Dr. Andy Pate
The Orange Leader
It has been my experience that many Christians enjoy a good laugh. Whether they’d prefer instead to argue is open to debate. I’ve experienced a good measure of both in my ministry.
But in bitterly angry times, when there’s so very little in the news that produces more than a momentary grin, it seems clear to me that we need to recover our balance, see things more evenly, which is precisely what I believe Jesus was trying to help people do in his marvelous Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).
For a long while I’ve smiled a bit whenever I’ve recalled the splendid manner Jesus rebuked the religious and legal experts of his day when he told them, “You strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.”
Maybe it’s me? But Jesus’ first century words appear to me to apply quite well to the unproductive efforts of many of our contemporary politicians. There’s a whole lot of yelling and posturing and swelled up egos among them as they flit about in circles.
But these modern day “gnats” do take themselves seriously and rightly so when their goals are important. But so were the goals of the scribes and Pharisees of ancient Jerusalem, whose self-righteous anger ultimately led to the cruelest of historical events, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Jesus gave the soundest advice ever, I believe, for dealing with anger that’s headed toward disaster. He said, “love your enemies . . . pray for those who persecute you . . . walk (if asked) that second mile . . . turn the other cheek . . . .”
And even before he uttered those directives, Jesus comforted those who were victims of the pompous “gnats.” He told them they were “blessed,” which many modern scholars translate as “happy.” The poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, those who hunger and thirst, the merciful, the peacemakers?group by group Jesus named the ones God has chosen for happiness.
“If only . . . if only . . . I had a little more of this or that, or could get accomplished that which I believe to be right.” How often do we find ourselves saying those words?
Stop. Look. Listen. “See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was arrayed like one of these.” (NIV).