“Then the sons are free. Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first.” Matthew 17:26,27
“But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours becomes a stumbling block to those who are weak.” “And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? 1 Corinthians 8:9,11
“Do not think I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” Matthew 5:17
I want to start out with a statement about the intent of this post. For this is not a post about all human actions are acceptable to those who believe or that Jesus Christ in some way has changed the Word or Commandments of God. Nothing could be further from my intent. I definitely believe in the statement that Jesus made in Matthew 5:17.
Yet here is the amazing thing to me. You have God, come to earth. You have He, who was at creation and through whom all things were created. This is who Jesus Christ was and is. Thus if anyone should have cared little about being offensive, of causing any angst in anyone else, Jesus Christ was deserved of that right. Though deserved or not, He did not partake of that right. Jesus demonstrated for us an amazing level of humility as example, I believe for us to follow.
Now what is happening in Matthew 17 at this point is a recounting of question posed to Peter by those who received the temple tax. According to the Interpreter’s Bible, this was not a tax from the Romans as a tribute to Caesar but a tax started back in the time of Exodus. The Interpreter’s Bible makes the point that Jesus is not saying that the temple should not be supported, far from it. What He was saying was that as son’s, which believers become, through Jesus Christ, they are free from the law that has been fulfilled in Christ. The desire to support the temple or church for that matter should not be a “have to” but should be a holy and joyful “desire to”.
However, that is not to me the most astounding thing. Jesus Christ does not want to cause offense over this issue to the Jewish faithful. Jesus knows that they would not understand His discussion of son’s being free because they did not see Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. So to keep from causing an offense on this point, He has Peter pay the tax. Yet this was not unusual for Jesus. Jesus, time and time again showed great restraint, especially given who He knew He was (is), when confronted with misunderstandings and misapplications of His creation, human kind. He did not utterly destroy the Pharisees and Sadducees who came to dispute with Him. As they talked and hurled accusations at Him, He did not raise His voice and talk over them and shut them up. When the crowds picked up stones to stone Him, Jesus did not raise a hand against them but walked unharmed, both to Himself and the crowd, right through them.
Please understand this, I am not saying Jesus Christ was not bold; far from it. He did boldly declare, right there in the temple about the kingdom of heaven, His Father’s Kingdom and that He was the Son. Yet His boldness was not primarily designed as a judgemental attack as it was the truthful pronouncement of the way of God. Jesus lived into the blessings that He stated that blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth and blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God.
Paul picks up that same theme when he writes to the Corinthians who are having terrible troubles with division in their church. Paul warns and admonishes those who would use their God given freedom, to cause those who are new or weak to the Way, to stumble. He tells us we need to look to others to see if and to what extent our actions are causing offense and perhaps driving away the very persons we are desperately trying to lead into and onto the Path of Christ.
Yet we find ourselves in a society today ever more acrimonious when it comes to our interactions with each other. We often come to a point where, so certain of our rightness (not necessarily righteousness), that we declare if anyone has a problem with us it is their problem only and there is no reason for us to change our actions in any way. To take into account another person’s perspective, even though more inaccurate, and modify our approach to help instruct or lead them is looked at as totally unnecessary and worse yet a sign of weakness. Thus in ever louder volume and ever shriller tone, we come off as judgemental and totally closed to the suffering and plight of others. Jesus Christ would not have it so.
Again, please Dear Sisters and Brothers, I am not saying at all that we should do something like live as the world lives, sin so that we would seem to fit in; nothing of the kind. What I’m extolling is the virtue of abiding in Christ and thus taking on His example of speaking, of living our lives around those who may not yet be on the path to Christ, are newly on that path, or may be on the path yet have a different perception than we do. That we deal with them out of Christian love. Yes, being bold in our proclamation of Christ and Our Heavenly Father, yet humble as a servant in our status in that relationship. It would do us well to remember the admonition of Jesus Christ, Himself, when He told His disciples not to be concerned ahead of time what to say when called to witness for the Kingdom; that the Holy Spirit would give us what to say at the time needed.
We must ask ourselves; does our speech to others, the way we treat others in and out of the faith, reflect what the Holy Spirit would want us to say and do about the kingdom? I am asking that we at least consider our actions and what the Holy Spirit would have us do. There are those in the world who, no matter what will take offense at us and that is the plain truth of it. What we don’t want to happen is to give those whom are seeking after Christ as well as our Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ a reason to take offense if we can avoid it. In doing so, we will live lives of praise and glory to God and not to ourselves.
Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father by Your Son Jesus Christ we are called to be sent into the world but we are not of the world. We also understand that as the world has hated You and Your Son, it will hate us. Yet we ask Most Merciful Father that You would give us a spirit of grace and humility as we deal with the world. That as Your Son, Jesus Christ gave us an example, we will be patient, kind, loving and healing to our fellow person. That some of the world would take offense at us, we would not make that our goal or aim. That in being true to You and living in humility and meekness, we would be the peacemakers that You are asking us to be and will bless our attempts. We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Example. Amen