Sunday, July 24, 2005

False beliefs - a great starting point

Often we are very quick to attempt to correct peoples 'wrong' believes. We see something in their lives or their theology that doesn't match up to the scriptures and we quickly try to right their wrongs and iron out their wrinkles. Jesus often chose a different strategy.
In John 5 a story is told of a blind man that is ultimately healed by Jesus. In this story there are three 'false beliefs' that are encountered by Jesus. It is interesting how he deals with them. Jesus does not jump on the inaccuracy and pound it into shape. He actually uses all three as launching pads for his ministry.

The first is seen in John 5:7 – Jesus has asked the man if he wants to get well. The man responds, “I can’t, sir, for I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred.” We find out that the man has been lame for 38 years. And we can assume that he has had this misconception about the power of the water for that whole time. He has been taught that angels wings occasionally stir the water and that the first person in after the disturbance will be healed. Jesus doesn’t even touch this misconception. He just moves onto the more important matter. “Pick up your sleeping mat, and walk!”

The second ill conceived teaching is seen in John 5:10. The religious teachers catch the lame man walking. And they are upset. Not that he has been healed. Not that he is walking. They are upset because he is carrying his mat! It is Sabbath. He is breaking the Sabbath law that they have written by carrying his mat. How does Jesus enter into this dialogue when he isn’t even present? The man’s response says it all, “The man who healed me said to me, ‘pick up your sleeping mat and walk.’” So, there you have it. Jesus healed his legs and Jesus told him to carry his mat. I can imagine the man saying, “You’ve been throwing rules at me my whole life and you’ve never lifted a finger to help me! Jesus walks into my life and heals 38 years of pain and tells me to carry my mat. I’m carrying the mat. I don’t care what your laws say! Jesus said to carry it. It’s under my arm. Now, get out of my face!”

The third misconception is seen in John 5:14. This one is interesting because Jesus actually quotes a commonly repeated phrase when he meets the man again. He tells the man, “Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.” It was commonly believed that all sickness and ailments were curses from God based on the actions of the people who were sick. Jesus refuted this in John 9, but here in john 5 he quotes it as if it is Gospel! What is Jesus saying? He knows he’s got a captive audience. He’s speaking to a man who he’s just healed and the man is living on Jesus’ every word. So are the people around the man listening to the conversation. Jesus begins teaching about his true nature as the Son of God. Then he explains his use of the misconception, “Those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. The will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.” Now the lame-no-longer man understands what Jesus meant when he said, “something worse may happen to you.” Without Jesus our sins condemn us. With him in our lives our sins are gone. We have passed from death into life. Jesus is telling the man, and everyone listening, that ignoring him – going our own way – is suicide. Following Jesus and His law is life. Go and sin no more – that is the lifestyle of someone who has seen Jesus and understands their new eternal nature! It’s not a threat. It’s a promise!

In our ministry for Christ we could learn a very valuable lesson from Jesus’ example in John 5. He allows misconceptions and uses them to grow the individual as well as the crowd. But, he spends a fair bit of time planning how he will work it all together. Jesus does not ignore the wrong theology. He uses it to launch into a greater work than theological haggling. The end result is the person comes closer to Jesus and they have a more accurate understanding of his Word and will. Next time you encounter someone who believes differently than you, pause before you act. How would Jesus use the difference to launch his ministry into their hearts? Go for hearts, not points. Value people, not proof. Give them Jesus, not a lecture. And in the end they will come to understand the truth. But first they will encounter Jesus and know his love!

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