Storeroom Sermons of David Chadwell

Understanding Each Other
("Where Are You Coming From and What Are You Doing?")

I am not seeking an agreement with my perspective. All I want is to move you to think. I am convinced that when people think, they move closer to understanding each other and God. The result is that faith in God and Christ grows. All I ask you to do is think with an inquiring mind.

Most of us have little insight into how much controversy and reaction Jesus caused among his own people. His work and teachings caused people to think as they had never thought before. People (including us) are not good at thinking brand new (to us) thoughts. Controversy and reaction is not what Jesus wanted or sought (consider his grief in Matthew 23:37-39). He wanted to redirect people toward God's core concerns. He wanted people to value God's concept of compassion. He wanted people to see God's character and concerns as He is, not as they had heard from others. He wanted them to learn the joy of having confidence in God. The route to that discovery lay in their repentance. His objective was not to squash, but to liberate.

However, as Jesus' popularity grew among the common people (which were considered the wrong people in religious circles) opposition to Jesus grew among the religious leaders (which were the symbols of the right people in religious circles). Jesus' emphasis on motives (see Matthew 6:1), secret dependence on God (see Matthew 6:5, 6), compassion toward the struggling (see Matthew 12:7), and repentance (see Luke 15) did not set well with most of Israel's leaders. They interpreted scripture to focus on correct deeds, human praise, compassion for those who keep the rules, and repentance for the godless (which they were not!).

  1. Consider how radical Jesus was in first century Israel. (Most examples are deliberately taken from the gospel of Matthew because that gospel dealt with many first century Jewish religious perspectives.)
    1. Consider some of the things Jesus said and did in Matthew:
      1. He touched lepers (Matthew 8:3), which was not to be done (Numbers 5:2, 3).
      2. He healed the servant of a gentile (Roman Army Officer) and declared the gentile had more faith than anyone he met in Israel (Matthew 8:6ff).
      3. He further declared gentiles would assemble with ancient Jewish forefathers in God's kingdom while the sons of the kingdom would be cast in outer darkness (Matthew 8:11, 12).
      4. He did not have his disciples fast [fasting was a common religious activity utilized to declare humility before God] (Matthew 9:14).
      5. He blessed a hemorrhaging woman who touched him [a woman was not permitted to have any public contact with a man who was not a relative; a person with a hemorrhage was not allowed to be in public] (Matthew 9:20).
      6. He healed the blind [people with permanent disabilities were commonly considered punished by God for some sin--see John 9:1,2] (Matthew 9:27ff).
      7. He answered the imprisoned John by applying Isaiah 35:5 to himself (Matthew 11:5).
      8. He invited the weary and burdened to follow him [not the powerful, privileged, and influential] (Matthew 11:28).
      9. He was accused of tolerating Sabbath violation [a huge evidence of violation of God's teachings] (Matthew 12:2).
      10. He healed a withered hand on a Sabbath (Matthew 12:10ff.).
        1. Miracles had an old acceptance in Israelite history--the plagues in Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea, the manna and quail in the wilderness, the crossing of the Jordan, the fall of Jericho, Giddeon's fleece (Judges 6:36-40), Elijah's flight (1 Kings 19), Elisha's resurrection of a boy (2 Kings 4), Naaman's cure (2 Kings 5:6,7), the floating ax head (2 Kings 6:4-6), etc., --the problem was not that Jesus' performed a miracle.
        2. The problem was that Jesus performed a miracle to eliminate a condition that did not threaten life, and he did it on a Sabbath day [see Luke 13:14].
        3. To heal a condition that did not threaten life and do it on a Sabbath day was a violation of the Sabbath day.
      11. Jesus taught a "strange concept of the law" (Matthew 12:41ff).
      12. Jesus transgressed Jewish tradition (Matthew 15:1-3).
      13. He healed a Canaanite [gentile] (Matthew 15:21-28).
      14. He was tested by religious leaders (Matthew 16:11ff).
      15. He did not feel obligated to pay the temple tax that Jews commonly paid (Matthew 17:24ff).
      16. His concept of significance before God was different (Matthew 18:1).
      17. His attitude toward children was different (Matthew 18:3,4).
      18. His concept of forgiveness was different (Matthew 18:15ff).
      19. He drove the money changers [a sanctioned business considered necessary for visitors to the temple] out of the temple area (Matthew 21:12ff).
      20. He said the tax collectors [considered traitors to Israel by many Jews because they collected taxes for Rome] and harlots [prostitutes] would enter God's kingdom before the chief priests and elders (Matthew 21:31).
      21. To the chief priests and Pharisees, Jesus said God's kingdom would be taken from them and given to a nation who produced the fruit of God's kingdom (Matthew 21:43).
      22. A deep antagonism toward Jesus developed with the religious leaders (Matthew 22:15-40).
      23. Jesus told the scribes and Pharisees they were hypocrites (Matthew 23:15-36).
      24. Jesus ate and drank with tax collectors and sinners, healed people who were demon-possessed, and was accused of eating and drinking too much (see Matthew 9:10-13, 11:19, and 12:22-37).
    2. Compare those things Jesus did to many typical congregations today.
      1. Much of our focus in teaching and preaching is on what is wrong with others and what is right about us.
      2. We often want to attract people to our congregations who are just like the people in the congregation.
      3. When a Christian reaches out to someone very unlike those in the congregation, some question his or her motives or his or her integrity.
      4. Too often we focus our internal considerations on:
        1. What translation should be used.
        2. How Christians should or should not dress in different places.
        3. The appropriate involvement of Christians outside the congregation.
        4. What stand should be taken against social drinking (not drunkenness).
        5. What is acceptable worship and acceptable worship etiquette.
        6. What are the correct concepts for preserving the church?
        7. What is the role of elders? Who should be elders?

  2. When a Christian individual understands how concerned Jesus was about "the unacceptable people," how hard Jesus worked to give such people hope, and his willingness to tell the religious elite of his day that they missed the thrust of God's concern, what is he or she to do?
    1. Jesus was not intimidated when his motives were not understood; what does that mean when a Christian's motives are misunderstood by other Christians?
    2. Jesus was not ashamed of his association with the outcast; does that mean we should not be ashamed to associate with the outcast?
    3. Jesus questioned internally (he questioned the Jewish system of the First Century): should we question internally (should Christians question congregations of the 21st century)?
      1. Should the spotlight be on those who follow the God of the Bible as it should be or on those who do not?
      2. Does the focus need to be placed on Christians individually and collectively in a manner equal to those who do not follow Christ?
    4. Jesus paid the price for his internal questionings within Judaism: should Christians expect to pay prices in congregations for internal questionings?
      1. The first century religious leaders did not like for their "long-accepted concepts" to be questioned.
      2. Twenty-first century leaders often do not like for their "long-accepted concepts" to be questioned.

  3. There is a grave need for Christians and congregations to understand that many Christians need a forum within our Christian community to discuss what is understood to be a conflict between Jesus' thrust and the thrust of congregations today.
    1. Christians need to understand such discussion and openness is not destructive but the avenue to healthful spiritual maturity.
    2. Christians need to understand there is a place for Christians to reach different conclusions and still respect each other in Christ.
    3. Christians need to understand that biblical unity never has been uniformity.
    4. We Christians need to understand that Christianity is a caring, courageous thrust into this world, not a fearful hiding from this world.

  4. How could this possibly happen?
    1. As Christians, we need a deeper understanding of scripture as we seek a godly balance between what we define as internal peace and following Jesus.
    2. As Christians, we need a better understanding of the fact that we can have internal peace without destroying Christians who disagree with a long held conclusion.
    3. As Christians, we need a better understanding of the conflict between Jewish Christians and gentile Christians in the New Testament.
      1. As Christians, we need a better understanding of the epistles' teachings regarding that dilemma.
      2. As Christians, we need a more biblically accurate understanding of Romans 14.
      3. As Christians need a more biblically accurate understanding of Ephesians 2:11-22.

  5. Recommended commitments:
    1. As Christians, we all should be more committed to a patient sharing of "whys" instead of a quick dismissal of those in Christ by an emotional reaction.
    2. As Christians, we should not assign bad motives to Christians with whom we disagree.
    3. As Christians, we refuse to seek internal resolutions by destroying people in Christ.
    4. As Christians, we inspire others to listen to us by who we are in Christ and how we act in Christ.
    5. As Christians, we are committed to making "our congregation" an oasis of hope in Christ rather than a cemetery for people in Christ who dare to study and think.

One of the enduring strengths of the spiritual kingdom God built on Jesus' death and resurrection was and is its ability to encourage believers to grow and question. Understanding is the interstate highway for the journeys of faith. May spiritual growth never make us feel threatened. May fear never be substituted for faith.

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