would worry about the church’s image in the community. Other would be ready to kill Jesus. As a matter of fact, who did kill Jesus (the one who loved and ate with sinners) it was the religious.
The church sends mixed signals to the world, in some ways we have to. We are here to warn the world of the way they are living while loving them. We are to proclaim Jesus is the way while we try to live that way ourselves. It’s not easy when some will accuse us of judging them at the first mention of truth. It’s not easy when some in the church accuse others of speaking about love too much.
We are quick to offer the merciful words of Jesus to each other inside the church and unfortunately some inside love to give the harsh words to the outsiders.
Jesus did just the opposite.
Jesus didn’t send mixed signals, He loved those who the religious cast aside and He showed them. He loved the religious also, but He showed them by challenging their attitudes and actions.
Be very careful when you quote Jesus with the intent of correcting an unbeliever. Because those harsh words may apply more accurately to you.
The world needs challenged and often confronted but it always should be done with humility and love.
The church needs challenged and often turned upside down, it should be done in love and humility also.
There are many who want to tune in to the good news the church has, let’s give them a clear message. They are loved, they are in need of a savior and so are we. There is a time for difficult words to be spoken, make sure you have heeded those words before they leave your lips.
Written by Tom Wise © Finding Wonder 2014