If truth sets us free …

You probably know that I don’t like to drag politics into these pages — unless I see it as a sign of the times we’re living in and figure that we ought to be awake and aware of what’s shaking.

It’s time to STOP! – Hey – what’s that sound?

Everybody look what’s goin’ down …

— “For What It’s Worth” by Stephen Stills, 1966

Recently, one of Donald Trump’s most ardent apologists, Tucker Carlson of Fox News (where else?), conceded that the president is part of the Frequent Liars Club. But while you might think that the host was joining the ranks of those who are “flipping” on DJT, instead, he rationalized it this way:

Donald Trump is a salesman: A talker, a boaster, a compulsive self-promoter. At times, he’s a full-blown BS artist. Most people know this. It’s obvious. It’s transparent, really. … And by the way, did you know he’s up to almost 14,000 lies by now? My gosh, what a bad person he is. Unlike us.

Impressive. Sort of George Orwell meets The Nicholas Brothers (a great tap-dancing duo from decades past).

So, breaking down his reasoning:

  • Trump lies. A lot.
  • He’s a salesman.
  • Salesmen lie.
  • That’s a known issue, so get over it.

Now, before we go any further, let me point out that I know at least three people who make their living off selling things, and none of them would I call a liar. Two of them sell (are you sitting down?) cars. The third (stay seated) sells real estate. The same holds true for my colleagues in radio who sold advertising time. So let’s not tar all salespeople with the same brush as DJT.

The idea of explaining away chronic lying by the leader of the free world by saying that everybody does it so we should get used to it is another sad sign of our times.

Earlier this week, the New York Times’ White House correspondent lamented that “truth itself is on trial” (although his opinion piece turned out to be little more than a re-hash of what we’d already heard and read),

Get used to being lied to by people who are supposed to be protecting and defending us? What does that really say?

“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”-

— John 8:32

What’s the opposite of being free? Being slaves, of course. Is that what Carlson and the others who apologize for prevaricators (because there is lying on all sides — Carlson has a point, there) want, is to keep people enslaved?

We know the way out of that, don’t we?

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

— John 14:6

Tucker Carlson has a second point, too, that I agree with, although I wonder if he realizes what he said. In the article, he’s quoted as saying that Trump’s opponents prefer to focus on things Trump says that are lies and not on the things Carlson says are true.

I doubt that he was doing anything more than saying, “So’s yer old man!”, but the underlying principle is that people don’t like the truth. They’re afraid of it. Even though it sets us free, we often count the cost of that freedom and opt for the short-term “comfort” of remaining enslaved.

It’s nothing new: it’s the same thing that caused Adam and Eve to hide from God after they had tasted that fruit.

But what appears to be new here, is that commentators like Tucker Carlson and others — and you’ll find it in Canada, too — are starting to tell us to chill-out, because lying is simply The Way It Is.

And that’s the scariest truth yet.

Come, Lord Jesus … come.

Thanks!

Being Canadian, we’ve had Thanksgiving in October, earlier than in the US: I’ve always presumed it was because, being further north, harvest time comes earlier. By the time November comes around, much of the country is snow- and ice-bound, which takes away some of the feeling of thankfulness for a lot of Canadians. Apparently, the real reasons are a bit more complicated and political than that. I like my version better. So there.

How about that? I’ve digressed before I’ve even started!

Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.” One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?” … And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.”

— John 6:7-9, 11

 It was just another day at the office for Jesus; and another “ooohh — aaahh!” moment for the people who had followed Him to that remote location. That’s assuming, of course, that the people knew the “crisis” that was going down in the background. Who knows how many people knew there was very little food or money to provide for them? Chances are, most of the people probably figured there was a catering caravan someplace that they didn’t know about.

Whatever the case, there was something about that incident that stuck out in John’s mind when he witnessed it, because not long after it, he writes about “Tiberias, near the place where they ate bread after the Lord had given thanks ….”

“… after the Lord had given thanks.”

John got to the root of how the miracle of provision manifested: Jesus gave thanks. More to the point, He gave thanks in general: not for transforming the seemingly small worldly provision into more than enough for everybody; not for anything specific. He just gave thanks.

There’s so many things we can be thankful for, and I’m not just talking about the good stuff, which is easy to be thankful for (and don’t forget that when we say something is “good”, it mainly means that it looks good to us, at that time).

empty-platter
“Thank you, Lord, for the turkey that isn’t here yet, we don’t know where it is, but we know You’ve got it for us ….”

In fact, we can be grateful to God for everything. If we suffer a setback, we can thank Him for lessons learned; if we find we’re surrounded by people we don’t agree with, we can thank Him that there’s a reason why He’s chosen us to be in that company; if we’re in any kind of difficulty, we can thank Him for the things we’ve learned in the past that brought us to such a time as that.

Above all, we thank Him because His glory is about to manifest. “This sickness is not unto death,” Jesus says when He hears about Lazarus, “but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4).

Giving thanks before the fact is a sign of believing. We declare that God is in control of everything around us, that whatever He’s doing, we’re on His side.

I remember Abraham, a man I met early in my time on pastoring on Vancouver’s Downtown East Side, and wrote about in my book, God at Work: a Testimony of Prophecy, Provision and People amid Poverty:*

One night at Rainbow Mission, we invited people to share what God had done for them lately. Abraham stood up and said, “I am grateful to God that I have no place to live. I am grateful to God that I don’t have a job or that I don’t know where my next meal is coming from.”

This is lunacy, heresy or wisdom, I thought.

“I am grateful, because it means I have to rely on God for that,” he went on, “and I know He has never let me down.”

Ah. Door Number 3.

Or, as Paul puts it:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

— Philippians 4:6-7

Abraham had that “peace of God”, thanking Him for a situation where others would lean on their own understanding and find anything but peace.

As I say, it’s easy to thank God when He’s done something, but this Thanksgiving, let us, like Jesus, learn to thank Him before He’s done anything.


*Available online: just click on the link to order.

Preparing the ground-1

jesus_healing_the_sick

Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”

— Mark 2:3-5

“So, how do you pray healing for someone if you’re not sure they’ll receive it?”

It’s a question that has nagged at me over the years. A key point in my coming to Christ came when I went to a “healing service” led by Victor Emenike. I had suffered from recurring back pain for 26 years and went forward when he called for people to come up to receive prayer.

Unlike the evangelists you see on TV or in movies, Victor’s method was not the fiery, thump-in-the-forehead-and-bellow HEAL! kind of ministry. Instead, he would listen carefully, both to the patient and the Holy Spirit, and respond as he was led. Sometimes, yes, he would get loud; other times, he would shake his head and say, “Poor little devil; this is too easy!” Or, he would simply ask, “Do you believe Doctor Jesus can make you well?” If the person replied, “Yes,” he would say, “Sit down: you are healed.”

To make a long story short [too late!], I was. I stopped my monthly visits to the chiropractor and didn’t touch another tab of Ibuprofen. And then I started reading about healing by the Holy Spirit. I’ll go deeper into that another time, but I was still bothered by the thought that someone’s doubt or cynicism could derail God’s will for health and wholeness.

So I put the question to my friend, Rob Gordon.

“Start by witnessing your own experience,” he said. “Tell them about your healing and what a miracle that was. And then ask politely if they’d mind you praying over them. Don’t force anything on them, but tell them what you know and give them the opportunity to say ‘yes’.”

Prepare the ground, in other words: crack the soil so the seed will at least go into the ground and not lie out in the hot sun.

Not two days later, my friend Chris called. “Diane is in hospital,” he said. “She’s in a coma. Can you come up to the hospital with me?”

“Sure,” I said. Diane was Chris’ wife, who had had both her legs amputated due to diabetes. Chris always acted like a tough customer, but there are some things where you need a friend beside you.

As I got into his van, I said, “Before we go, can I talk to you about something?” I told him about my faith and my own healing miracle, just as Rob said. “So,” I concluded, “would you mind if I prayed over Diane?”

“Mmm, I dunno,” he said. “Lemme talk to her kids about it.” She had two grown children by her first marriage.

We went to the hospital. Chris and the nurse talked at length about Diane’s condition. I sat beside the bed and listened to their conversation, picking up clues as to what to pray about — aside from a general healing — and prayed quietly.

After a while, we went up to the cafeteria for coffee. We chatted about hockey, lacrosse, pretty much anything but Diane. Then, as we got up to head back to her room, Chris said, “If you want to do that … you know … go ahead. I think it’ll be OK.”

“Well, to tell the truth, I already started while I was listening to you and the nurse.”

“Cool.”

I went home.

Two days later, the phone rang. It was Chris.

“Whatever you’re doing, KEEP IT UP!”

God does have His reasons

God in His wisdom created the fly,

And then forgot to tell us why.

— Ogden Nash (1902-1971)

We’ve been in Australia almost three weeks, now, and I have yet to see a kangaroo, koala or wombat. But I have seen one particular form of Australian wildlife.

Flies.

Little teeny-tiny blighters, that flit around your face, eyes, arms, legs and occasionally get up your nose both literally and figuratively. Many times, Mr. Nash’s observation has come to mind.

Except, as with so many other things in Creation, God does have His reasons.

Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

— Matthew 6:26

And what do you think He feeds them with?

Have you ever had swallows fly past you, swooping and diving low at tall-grass-level? Listen carefully, and you’ll hear the “snap-snap-snap” of their little beaks, picking the flies off in mid-air.

So one purpose of the flies that bug the heck out of us, is to provide for those birds — and perform the clean-up functions mentioned rather graphically in the article from the Sydney Morning Herald.

But let’s take this a step further. My dear mother once told me that the design of the wings of the Spitfire fighter plane — one of the aircraft that helped turn the tide in World War II — was inspired by swallows’ wings. Whether that’s apocryphal or not, I don’t know (my mother is the one who missed out on a Hollywood career when she misunderstood the Pledge of Allegiance and opted for her Canadian citizenship, instead*), but I’ve had a front-row seat to the sight of swallows approaching their bird house at speed: their dipping and diving and swooping and deadly accuracy at hitting the entrance hole resembles old film footage of fighter planes.

In other words, God created the fly to win the Battle of Britain.

Is that a stretch? Possibly. But it should be enough to make us stop and consider, whenever we see something looks bad — or even mildly annoying — from our perspective, and ask God where He is.

Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.

— 1 Corinthians 4:5

Put another way, everything in God’s economy is supposed to be there, and has a purpose, even if we near-sighted humans can’t see it readily. That purpose, by the way, may simply be to give Him pleasure. Take, for example, the creatures inhabiting the deepest parts of the ocean, which we humans may only know about through video footage taken by highly specialized equipment that can stand that incredible pressure.

… Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created.

— Revelation 4:11 (KJV)

So I will continue to wave away these pesky little brutes in Oz, but bear in mind how His works are marvellous and mysterious, and His ways are unsearchable. One day, we’ll know what it’s all been about.


*If you must know, she had dual citizenship and there came a time when she was required to choose Canada or the USA. She got as far as the citizenship court and considered the Pledge of Allegiance — I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America … — and decided, “I can’t pledge allegiance to a piece of cloth”, and walked out, effectively scuppering the possibility of a career as an actor in the US. Some sixty years later, she related that to a friend visiting from the States, who said, “… and to the republic for which it stands”. I could swear that I saw an “oh, shoot!” look cross mom’s face, as she realized her mistake. However, I think she knew that she’d had a pretty darn good life, anyway, for the choice she’d made.

From within … and without

“How do you tell other First Nations people to stay away from The Ways?” I asked Clarence Vickers.

“Easy. I tell them, ‘If it’s not in Scripture, don’t do it!'”

Clarence has popped in and out of my life over the past 20 years or so, always with a powerful word. Like other First Nations evangelists — like Rob Gordon or Margaret Vickers — Clarence can set a room on fire with his spirit-filled messages.

He’s not afraid to step on toes: “People talk about land rights and fishing rights: I say, ‘The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof!'” I’ve been concerned that First Nations people are being encouraged to go back to “The Ways” — sweatlodges, burning sweetgrass, and so forth, but the question was, how do we tell them?*

The other day, we were having lunch with a friend whose parents were missionaries in Bangladesh, I think it was. Our friend — not a religious person, herself — told us that in a moment of youthful inquisitiveness, she asked her mother, “How would you feel if someone walked in and told you your culture was all wrong?” Apparently, her mother nodded and conceded she had a point.

But is that how we’re supposed to minister to people of other faiths?

Check this out: a video I saw Sunday morning at St Cath’s, a charismatic Anglican church in Melbourne.

Frankly, the answer to our friend’s question is this. Clarence can say it. Mordechai can say it. We can’t. Not if we’re outside a particular group. What we can do, is preach Christ crucified — share the Gospel, tell people how much God loves them and how they can “come as they are”. We can love them unconditionally and treat them with the non-condemning kindness that Jesus showed people.

Others — Jews, First Nations, Buddhists, Muslims, people from alternative lifestyles — are the ones who can say to others of their ilk, “Hey, guys! Here’s a better way — we’ve been doing it wrong!” They can say that from within. I can say to others in my get-it-on, too-cool-for-Jesus intellectual generation, “Everything I thought I knew was wrong!” But preaching from without, I can’t say anything like that to a First Nations person or a Jew or a Muslim. Not, and expect them to “see the light”.

Historians give missionaries in Hawai’i a rough time for the role they played in basically stealing the land and resources from the native people, but they did introduce Jesus to the locals. Much of the impetus for Hawai’ians to receive Him came from members of royalty — Queen Ka’ahumanu, in particular — who embraced Him and led the movement away from the kapu system.

It’s a tough row to hoe, especially with so many conflicting “faiths” and “false Christs” competing for people’s hearts and minds today. But we have been born into this generation because God believes we are the ones to carry that message and proclaim it loud and clear and cut through that “white noise”.

Of course, all we’re really expected to do is be the mouthpiece. When I talk about First Nations people who have received Christ, it’s important to remember that these are people who suffered unspeakable abuse at the hands of people connected to churches — abuse that was identified by a Federal commission as “cultural genocide”. Nonetheless, they clung to that nugget of Truth in Jesus Christ. Jesus does have His way of getting through to people, doesn’t He?


*I write about that in my book, God at Work: a Testimony of Prophecy, Provision and People amid Poverty. Just click on the link to order (US $4.99 online).

If you don’t like the weather …

It’s been a balmy springtime in Melbourne, Australia, so far: mercifully removed from the bushfires savaging New South Wales and Queensland. The other day, though, a rogue high-pressure system moved in and the temperature rocketed up to 40 C. — 103 F.

Added to that was a dangerously-high wind. Walking outdoors was like walking through a hair dryer. Not funny: a tree came down over one of the commuter rail lines and another crashed into my son-in-law’s sister’s backyard.

Then, just before 3pm, the temperature started to drop. You could actually feel the change: literally, one moment, it was blazing hot and the next moment you thought, “Wow! It’s suddenly cooling off!” Within an hour an a half, the temperature had dropped 20 Celsius degrees.

You’ve probably heard the old witticism, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes: it’ll change!” In Melbourne, this is It.

Now ordinarily, that witticism refers to unpredictable weather: weather you don’t like can change into something you do like. But what if we considered how God operates?

Then God said, “Let there be light!” And there was light.

— Genesis 1:3

See, God brought change. He is always bringing change, even though sometimes, we human beings don’t like the change. In fact, since we’re fallen human beings, there’s no “sometimes” about it. We resist change. That’s Satan at work, trying to get us to see the bad side of what’s new and different; to assume that if something changes, it’s going to be bad for us.

Instead, the “trick” in life is to consider change and newness and seek God through it. Change may make things difficult for us at the time, but God works with the long-term big picture, and what we need to do is wait on Him and expect that as we do that, the change will be for good.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

— Romans 8:28

“Behold, I will do a new thing,
Now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it?
I will even make a road in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert. “

— Isaiah 43:19

So if you don’t like a situation, give it a little time and ask God where He is: the situation might not change, but your attitude will.

Dying to self (again) and the Nike theology (revisited)

The other day, I saw a t-shirt with the Nike logo on it, and the following epigram:

MAKE BUCKETS – NOT FRIENDS

Take note: when I refer to the Nike Theology, that is NOT what I’m talking about.

Put that thought on a sticky note and we’ll come back to it shortly.

When we were talking about “Dying to self” and a practical way of doing it, namely, by actually listening to someone else in a conversation and making it about them, the question comes up: how do we do that?

Pause for the following aphorism:

“But enough about me: how about you? What do you think of me?”

— attributed to Bette Midler

I hate to put it bluntly, but there are just some things we have to force ourselves to do, and as fallen human beings, we have to force ourselves to listen to someone else and put them, their feelings, thoughts and words, ahead of our own. The “relationship gurus” call it “active listening”, and to our collective shame, people are making money off teaching courses on it. With a little prayer to the Holy Spirit for the strength to suppress our selves and the determination to follow through on it, we can save ourselves a few hundred bucks and be closer to Christ at the same time.

(It’s worth noting that our prayers — our conversations with God — are not one-sided. When we make our supplications to Him, whether it’s for something personal or to intercede on behalf of others, it’s not all about us talking. It’s about sitting quietly and waiting on an answer. The answer may come immediately — so immediately you’ll be surprised that you didn’t think of it yourself — or may take years, but with God, the answer does come. The trick is to listen for it.)

Which brings us to the Nike Theology.

Force yourself to listen. Act as though you’re listening, and it will follow (so long as you’re doing it with a genuine desire to be more like Jesus) that listening to the other person, making them more important than you, will become a habit.

You’re doing it because you are a genuine follower of Jesus and because of that, it’s in our nature to draw others to us by making them important and worthwhile.

It’s the antithesis of the t-shirt (remember the one on the sticky note earlier?), which is all about beating someone else, succeeding on your own terms and not worrying about who likes you or doesn’t like you. (Indeed, I’m a little surprised Nike let that one through.)

I sometimes shudder to think of the number of pastors and others I’ve gone to, to talk about my issues, and who probably thought, “Oh, no! Not him again!” But thank God they suppressed that urge, because my life turned around, for the better, in the long run.

Think of how you can help someone like that, yourself.

Dying to self – the practical way

“Do you realize you said something I never heard in four years living in the States?” my Melbourne friend said today.

We had graduated together from high school in Canada and he had moved to Australia shortly after. A few years back, he and his wife moved to Colorado and recently they decided to move back to Melbourne. So here we were again, having coffee in a little joint off Little Bourke Street.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“‘What’s happening in your life?'” he quoted. “Every time I’d have a conversation with someone in Colorado, it would be someone telling me about all the things they were doing and what they thought, and no one would ask what I was doing.”

I have friends in Colorado, and I’m fairly sure they’re not like that: maybe he was traveling in the wrong circles. But a lot of people do treat conversations as a series of two-person monologues: waiting until the other has stopped talking so they can start again.

What does this have to do with Jesus? Well, let’s see. Yes, He taught people in forums like the Sermon on the Mount or when He would preach in the synagogues, but look at His reaction when people came to Him for healing.

When Jesus departed from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out and saying, “Son of David, have mercy on us!”

And when He had come into the house, the blind men came to Him. And Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.”

Then He touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith let it be to you.”

— Matthew 9:27-29

He didn’t just lay hands on them and command them to be healed. Jesus asked them about their level of faith, He told the paralytic — much the chagrin of the Pharisees who were watching — that his sins were forgiven. He extracted a statement of faith from the Samaritan woman whose daughter was gravely ill. Even when He cast demons out of the madman in Gadara, He asked the demons what their name was.

In other words, when people came to Jesus, He made it all about them — not about Him. (And once the healing was performed and the miracle was complete, He then made it all about God.)

It’s a form of “dying to self” — being “crucified with Christ” so that our own selves are no more and Christ lives in us (Galatians 2:20). We can say that we’ve done that until we’re blue in the face, but it’s little things, like truly being interested in the other person in the conversation, that show that we’re actually living by that principle.

Quick to forgive, slow to … Tweet

In moments of rare wit (or some might say, rare moments of wit), I’ve opined that Facebook is the McDonald’s of social media: everybody goes there, but no one wants to admit it. But actually, Facebook is emerging as one of the better forums for an exchange of ideas. Take, for example, a comment I posted last week about the firing of commentator Don Cherry. That’s turned into a discussion, with some well considered opinions and not necessarily from the same point of view.

(Lately, I’ve been fond of a quote by the late Black Panther leader, Eldridge Cleaver: “Too much agreement kills a chat.”)

On the other hand, something caught my eye in an item in the New York Times about the political upheaval in Bolivia. It was the reference to the interim president having posted derogatory remarks about Indigenous people on Twitter. I don’t know why this particular article caught my attention, but it reminded me that much of the time, public figures have been brought down, or at least hobbled, by something they had posted on Twitter.

Twitter is immediate: it’s reactionary. You get angry about something, you Tweet your response in real-time, and it’s out there. (During my time handling media/public relations for a transit authority, much of the effort went into responding to angry Tweets from customers — many of which were nasty posts, induced by self-centered rage.) Even if you try to delete it, it can still come back to haunt you at the worst possible time.

That’s not how God operates. Can you imagine if He responded to the things that ticked Him off the way we respond to such things on Twitter? None of us would be left standing.

… You are God, ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in kindness …

— Nehemiah 9:17b

The Lord is merciful and gracious,

Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.

— Psalm 103:8

Does this mean we suppress our thoughts and feelings? Drive them underground and hide them on the “dark web” where the general public can’t see them?

No: I mean we take time to let our initial feelings cool down, and seek the Lord. Because guess what? We’re called to respond the way God would.

A wrathful man stirs up strife,

But he who is slow to anger allays contention.

— Proverbs 15:18

The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger,

And his glory is to overlook a transgression.

— Proverbs 19:11

To put that into modern, “social media” terms, God takes His time in responding, and His response is not to condemn, but to elucidate so that, if we wait long enough, we learn something from the things we’ve done wrong and draw closer to Him. It’s called “speaking the Truth in Love” (Ephesians 4:15).

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

— 1 John 1:9

In fact, He gives us chance after chance after chance to come around to Him, and as we know, even gives us the everlasting opportunity to have our sins wiped off the book so that it’s as if they never happened in the first place.

And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,

having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

— Colossians 2:13-14

Don Cherry, Pharisees and what’s in the heart

OK. I promise this is the last thing I’ll write about Don Cherry. For now, anyway.

But a friend of mine raised an interesting point during a major discussion that broke out online.

This type of PC is of the same mindset of the scribes and pharisees that would have had Jesus Christ crucified. I’d be more concerned of this group than anything that Don may have said. It’s ridiculously unfair.

Now, I can assure you that neither she nor I would liken what Cherry has gone through to Jesus’ suffering on the cross, so let’s leave Don Cherry aside and focus on that “mindset”.

I believe she’s referring to the outward show of righteousness — the we-have-to-show-how-woke-we-are-so-this-person-must-walk-the-plank attitude.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.

“Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.

“Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

— Matthew 25:23-28

In somewhat gentler language, Jesus says, in the Sermon on the Mount, that your inner thoughts and motivations are what count with God, not the outward display. People who have been shocked at the rebellion against “progressivism” — particularly that which we’ve seen in the United States since Donald Trump was elected president, but also in other parts of the world, including Canada — probably thought they had won their battle, but the battle was the “quick fix” approach of legislating change.

Jesus says the real change in people’s lives comes in the heart: a guy could go out of his way to avoid touching a woman who isn’t his wife, but Jesus says that if the guy even looks at a woman with lust in his mind, he’s as good as done it. Get angry at someone without cause? You’ve as good as killed them; call someone an idiot? You’ve judged them and are in line to be judged, yourself.

Hmm. How does this square with what I’ve called “The Nike Theology” in the past — a sort of fake-it-till-you-make-it approach to the walk with Christ? Again, that depends on the heart: if you’re motivation is to follow Jesus’ way, the actions you take — acting like you love someone, even if you don’t particularly like them, leads, inevitably, to loving them. You’re not doing it to show that you love them: you’re doing it to increase the level of love in your own heart.

But “the show” was the thing for the Pharisees: judging and condemning and displaying how good they were was their stock-in-trade, and by telling the masses that they were totally missing the point about the walk with God, Jesus diminished their importance and threatened their position.

And being totally confounded by Jesus’ arguments, their only response they knew was to crucify Him.

And then they tried to suppress the apostles, through persecution, harassment, murder and, yes, their form of legislation.

And how well did that work?