Thursday, August 11, 2011

Are We Lifting or Pointing a Finger?

Do we really want to have an impact on the world?  As a believer, I sure do.  But I wonder if some of the things that we sometimes do as Christians are as effective as we think they are.

In Matthew 23:4, here is what Jesus had to say about the religious people who imposed the law on others: "They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden." (NLT)  So, the question is: Are we lifting a finger or pointing one?

I will admit, it's a lot easier to point a finger than to lift one!  I'm absolutely the first to admit I find it much easier and often find myself falling into this trap.  But nowhere in the Bible does God condone pointing fingers at others.  Also, nowhere in the Bible have I ever seen a commandment to Christians to impose our rules on those outside of the church.  In 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, Paul tells the Corinthians that they are not to judge those outside of the church - he says that's God's job.

We often spend so much time pointing out the sins of society...but why are we so surprised when people sin?  Isn't that what people do?  Can we change them without the power of the Holy Spirit?  No, we cannot.  But we can show them a better way by lifting a finger to help them - not pointing a finger of condemnation.  After all, we're crazy if we think they don't notice that the church struggles with the same sins that they do!  I believe it's easier to point out others' sins than it is to deal with our own.

I'll give you a couple of examples of those who are lifting a finger - people who get it and are actually making a huge impact on the world for Christ:
  • Crisis pregnancy centers.  Instead of standing outside of the abortion clinic and shouting at the people coming out or putting them on a guilt trip, they are lifting a finger to help those who are facing an unplanned pregnancy by offering support, encouragement and most important, unconditional love and the message of Hope in Jesus Christ to those who come into their office for help.  That, to me, is a beautiful picture of someone lifting a finger - and the fruit of this?  Life. 
  • Mission agencies who send people out to assist and help those who have been hurt by disaster or calamity all over the world.  They offer help, support, encouragement, truth and love.  This is also a beautiful picture of someone lifting a finger - and the fruit of this?  Life. 
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:20 "For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk, it is living by God's power. Which do you choose? Should I come with a rod to punish you, or should I come with love and a gentle spirit?"  Am I living by God's power?  Am I approaching others with love and a gentle spirit?  Or am I trying to "crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden?" (Matt. 23:4)

2 Timothy 2:24-26 says "And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will."  Am I being kind or quarrelsome?  Am I patiently enduring evil and correcting in gentleness or am I being forceful and unyielding?

Lord, help us to lift a finger to help!
Am I focusing on God or law?  Am I living in His power or my own desire to be right or in control?  I hope I'm not so busy trying to change the world through religious laws that I completely miss the mark. Our purpose is not to make a moral society.  Our purpose is to glorify God and become more like Christ.  Are we doing that?  "The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing." (John 6:63)

Forcing others to obey the law and Christian morality is absolutely useless.  It must be a heart change, brought on by the power of God in someone's life.  No one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law anyway.  It is by grace through faith - not of ourselves.  So why do we focus on making people moral before we focus on grace and truth? (Galatians 2:15-16; Ephesians 2:8-9)

In Jesus' last prayer before His crucifixion, He did not pray that we would have a moral society.  He did not pray that we would be empowered to pass laws forbidding sinners to sin.  He was more concerned with our unity.  "I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one - as you are in me, Father and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me." John 17:21  Passing laws and imposing morality on the world does not convince anyone that Christ is who He said He was.  Christian unity shows them that He is who He said He was.  As hearts change, so do people.  It never works in reverse.

Look around, my friends. Can we honestly say the church is unified?  Maybe that is what needs to be addressed.  When we are unified, we represent Him well.  When we are unified, we can worship Him freely as Lord of our lives.  When we worship Him as Lord of our lives, people notice and then they want to know about the Hope that we have, so they ask us.  And we answer them with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15-17)  I'm not trying to point a finger at those who point fingers (smile)...I'm just asking the question and openly admitting I struggle with this, too.

Father God, help us to represent You well!  Give us insight to lift and not point a finger so that we can become more like You.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this timely reminder. We need to speak and live the truth in love and humility knowing that we need grace ourselves.

Leslie Nease said...

Thanks so much! You're right - we all need that grace! :) Have a wonderful New Year!

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