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Chap. 7 - Telling it Like It Is

Reading Chapter 7 of Matthew, it seemed like Jesus is telling me to chill out while at the same time laying on the line in some non-chill ways. The chapter starts off with the famous command, "Don't pass judgment, and judgment won't be passed on you." followed by the equally famous talk of lumber in your eyes. The overall spirit of the passage is to encourage us to look after ourselves rather than getting caught up in policing other people's behaviour.

I have this sense that this is about what we know about other people's stories. I've been in ministry for a few years now, and so much of what I do is related to hearing people's stories. I know people who have done things that are really not okay, but as I sit with them, and hear what has happened to them, it's impossible not to have compassion for the situation they find themselves in. In some ways you still judge their behaviour, since it is harmful, but you also realize where it's coming from. I recently heard a story about a famous author who was a Catholic and also not a very nice person. Someone said to him, "How can you be such an awful person and still claim to be a Christian?" to which he responded, "You have no idea how terrible I would be if I weren't a Christian." We often have no idea what people have overcome to get to where they are.

I am a bit amused to see how harsh some of the rest of the chapter comes across, particularly in the Ruden translation. In v 11 He says "So if you all, worthless as you are..." Oof. In v 26 He says, "...whoever hears these things I'm saying and doesn't do them can be compared to a stupid man..." Also oof. One place where the bluntness comes out in a way that isn't insulting is v. 14 where Jesus talks about the narrow gate/road of following Him. He says that the good road of following Him is full of "crushing hardship." (Ruden's footnote relates this to heavy carts rolling down a badly paved road.) This is certainly telling it like it is. I have to admit that I have found this to be true, and I am confronted by the question of whether or not I want to continue, or if I could draw back from following Jesus, maybe just a bit, to make life a bit more comfortable.

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I too noticed the "crushing hardships". I'm glad Jesus doesn't try to pretend things are easier than they are and fling out the phrase, "But the grace of God is sufficient" - which it is, of course, but that doesn't mean the suffering is not very real.

Also, thinking of the readings yesterday and today - I heard something via Pete Enns the other day which I found very encouraging. A Catholic theologian went to see Mother Theresa to ask her to pray for clarity for him as he was going through some of those "crushing hardships". She told him she would not pray for clarity but that she would pray for faith for him. He said that with …

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