I suspect it would be natural to offer as the final article on this topic a running list of things I consider heaven or hell issues, but who in the world am I to give such a list.  It does seem to me that the very people Jesus struggled with the most during his earthly ministry was people who made list of what was right and what was wrong in all situations.  What impresses me more is that instead of adhering to other people’s list, Jesus broke through them to help hurting people.  The list kind of folk, of the first century were those religious leaders among the Jews.  To them doing anything that violated their concept of Sabbath was a horrendous sin.  To actually eat with and give devoted attention to people who were sinners, even in their own mind was beyond the pale of right living.  Yet, Jesus was far more concerned about healing the hurting, casting out the demons or spending time with people who needed God in their life than with making certain he didn’t break any of their rules.  Some of the rules he broke weren’t just the ones the rabbi’s had made up for the people to make them righteous.  Some were part of the law of Leviticus.  For example, the man with leprosy or the woman who was hemorrhaging were both required by the law to stay a decent distance from other people for fear of them becoming unclean.  Jesus touched the leper before healing him and when the woman touched the hem of his garment to receive power from him, instead of rebuking her, he blessed her.

He healed the man laying beside the pool who had been cripple for years on the Sabbath and told him to pick up his mat and go home with it.  He healed the man born blind on the Sabbath and had him, after spitting on the ground and making mud to put on his eyes, to go down the the pool of Siloam to wash and be clean.  The religious leaders in both cases seemed not even to care that he had healed people who had been hurting for years, they just knew he broke one of the rules. In their mind he had committed a heaven or hell issue that should condemn him. They were convinced he got his power from the prince of demons.  He told them they had missed the point.  God is more concerned about mercy than judgment.  He didn’t make man for the Sabbath but the Sabbath for man.  Besides all of that, Jesus declared he was Lord of the Sabbath.  He challenged them to stop trying to put his new wine into old wineskins or his new patch on an old garment.  His way will never work as a Revised Standard Version of the Old Testament Law.  Jesus didn’t come to revise the law or update it.  He came to fulfill that law completely and give a new law of the heart and not of the letter.  The letter kills while the Spirit gives life.

The church is the body of Christ.  It should look like Him.  He is the Lord and Master of the church.  Our mission as His church is to please him, to take on his heart and attitude and treat people like he treated them.  He has left us an example that we should follow in his steps Peter said in I Peter 2:21.  So what will that mean for us as His people?

Notice two examples and one statement from Jesus to guide our answer.  First the examples.  When Jesus dealt with the Samaritan woman at the well who had been married five times and was now living with another man she hadn’t married, instead of demanding she straighten out her life before he could use her as a witness, called attention to her situation by saying, “Go call your husband” and explaining when she said she didn’t have one that He knew the situation.  She had been a wife to five different men. The man she now had was not her husband.  Yet when she asked about worship, he explained worship to her more clearly than he ever did to anyone else in the gospel accounts.  He made her the witness to the city to tell them to come see the man who had told her all she had ever done.  The other example is the woman caught in the act of adultery.  He didn’t justify the woman married five times and living with another and he didn’t justify the woman caught in adultery.  But he had mercy and grace on both.  Instead of telling the crowd to throw the rocks they held at her, he said, “Let him who is without sin among you cast the first stone.”  They all left from the oldest to the youngest.  They knew they weren’t innocent.  Jesus asked the woman, “Did no one condemn you?”  “No one Lord.” “Neither do I condemn you.  Go and sin no more.”  He didn’t pander with sin or try to make it not look bad.  But he was compassionate to the people to offer them grace, forgiveness and new life.

The statement Jesus made is this.  “Come unto me all who are weary and burdened down and I will give you rest, take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest to your soul for my yoke is easy and by burden is light.”  Jesus wants the tired, burdened, worn out and hurting to come to him for rest.  He doesn’t look out at the hurting and burdened of life to say, “You made your bed, now lie in it.”  He said, “Come to me.”  Why are people drawn to Jesus?  Because when they learn of him they find him gentle and humble in heart.  I wonder how often people come to church looking for that same attitude to learn of Jesus and see people who look like him, ever see it.  Paul told the Philippians right in the middle of his points about rejoicing always and not to worry about anything but to pray about everything, “Let your gentle spirit be known by all people.  The Lord is at hand.” I think the point of saying the Lord is at hand wasn’t to warn that the second coming was soon, but to tell them Jesus was always right there with them.  He knew their actions and their heart. So let your gentle spirit be seen by everyone.  It could have been translated, “Let your graciousness be seen by everyone.”  He told Timothy to pursue gentleness and make certain he answered the adversary with gentleness.  He told the church at Thessalonica that he had treated them like a nursing mother.

The church cannot be the body of Christ without having his heart.  Just putting together the right parts without the heart of Jesus is like building a robot that can do lots of things, but no matter how well you dress it up it is still a robot and not a person.  It doesn’t have the heart of a man.  The only way the church can have that image is if we who strive to lead and teach in the church have that spirit.  Far too often, I’ve failed miserably in having the gentle heart of my Lord and Savior.  I don’t know about you but I’ve got a long way to go to be able to say the weary and burdened can come to me and find rest because I’m gentle and humble in heart.  But how can I ever get others to come to such a savior without having that heart myself?  God help me to become more like Jesus every day.

About leoninlittlerock

Preaching minister for Central church of Christ in Little Rock. Author of over 20 books including: When a Loved one Dies, Spiritual Development, Skid Marks on the Family Drive, Challenges in the church, To Know Christ and A Drink of Living Water.
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