Turn: Luke 19
Grace Diaper When Grace was in her crib and without us noticing she takes off her shorts and diaper and then puts them back on but put them back on wrong. So her diaper is inside out and her shorts are backwards.
Week 2 of a series we're calling 'A Gentle Answer'
Something that I love about the concept of gentleness in the world that we're living in is that no one wants to hear that right now.
No one wants to hear 'The way of Jesus is the way of gentleness'. What people want right now is just more ways to shoot down the enemy.
But to say 'Play nice, and who knows you might even have something to learn from 'those people', no one wants to hear that right now.
Talk Radio - "Punch Face" As many of you know, I'm not on social media and I don't ever check the news. That's just what I felt was best for me over the last couple years. But some trusted friends have challenged me on that over the last month or so, so I'm figuring it out. But just to be hilarious, this past week I turned on AM talk radio. - And some of you are think "YEAH BABY!!!" And some of you are horrified. That's not my point.
But I turned it on, I didn't have any stations programmed so I was just roaming through the frequencies. I listened to the catholic station for awhile, which was an interesting learning experience. But I eventually landed on this guys talk show who was clearly a NM local because he was talking about our governors recent decision to close the restraints back down (inside dining). And he was clearly upset by it. He called her a dictator and 'Lib-tard' and a bunch of other things I probably shouldn't say. Well, one caller called in and talked about a petition that was going around to try and help the restaurants and the host of the show said "Wow, a petition, that's really gonna make a difference." And then he said (and I'm not making this up), "I've got a better idea, why don't we march up to the governors office and punch that dictator right in the face!"
And it just made me laugh out loud at how preposterous the voices of the world are right now.
But I want you to imagine me calling that show and saying "I just think we all need to become more gentle and humble." - That host would probably tell people to come punch ME in the face.
If you believe either side is totally killing it right now, I'm just not sure what you hit your head on.
I believe that in many ways, our Culture has become rotten & infected.
Rubbing salt in a wound Illustration In the old days, before there was antibiotics and all that, when you’ get a wound, you’d rub salt in it. Which doesn’t sound pleasant. But that’s what you’d do to keep it from getting infected. And I think gentleness is a lot like that especially in a season like we're in.
We rub gentleness on our hearts to stop them from getting rotten.
This Week: The Gentleness of Jesus
All Christian ethics are rooted in one thing. And it's this: God, Us, Others. So if you're wondering "How should I treat my mom? How should I treat my boss? How should I treat people who disagree with me? How should I treat people who have wounded me? How should I treat my enemy?" - The answer to all those questions is rooted in the same principle.
"How has God treated me?" What's repeated over and over in the NT when deciding how to treat anybody else - boss, spouse, coworker, friend, enemy, is this "How has God treated me?"
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34)
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. (1 John 3:16)
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:11)
This is repeated on lots of other topics.
This addresses not just how I treat another person, but how I feel towards another person. What your thought life is towards another person. - Is the way I'm thinking about that person remotely similar to how God thinks about me?
And so understanding the Gentleness of Jesus is step 1 in becoming gentle people. So that's what we're gonna look at this morning.
One of the most amazing things about Jesus was his gentleness - not towards the righteous, but towards the sinner.
The primary scandal of Jesus was that he would eat with ANYBODY.
There’s a huge theme in the Bible about the significance of who you eat with. And Jesus was always eating with the wrong people, according to religious people.
It’s odd, that for all the things he did that we find offensive and shocking. More than anything he taught, more than any miracle, it was this “That guy will eat with anybody." He will share a table with ANYBODY.
B/C especially in ancient jewish culture, to share a meal with them is to validate somebody. Not validate what they do, validate who they are.
To sit eyeball to eyeball, and eat with someone, is a radical act of hospitality.
The Table of Jesus is where Jesus turns his enemies into his friends.
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. (Luke 19:1)
A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. (Luke 19:2)
Ok so what is this? "CHIEF" tax-collector. Is this some sort of football team reference? No. It just implies that he's some sort of uppity-up in the tax-collector org-chart.
And tax collectors are what you might call 'White Collar Thieves'. They worked for the Roman government and were exploiting a corrupt system for personal gain.
To over simplify, you as a tax-collector would have a certain quota of tax that he needed to collect from his area, and once you reached that quota, whatever else you collected was yours to keep. So this would cause them in most cases to extort money from citizens that was far more than the people actually had to pay.
And to top it all off, tax collectors would live these extravagant, indulgent lifestyles for everyone to see.
So imagine that you were a poor oppressed family that was struggling just to make ends meat and this corrupt government worker comes and takes what little money you have just to he can squander it on sinful living. Imagine how YOU might feel about someone like that. It makes perfect sense that people hated them so much.
He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. (Luke 19:3)
All the short people in the room, we all say "I've been there!"
So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. (Luke 19:4)
I think it's worth noting that he goes to see Jesus alone. That shows something interesting, that often times people like Zacchaeus, who have become rich by exploiting the poor, while they are rich, they also become isolated and alone. Because everyone hates them.
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” (Luke 19:5)
So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. (Luke 19:6)
All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” (Luke 19:7)
But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” (Luke 19:8)
Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. (Luke 19:9)
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)
It's really interesting that by most accounts, tax-collectors really were despicable folks, it's amazing how positively the gospels speak about them.
This is a man who is despised in his community as a despicable, corrupt, disgusting, horrible excuse for a human being.
But Jesus moved towards him, calls him BY NAME, and offers to eat with him.
Albert Nolan Theologian “Jesus before Christianity” It would be impossible to overestimate the impact these meals must have had upon the poor and the sinners. By accepting them as friends and equals Jesus had taken away their shame, humiliation, and guilt. By showing them that they mattered to him as people he gave them a sense of dignity and released them from their old captivity. The contact he had with them at the table made them feel clean and acceptable. Moreover, because Jesus was looked upon as a man of God and a prophet, they would have interpreted his friendship as being acceptable to God. It meant peace, acceptance, reconciliation, and brotherhood.
For Jesus this table fellowship with those whom the religious had written off was not just an expression of tolerance and humanitarianism. It was the expression of his mission and message: peace and reconciliation for all, without exception, even for the moral failures.” (Albert Nolan Theologian “Jesus before Christianity”)
Jesus was always elevating those at the bottom. He's always doing that.
I think think about the woman at the well, or the woman caught in the act of adultery, or Zacchaeus, prostitutes, sinners, those despised by culture and even despised by themselves.
For me, what's probably the most impactful example of this in modern culture is Brennan Manning.
For those of you who don't know, a little background
Returned home to New York and became an alcoholic
Loses his marriage, loses his ministry
A little later in his life - Wrote books - Raggamuffin Gospel
“Raggamuffin” - Poorest of poor - great depression
All that is good is ours not by right but by the sheer bounty of a gracious God. While there is much we may have earned--our degree and our salary, our home and garden, a Miller Lite and a good night's sleep--all this is possible only because we have been given so much: life itself, eyes to see and hands to touch, a mind to shape ideas, and a heart to beat with love.
Do you believe that the God loves you beyond worthiness and unworthiness, beyond fidelity and infidelity—that he loves you in the morning sun and in the evening rain—that he loves you when your intellect denies it, your emotions refuse it, your whole being rejects it. Do you believe that God loves without condition or reservation and loves you this moment as you are and not as you should be.
(And then one of my favorite sentences in the english language:)
My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.
So here I go balancing stuff.
God accepts you as you are. But a life with God will ALWAYS result in what us dorky folks might call 'progressive sanctification'. It's where even though you have missteps and mistakes and huge, sometimes multi-year detours, OVERALL given a long enough timeline you ARE becoming more and more like Christ. That MUST happen.
So I'm not saying 'God welcomes sinners do just do whatever you want.' No, we have to do our best, and have determination and self-control and we must be growing and getting better. What I'm saying is that we are all inevitably going to have huge missteps on that journey, and God is patient, and kind, a loving towards us wherever we're at on our faith journey.
So the Pharisees were a social movement where they formed their group identity mostly by attempting to separate themselves from society. In fact the word pharisee means 'separatist'.
David's Definition: A Modern-Day Pharisee is someone who finds their identity in being better than 'those other people'.
Where you are just so proud that you are so much smarter than those idiots on the other side.
Of course the classic Pharisaical prayer is found in Luke 18.
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. (Luke 18:10)
The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. (Luke 18:11)
I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ (Luke 18:12)
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ (Luke 18:13)
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14)
Now the obvious group that this applies to in modern day culture is religious, conservative people. People who would say 'Bleh. Thank God I'm not like those disgusting sinners outside the church.'
But that is not the only kind of Pharisee. Did you know you can also be a Liberal Pharisee?
Wait, what?! Yeah. You can be a liberal, and still minimize your own sin by pointing out the sin of others.
In the book, he quotes this article in the New York Times by Pulitzer prize winner Nicholas Kristof, who many of you know, who is himself a progressive.
"We progressives believe in diversity, and we want women, blacks, Latinos, gays and Muslims at the table– er, so long as they aren't conservatives.
Universities are the bedrock of progressive values, but the one kind of diversity that universities disregard is ideological and religious. We're fine with people who don't look like us, as long as they think like us.
[This illuminates]() liberal arrogance–the implication that conservatives don't have anything significant to add to the discussion. My [liberal followers]() have incredible compassion for war victims in South Sudan, for kids who have been trafficked, even for abused chickens, but no obvious empathy for conservative scholars facing discrimination … So it's easier to find a Marxist in some [academic]() disciplines than a Republican … The discrimination becomes worse if [someone is]() an evangelical Christian."
George Yancey who is a sociologist who is both black and evangelical says it like this:
"Outside of academia I face more problems as a black. But inside academia I face more problems as a Christian, and it is not even close."
The book summarizes the point like this:
"Whether conservative of progressive, whether religious or nonreligious, we must be careful, in our passionate zeal against the spirit of the unloving Pharisee, that we do not become unloving Pharisees ourselves–a hate group who is harsh, manipulative, and condemning with anyone who disagrees with us."
So spit it out David, what are you getting at?
My point: No one is exempt from the arrogance of the pharisee. No one.
Out of any people group in all of scripture, Jesus unquestionably comes down hardest on the self-righteous pharisee. He will have none of it.
So isn't that interesting– Jesus elevates those at the bottom. And at the same time he humbles those at the top.
Jesus is always leveling the playing field.
Religion is always trying to create a two-class citizenship system. Where we have the elite, holy, pastors, or clergy, or priests, and the lowly, sinning commoners.
Jesus comes and elevates those at the bottom and humbles those at the top and says "NO ONE 'deserves' a seat at my table, but everyone is welcome. It's a free gift."
The world will never say we’re all the same, but the gospel will.
Think about this: Imagine we all had voice recorders around our neck all day and every single word we say was made available for everyone else to hear. What would you do? I'll tell you what you would do. You would hang your head in shame and humiliation.
Some of you are worse than others. Some of you have really invited God into our words and our attitudes, others of us are (like we talked about earlier in this series) literal crap factories. God can bless you with every gift imaginable and the only thing that comes out of your mouth is crap. And you're terrible to be around.
And that's just one example, there's hundreds and hundreds of different ways that we all miss the mark all the time.
Husbands, did you know we're supposed to love our wives like Christ loves the church?! I mean, not one of us have done that.
My point: NO ONE has room to boast. NO ONE.
The gospel is pretty strong medicine. It says “I don’t care how much the world sucks up to you. I don’t care about your accomplishments, I don’t care how rich you are, you don’t deserve to be here. And what you have, most of all when it comes to you and God is a free gift. When it comes to you and God, you’re not different than the homeless man on central. It’s a gift.”
When you understand God's grace, and your DEEP DEEP need for grace as a sinner, that doesn't cause you to hate yourself, woe is me, I'm so horrible, boo-hoo. No, it's makes you say 'Wow. God thank for your grace. I didn't earn it, I don't deserve it, it's a free gift.'
And for me, when I feel like my gentleness is slipping, I go back to this. I am the recipient of grace, so who am I to say how God OUGHT to deal with others.
"They don't DESERVE to have that." - Yeah well, neither do you.
No, we just say "God, I am the recipient of undeserved mercy and grace. Help me to offer underserved grace and mercy to others.
It will make you a more gentle person.
There's lots of reason why people become cynical towards the Christian faith.
You can be skeptical about the Christian faith based purely on logic, (how does a man survive for three days in the belly of a whale, etc) but in my opinion, cynicism is emotional.
And it comes from a couple different places.
To illustrate these 2, I have two movie quotes.
1. Disappointment in God
Quote 1 is from the movie Forrest Gump. So the backstory is that Lieutenant Dan has had his legs blown off in Vietnam, and he is overcomer with despair and anger.
"Have you found Jesus yet, Gump?" Asks Lieutenant Dan.
"I didn't know I was supposed to be looking for him, sir," Forrest responds. Lieutenant Dan chuckles and says "That's all these cripples down at the VA ever talk about: Jesus this and Jesus that. Have I found Jesus? They even had a priest come and talk to me. He said God is listening, but I have to help myself, and if I accept Jesus in my heart, then I'll get to walk beside him in the kingdom of heaven." Lieutenant Dan throws a bottle then shouts "Did you hear what I said? WALK beside him in the kingdom of heaven! Well kiss my crippled (behind). God is listening? What a crock of (baloney)."
You ever met anyone like that? I know I have. People who feel like God is a great disappointment to them.
2. Disappointment in themselves
Quote 2 is from Cormac McCarthy's novel 'No Country for Old Men'.
I won't ask you to raise your hand if you've read it, because I know good people like you would never read a book like that! Actually, I'm sure most of you haven't read the book, but many of you have seen the movie, so I'll put my friend Tommy Lee up who played this character.
The retired and aging sherif says to his uncle "I always thought that when I got older that God would sort of come into my life in some way. He didn't. I don't blame him. If I was him I would have the same opinion about me that he does."
You ever met anyone like that? I have. People who feel like their lives are a great disappointment to God.
In either case, Jesus disarms our cynicism in the same way: His Gentleness.
God is not scared away by our questions, and our hurts, and our baggage. And we as Christians shouldn't be either.
Handling people's cynicism in a gentle way requires that we don't become defensive when we receive criticism. And that's not easy.
When people take cheap shots at you, and make fun of you on the internet because you're a Christian and you like church.
It's not easy, but that is a prime opportunity to show gentleness to cynical people, because that's what we see Jesus doing.
Can I tell you something I've learned as someone who gets talked about a lot?
I find that you can ask yourself one of two questions:
I'll close with this:
The Gentleness of Jesus has the power to change the world.
One of the greatest decisions you will ever make is to let Jesus be THE model for how you life your life.
To let his actions become your actions.
To let his words become your words.
To let his attitude become your attitude.
That is not NECESSARILY the same thing as becoming a Christian. Some people have been Christians for 20 years, 30 years and have still never made that commitment to truly let Jesus take the lead in how they live their life.
As followers of Jesus, it's absolutely critical that we commit with all of our heart to let Jesus take the lead in every situation.
It's critical for us to honestly ask 'What would Jesus do?' and then change what WE do to line up with what HE would do.
We let Jesus take the lead and we open our hearts to be changed by him.
We let his love turn into our love.
We let his patience turn into our patience.
We let his courage turn into our courage.
We let his gentleness turn into our gentleness.