Jesus was infintely more than an interesting religious figure or good moral teacher, He was and is the most polarising human in the history of mankind. Why is this? It seems that whatever the religious people of His day thought to be true and good, He would challenge and clarify. He was publicly told that He had a demon and was considered someone who blasphemed God and taught false doctrine more than one time. Through all of this slander, He became a friend to the sinners and a foe to those who thought they were saints. Jesus habitually afflicted the comfortable and comforted the afflicted. Maybe this is why he was polarising.
In the famous Sermon on the Mount, He is quoted in Matthew saying, “You have heard it said, but I say to you…” over and over again. What was He attempting to accomplish? Maybe he was showing us our deep and personal brokenness. In other words, that not even one of us have the ability to hit the mark of God’s standard. Whether you were a Pharisee, prince, or pauper, He consistently, and with clarity, leveled the playing field for all humanity. Jesus did not come to do away with what already was already written in the sacred text, but became flesh for our sake, to take that which was letter and bring it to life. Allow me to repeat that: from letter to life. Paul was quoted as saying: “the letter kills, but the spirit gives life.” (2 Cor. 3:6)
Jesus was a man with a cause: LIFE.
The cause of life is why Jesus had the audacity to say to the Pharisees who surrounded the woman caught in adultery “whoever is without sin, cast the first stone.” He knew what the law said and He knew the woman deserved death. He knew the despicable act that she had committed and how it was 100% wrong. But Jesus knew how to treat people who were in error. He wanted to restore her to life not condemn her to death. The letter would have killed her. But Jesus restored her life. He didn’t publicly humiliate her. The only people who were publicly humiliated under the ministry of Jesus were those who stood in the way of His ministry to sinners.
My question for those who belong to Christ and are reading this today is: Would you have done the same? Would you have chosen to practice letter or life in that historical moment. I’m telling you what Jesus did over and over again. I cannot say honestly whether or not I would have been in the fellowship of the Pharisees that day. It’s tempting to choose the letter. It’s more black and white. It’s easier to explain. However, I hope that I could have been courageous enough and merciful enough to stand against the roaring crowd that day. I hope that I could have stood for life, even carrying the knowledge of the letter. I hope that I would offer to anyone who is in error or made a mistake, a gracious response as Christ did that day. I hope.
If you look around at the bride of Christ, we seem to be throwing lots of stones these days. We seem to be choosing letter over life. It only takes a brief survey of Facebook to see how quickly we are to crucify those who make mistakes. Of course, when it comes to leadership, there is a higher standard, and those who teach will be judged more strictly. Even so, the spirit gives life, and the letter kills. We must choose which cause to uphold. Maybe there is a tension between the two. We must choose restoration over reputation. When people say and do stupid things, even leaders, those who are close to them must restore them gently and with patience, all the while being careful that we ourselves are not tempted.
One final thought: Unity was Jesus’s final wish. More than a wish, His deathbed prayer in John 17 was that the Father would make all of us one, in the same way that He and the Father are one. If you’ve been married for any length of time, you realise that oneness is a challenge and takes lots of patience, love, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Jesus even goes on to say that it would be through unity that the world would be able to know Him as Messiah and Savior sent by Yahweh.
When our reputation becomes more important than the restoration of our brothers and sisters, whether pauper or prince, we are sending a three profound messages to the world.
Letter is more important than the life.
Contract is more important than covenant.
Religion is more important than faith.
For the record, I’m not endorsing error. On the contrary, I’m attempting to recruit restorers.