It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble. (Matthew 17:2)
What I know of God’s heart tells me this statement is more about His fondness of sheep than His predisposition toward wrath. But the Bible police will disagree. They will tell you (with zeal) this is how God feels about heretics – those Catholics, mystics and charismatics (and the rest of them) who are not as well aligned with scripture as they. As one who fell in among charismatics 40 years ago and has also shared space with main line evangelicals, I have been in gatherings (as the undercover heretic) where my brethren had their guns drawn and were firing freely upon the family. The phrase shock-and-awe comes to me.
Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” (Matthew 17:3-4)
Even if my family pulls their Calvin-made 5 -shooters, I must forgive them each and every time. Neither they nor I have a clue what we are doing. I have thought about rebuking them for this nasty habit but I am sure I would learn a brand new definition of holiness if I did. And the still small voice whispers, “And Rob, in your imagination, have you not aimed a howitzer back in their direction?” My conscience replies (meekly), “Ugh, yes Lord. I see your point.”
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you. (Matthew 17:5-6)
As one exposed to what I think of as charismatic realities and excesses (I would never call them heresies), I have heard a good deal of commanding; “I command this spine to come into proper alignment!” “I command this business to come into proper alignment.” (Proper alignment is a big deal with charismatics.) Regrettably, my own experience has been that both the spines and the business’s have remained immune to the commands. Deficiency of faith? It all depends on who you ask. However, I do know of one business that seemed to prosper when one of its leaders asked God to allow them (himself and his coworkers) to find favor with Him and man – confirming the work of their hands. This leader thought aligning his heart with God’s word was the right move. (See Psalm 90:17 and Proverbs 3:4)
Jesus mission was to reveal the Father and make a way back to Him. The Spirit and the Word want men to see the Father. Jesus anticipated that we would continue His mission when He ascended. However, if we move to some high ground and aim our doctrinally accurate sniper rifles at others who believe in Jesus as God’s Son we are thwarting God’s mission – we are at at cross-purposes with the Spirit of Reconciliation. How many who do not yet know Jesus have looked upon the Church (with some hunger for reality stirring in their hearts), seen our rigid and judgmental ways and said (stumbling), “No thank you.”
If there were something that we should hang a millstone around and cast into the sea, it is religion – that spirit that rejects Christ and sets itself above others as the truly aligned ones. Certainty needs devalued. The best place for all those who name the name of Jesus is upon our knees, asking God to forgive us for the stumbling blocks we have been (or are) to the little ones around us. Humility is the only alignment that really makes sense to me.
Father, may patience, kindness and mercy have their way in our hearts. By way of Your Life in us, undo all that we have done (and are doing) in Jesus name that has misrepresented You. Amen.