Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Company You Keep... Part 2

(Part 1 is the preceding post.)

"How dare that Jesus! He knows that Matthew and his buds are the devil's children, yet there he is, eating and conversing with them. I even hear him laughing at one of their jokes! Who knows what they're doing in there! How can he call himself a holy man? I knew he wasn't the real deal. Messiah? Are you kidding?"

My imagination, but the context of Mt. 9:9-13 makes it pretty obvious those were the kinds of comments coming from the lips of the Pharisees. They just didn't get it. Jesus' behavior was far too radical and revolutionary for them.

This preacher/rabbi/prophet was rapidly becoming the most popular religious figure in the land. He was sought after by outcasts, wealthy business men, community leaders and military officials. He went to places no one else would enter and touched people considered "unclean" by the guardians of the faith. Before his ministry was over he would be invited to appear before the religious elite and government officials. The conspiracy to murder him was orchestrated by those of his own race and creed who rejected him.

What we don't understand we tend to disagree with. And when we disagree, in order to defend our position we tend to fight against with straw man arguments. A recovering Pharisee myself, I understand that side well.

What happens when a well-known pastor (that would exclude me) steps out of the box and finds room at the tables of infidels, atheists, liberals and people otherwise considered "tax collectors and sinners" by the self-appointed "defenders of the faith"?

Billy Graham was boycotted in the 60's and 70's by "Bible believing" pastors in every city where he came to preach. Why? In order to get the biggest crowds to come to his crusades he routinely invited ministers of every persuasion to sit on the platform, knowing that if they attended, their churches would likely attend, too, giving many the opportunity to hear for perhaps the first time a clear presentation of the Gospel. Yet my wife heard a pastor at her church in the early '70's proclaim that Graham's ministry was "of the devil".

Jerry Falwell was called "the anti-christ" by the president of a fundamentalist Christian university in the late '70's. Why? He dared build friendships with people like Teddy Kennedy, Larry King and Larry Flint - a porn publisher - so he could share the Gospel with them. Poor Jerry! He was despised by the left and right until the day in died in 2007.

Rick Warren is the current punching bag for the sons and daughters of Graham's and Falwell's critics. Why? He has sat down at tables with "tax collectors and sinners" to insert his Christian beliefs and influence where he is the lone representative of evangelical Christianity to address issues like AIDS and starvation. And because no one else dares to go out on the same limb, the separationist bloggers are abuzz in their attacks!

I've been around the block a time or two, and here's what I've come to accept. I may not have a clear understanding of why those men used the methods they did. There are others on the scene today whose beliefs are essentially the same as mine, but they do things that cause me to take a step back and raise an eyebrow. And my conclusion might be, "Well, I wouldn't do it that way."

But attack them because they are different in their methods? Find them guilty of a "crime" without giving them an opportunity to at least try and explain themselves? I hear enough of that kind of thing about my own church and ministry. So for me and the church I serve that would be the pot calling the kettle black.

If I don't "get it" my best response is no response and let God sort it out. Their fruit will reveal their validity. And that may not be known until eternity.

Rather, I take to heart what Jesus did and said. He was quite the non-conformist, wasn't He? Years ago two older, godly preachers said some things I heard that I'm still trying to apply to my life.

1. "When I've won as many people to Christ as *Billy Graham, then I can start to criticize him." (Sumner Wemp) That narrows it down considerably for me.

2. "I'll be friends with the friends of Jesus." (B. R. Lakin) Whether I agree with every thing they do or not.

*He said "Billy Graham", but you can fill in the blank with whoever.


Anonymous said...

If there is one thing that comes across to me so clearly on your blog it is your wisdom.

Amen Brother Rick!!! :)

Rick Lawrenson said...

According Proverbs I think, wisdom is supposed to be a benefit of white hair! I can only hope I'm gaining some.

Bill and Peggy said...

Very good post! I couldn't agree more. Billy, Jerry and Rick W. are great men of God and I would never doubt their "methods". However, I have seen many people, typically younger followers, fall victim to the "world" by attempting to "witness" to sinners in "their environment". I always like to point out, Jesus loved, dined and approached all people on their level, but he only became friends and associated himself with them after they repented and changed their behavior. -Bill