Why Bite Your Tongue?

Ever find yourself sequestered in your home, stuffing gingersnaps in your mouth, to prevent a bunch of words from coming out?

Like say for instance, half a story is being told in your community with such regularity that its general “truthiness” has cemented into fact. But you know the other half, and the only thing holding it back is a thin layer of gingersnaps.

What do you do?

Caramel Gingersnap Sandwiches

(Photo credit: jensteele)

Well, if you’re me, you walk around mad about it for 90 minutes or so, seething at the injustice, imagining how your withering rebuke will wipe the smug off a few faces. Believe me, if there were an Olympic event for the withering rebuke, I’d be the Michael Phelps of it.

But here’s the problem, I really want to act like Jesus and Jesus didn’t act like that.

In fact, he taught that God is our vindicator, not us. At the mother of all bogus death penalty trials, one prompted by religious and political fear mongering, Pontius Pilate gave Jesus the chance to respond, and he didn’t. He remained silent. When Jesus was being tortured to death, he finally opened his mouth to say, “Father forgive them they don’t know what they are doing.”

See, my natural response to personal injustice oozes self-righteousness and sanctimony, and who doesn’t love that in a Christian? Or if I choose not to tell someone off, I’ll tell five random people about it instead, so we can all be annoyed together. Mean, gossiping Christians – another thing people love.

As it turns out, my “natural response” is the problem, it’s what Jesus came to correct. He showed us how live here, and then died for our inability to do it. Or to put it another way:

Without Jesus, I’d be on the horn right now, spreading malice, division, strife and slander, all in the name of justice. Hmm.

But with Jesus, I’m just eating gingersnaps and talking to you. Maybe he’s even raising an eyebrow at that.

Love Dinner Thank God Love Dinner #3 is Saturday night because I need practice.

Without it, my cranky, unregenerate self shoves her way to the front, spits out the gingersnaps and lets somebody have it. Because I don’t want that, I’ve decided we’re going to spend LD3 and the month of December practicing one of the hard ones in Ephesians.

You ready?

Let all bitterness and indignation and wrath (passion, rage, bad temper) and resentment (anger, animosity) and quarreling (brawling, clamor, contention) and slander (evil-speaking, abusive or blasphemous language) be banished from you, with all malice (spite, ill will, or baseness of any kind). And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:29-32 AMP

To join our online community of “bible doers” working out Ephesians 4:29-32 in your own world, just do it and tell us what happens. Post in the comment section or via the contact page. We’ll run the best stories, with a link to your blog here.

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What About The Hypocrites – An Excerpt.

Here’s an excerpt from Chapter Five of Going To The Sea. It’s called Leroy.

…So maybe it isn’t all my fault, I fashioned a version of God I liked better than the one peddled by guys like Leroy or the cable news hosts who bluster on about America’s Christian heritage and then tell their guests to shut up on tv. By my second month, on the porch with my bible, I discovered, the things I find infuriating about religious hypocrites, infuriated Jesus as well.

For example, many people, even non-Christians, have heard the story of the woman caught in adultery, because it includes the famous scripture:

Lucas Cranach d. Ä. - Christ and the Adulteres...

Lucas Cranach d. Ä. – Christ and the Adulteress – (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

In John chapter eight, the woman was brought by the Pharisees – the Jewish religious leaders – before a crowd to be stoned to death.  It wasn’t a trial, because she’d been caught in the act. Incidentally, no, the man with whom she was caught was not dragged in with her, and yes that’s galling, but welcome to the Nation of Israel in the first century.

The woman, the scripture says, was in that dangerous position because the Pharisees were using her to catch Jesus violating Mosaic Law – something they were convinced his teaching did. Remember Jesus was a Jew, people called him Rabbi and under the law of Moses, adultery was a crime punishable by death.

“What do you say Jesus?” The Pharisees asked him.

Jesus knelt and wrote in the dirt with his finger. When he stood up, he said, “let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then he bent down and drew in the dirt again. One by one the crowd dropped their rocks and dispersed until only Jesus and the woman were left. Then Jesus stood up, looked at the woman and said,

“Where are your accusers? Has no one accused you?”

“No one,” she answered.

Then Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go on your way and sin no more.”

Jesus didn’t ignore what the woman had done, he clearly called it sin and told her to knock it off, but he didn’t ball up with a bunch of buddies and throw rocks at her either – even though the law required it. It was the Pharisees who wanted to throw rocks, but they couldn’t because Jesus called them hypocrites and dared them to prove it.

It’s a lucky adulteress who meets Jesus in a crowd.

How many times have I objected to Christianity because “Christians are hypocrites?” But read the story again if you must. Jesus extended mercy when the law required death. He called the Pharisees hypocrites, nobody called him one. Even though the Pharisees were pious and observant, they were merciless and very unlike the God they tried to represent.

Because I never studied the Bible, I didn’t know who the Pharisees were or that they created one of the gospel’s great ironies.

I, like many people, accepted the news peddled by the Pharisees of the 21st century. So each time one of those peddlers got caught stealing money or in a hotel room, I’d gloat and think, “See Christians are hypocrites, therefore Jesus is a fraud.” That is a common but bizarre logical failure, made by people who are clearly not looking at Jesus, but rather at his chronically flawed human followers – even well-intentioned ones like Leroy.

That approach will always deliver cynicism and heartbreak because the Bible doesn’t say a decision to follow Jesus immediately transmutes our bad behavior. In fact, some translations say, once we surrender we are “impregnated” with God’s divine nature. Pregnant women will tell you it takes lots of nausea, bloating and many other things to give birth to a happy baby, but mostly it just takes time.

So are Christians hypocrites? Absolutely. So are Jews and Buddhists and Muslims and Wiccans and Vegetarians and Evolutionists and all the people who call themselves “spiritual not religious.” That’s because hypocrisy is endemic to the human condition. It is a failure, the Bible says, Jesus came specifically to address.