This blog records my transition from the Churches of Christ to Eastern Orthodoxy.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Brother, What Matters More To You?

When i was a teenager, someone once told me their preacher had said something like this:

"There are thousands of people in our community who will go to hell forever, and some of you don't give a damn about it. In fact, some of you are far more upset by the fact that i said 'damn' than you are about those people being lost."

i remember at the time sluffing it off as just a cheap public speaking tactic to get a point across, but consider these words by Jesus.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices--mint, dill, and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel! (Matthew 23:23-24)

In view of Jesus' idea that there are "more important matters of the law" than others, maybe that original comment isn't just a gimmick to get a reaction, but does make an important point.

The fact that is, i find some things offensive. But within the things i find offensive, i find some things offend me more than others. i think this shows that i have a sort of internal list of moral issues which is ranked or prioritized. That is, some things offend me more because i believe they are somehow more wrong, more heinous, more criminal, more reprehensible, etc. There are things that i think merit a greater amount of disapproval than others.

But here is the important issue: Is my moral-issue-list ranked the same way Christ's list is ranked?

Jesus accused the Pharisees of straining out gnats and swallowing camels. In other words, the Pharisees did not have the same 'top 10' list as Jesus did. It's not that the Pharisees and Jesus had none of the same values. But despite having many of the same items on their lists, their ranking of those items was very different.

Am i guilty of the same thing as the Pharisees? How would i know? There's plenty of access to Jesus' teachings to figure out what Jesus' priorities were. But what about the original comment i shared from the preacher? i think asking which of two items is more offensive would reveal a great deal about moral-issue ranking.

So, here's a few:

Would you be more offended to find out many people in your congregation drink socially? Or that your congregation would not openly welcome, embrace, and help an abusive alcoholic who was genuinely willing and eager to turn his life around?

Would you be more offended if your preacher cussed during a sermon? Or if he basically said (maybe with great subtlety or sophistry) it was okay not to take care of the poor and to have generally materialistic goals in life?

Are you more offended by the way the teenagers of your congregation dress or fix their hair? Or by how little encouragement, love, and support is shown to them by older generations?

Are you more offended by the possibility of someone wearing shorts and a t-shirt to Sunday morning worship? Or by the possibility that the people in your congregation may never open up to each other and trust each other?

Are you more offended by the idea of a graphic sex scene on your favorite tv show? Or by the fact that there are Christians in the world to this day who are killed for following Christ?

Are you more offended by the idea of a non-Christian cheating a Christian out of money? Or by the idea of that Christian seeking to take revenge?

Are you more offended by people who are discourteously distracting during worship? Or by the fact that some people still feel it's perfectly acceptable to either mistreat, look down on, ignore, or exclude those of a different ethnic group than themselves?

Would you be more offended if someone was using their cell phone during worship? Or if your congregation gave very little at all to the support of missionaries, widows, and orphans?

Are you more offended by your own sins? Or the sins of others?

1 comment:

MrsHonea said...

yikes. Even I felt a bit convicted after reading this, but needed to hear it.

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