There are so many ‘sects’ amongst the churches that it’s almost like living in Bible times. Though all are either labelling themselves or labelling others, almost every group is tarring the other with the proverbial feather. (However, thankfully not all!)
The one group I want to focus on today is the don’t group, or what I call the thou shalt not’s. As their name suggests, these people occupy themselves with what we should not do. Unfortunately, they are very busy pointing their fingers at others, bashing what others are doing, and proclaiming what they believe should not be done. Therefore, they forget to personally live what they should be doing. In other words, they are so full of self and what they believe is right and wrong, that they forget the many requirements God Himself has set for us. Sadly, they tend to focus only on the Ten Commandments with its prohibitions, and forget the positive commands found in both the Old and New Testaments.
For example, they’ll shout till kingdom come, “Thou shalt not covet,” in a bid to show that loving your neighbor means not wanting what they have. However, they won’t remind you that loving your neighbor also means caring for him, washing him if he’s helpless, feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. They are so busy looking at what others are wearing that is wrong, that many of them forget to look in their own closets to find items to clothe the naked and destitute.
Others criticize the rich man accusing him of being proud because he drives the latest sedan model, not knowing that he’s been singlehandedly supporting a hungry family for the past two years, while his accusers fail to give bread to a single hungry refugee. It’s all relative. (Maybe the rich man could afford even a more expensive car but he chooses not to.) When we look at life using “self” as the standard, we forget that God looks at the heart.
HEARERS TURN EVEN FURTHER AWAY
The bottom line is that when we are judgmental and focus on the negative, we are wretched and miserable. By neglecting to talk of God’s love, or to show our love for our fellow man, our words do not bring reconciliation, but in fact turn people even further away the idea of uniting with believers.
God recognizes a difference between the confused, but earnestly seeking soul and those who are purposefully disobedient and stiff-necked. We could also discern the difference, if we would have the mind of Christ, instead of using our own eyes to see. Instead, so many Christians, Adventist included, choose to lambaste others in public forums, often speaking harsh words while pointing their finger at them.
The problem with the thou shalt not’s is that they actually undo the work of Christ. Though it is true that Christ did proclaim “Thou shalt not”, He didn’t stop there, but rather, He taught us what we “shall” do to actively show His love.
The sad result of critical negativity is that when Christ’s servants try to teach, “Thou shalt not,” many of those hearing the message lump the good with the bad together, assuming they’re cut from the same cloth. They close their eyes to the truth because the truth was made odious to them. They cannot see Christ made poor that we might become rich. Often they see only someone trying to gain popularity. They do not see that the reason Christ says, “Thou shalt not” is so that they might find joy in a heaven where sin does not exist. Therefore, they do not see Christ. Instead, when truth is preached they see a Pharisee. Good is then called evil.
And once again Christ will be whipped and crucified in the person of His faithful servants who are only trying to live His life and share His word. All because someone came along before them and taught the law without living and teaching grace and mercy.
THE PROBLEM WITH THE THOU SHALT NOT’S
The problem with the thou shalt not’s is that they give those who don’t love the truth an excuse not to seek for it as for hidden treasure. It gives them an excuse to label everyone who opens his mouth with a “Thou shalt not” as a troublemaker. In reality if they sought for Christ, He would show them that indeed, they are doing wrong. However, both groups are wrong. God’s people should not be negative and judgmental, speaking only negative words. Just as wrong are those who refuse to listen because self has risen up and they are tired of the constant rebukes.
ALL ARE HUMAN AND SUBJECT TO ERR
As hearers, there is no excuse because by God’s grace and under the impressions of the Holy Spirit we may deeply love the truth, no matter who speaks it or how. Knowing that we too are human and subject to err just like those to whom we speak, we must speak the entire truth with love as well as conviction. Truth must consist of mercy, love and acts of kindness mingled with the awful grandeur of the law.
May God help us to love truth so much that when we teach it, we do it. All of it. Christ showed the truth through His acts of love, even as He uttered that He wants us to keep every single jot of the law without compromise. A real Christian will do the same. We will be so empty of self that Christ will reign within and remind us: “Thou shalt not break the law, and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”