In my devotions this morning God placed something very heavy on my heart. I have been reading through 1st Samuel and Matthew for the past few weeks and I am often amazed at how clearly Old and New Testament books and passages complement each other. I firmly believe that we are meant to read the Old Testament and the New Testament alongside one another to gain a full understanding of the Word of God.
So as I was reading, four passages grabbed my focus:
- 1st Samuel 16:7
- Matthew 18:19
- Matthew 18:21-22
- Matthew 18: 32
These four passages deal with, care to take a guess? Matters of the heart. In fact, they speak to the truth that to God, only that which is found in the heart of a believer matters. Specifically, Sin and Forgiveness; two of the touchiest most controversial subjects that anyone will ever come up against. (Please, before you read any further, turn to these passages in your Bible, or look them up online and really examine them. )
So reading these words drove me to think about what is truly in my heart? To be honest, sometimes I do not like what I see. When I begin the process of self examination I generally find a whole host of things that need quite a bit of work which is not something I like to face. Nor I imagine, does anyone else.
Isn’t it so much easier to brush aside our own failings and shortcomings and focus on other people’s? I know that I am definitely guilty of this. What’s more, I have definitely been harboring my fair share of unforgiveness for a multitude of different reasons. Ouch.
What I didn’t realize until now however, is that our tendency to brush aside our own shortcomings and focus on the failings of others, combined with our natural inclination to be unforgiving people, is hugely dangerous and extremely sinful. I am assuming most people have heard the passage that says before we go about judging others we need to take the log out of our own eye? Even people who have no religious background like to quote this passage. But I wonder how many people, myself included, have ever really stopped to think about what this passage is truly saying? Besides the obvious answer of course, which is that we have no right to judge others if we cannot even deal with our own sin.
Lets take this passage in context with the four passages above though; better yet, add in the eighteenth chapter of Matthew in its entirety. Jesus is teaching the apostles about how to deal with their own sin and the sins of others. So what exactly does he say?
In short, if we find sin in our own lives we should forcibly and physically cut out that part of ourselves that is causing us to sin or leading us to temptation. For example if our eyes lead us to sin in the form of lust, we should pluck them out. Now lets think about this for a second. I don’t think the word pluck has the right connotation for some here, for me at least it brings to mind plucking flowers, or plucking eyebrows or something you do gently to cause the least amount of pain and damage possible. But I do not think this is what Jesus is saying here. I really don’t think he is concerned with sparing us any pain at least not the temporary bodily sort; because if he were concerned with that he wouldn’t be telling us to pull out our own eyes.
I believe that what Jesus is saying is that the excruciating pain of plucking out one’s own eye or lopping off one’s own hand is nothing compared to the agony that sin will bring into our lives. Think about that for a second. Let it sink in. Sin, something that seems so harmless in the moment, will cause more pain in the long run than having a hand ripped off of your body. Isn’t that sort of incomprehensible?
What I believe Jesus is saying here, in short, is that there is ABSOLUTELY no room for sin in our lives. And what’s more, when we do find sin in ourselves, we should stop at nothing, NOTHING! to rid ourselves of that sin. Wow, that’s pretty harsh right?
Okay, now lets connect this to our other 3 passages. The ones that talk about how we should deal with others who sin against us and hurt us.
What does the first passage say? Confront the person calmly, gently, and with love. Then, pray about it. Okay, that seems fair enough right? Then the next two speak to forgiveness. Forgive that person not once, not 7 times as Peter suggests, but 77 times! I don’t know about you but I have a hard enough time forgiving a person once let alone 7 times, but 77 times? That’s pretty much impossible. Then we find out as we continue reading that the standard gets even higher.
Jesus goes on to say that if we don’t forgive a person, that God will remove us from His presence and deliver us to our jailers. Am I the only one starting to see a pattern here? It seems to me like the only one whose not catching a break here is, you guessed it again, us. We are to deal harshly with ourselves, in a way that few of us can even fathom. Then deal gently and leniently with others and their sins, and if we don’t, God doesn’t deal harshly with them as we probably would like him to no instead he gives us over to our jailers.
Wow. Just Wow.
There is definitely a lot to think about here eh? I don’t know about you but my head is spinning for sure. One thing I am certain of though, I definitely need to go do some serious soul searching. And my attitude towards myself and others? Yeah that definitely needs a lot of work. But boy am I glad God reveals these things to us!