Comforted or Disturbed?

Bob Bliss and I noticed that in a meeting we had yesterday the theme of being disturbed came up on several occasions. I got to thinking about this and I think there is a tension between being comfortable and being disturbed that is worthy of investigation. Look at the ministry of Jesus. Jesus spent time making the comfortable feel disturbed and time comforting those who were disturbed. The Pharisees were spiritually comfortable. They needed a renewed sense of the disturbing aspects of their faith that they had come to view and commonplace. Then there were the tax collectors and “sinners” who lived very disturbed lives. Jesus spent his time comforting people like that. There are disturbing things in life they we should never grow too comfortable with. There are times we will feel disturbed about things (sin, injustice, etc) and know that in those times we might just be more aligned with Jesus than we have ever understood.


Pharisees and the Priesthood of All Believers

The Pharisees had such strict standards because they were reactionaries and visionaries. They were reactionaries in the sense that as they looked at the history of the Jewish people they saw a pattern of disobedience = punishment/faithfulness = blessing. They reacted to the history of their people by establishing stricter standards of the Law on people which basically started with good intentions but ended up something entirely different as it went through these shifts (I cannot really document this but this is how I think they got to the point we see them in the New Testament and passages like Mark 7:1-23):

LAW only —- LAW + tradition —- LAW/TRADITION —- TRADITION + law

They were visionaries in the sense that they believed if they could get all God’s people to adhere to a stricter code of moral and ethical conduct then God would deliver his people. Roman rule was seen as a result of their disobedience. The remedy was strict obedience to the highest standard. In essence, they believed if all the people adhered to the rules of the priesthood then God would be pleased with their obedience and fix their problem with the Romans and re-establish them in the land. This basically makes the Pharisees the first proponents of the “priesthood of all believers” in that they applied the laws only designed for the priests to everyone and on top of that added the traditions of the elders.

It is one thing to apply a stricter standard to yourself. It is quite another to apply that standard to others and basically say they must not be God’s people unless they jump through the hoops of your own tradition. Generation after generation has struggled with keeping a higher standard (monastics, restorationists, emergents) without saying you aren’t really a Christian unless you keep our rules.

Spiritual Murder (John 10:10)

In Jesus’ lesson to the Pharisees in John 10 Jesus compares himself to a shepherd and to a gate. Notice what he tells the Pharisees in 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.” (TNIV).

In the context of what Jesus is saying in John 10 I cannot come away thinking anything short of this, Anyone who preaches a gospel other than the life giving message of Christ and fills their coffers with gain from skinning the sheep commits spiritual thievery. Like any robbery gone wrong the result is often spiritual murder. Let’s call it what it is. It is the worst kind of murder – murder of the soul. It is not just false teaching or incorrect doctrine. Such terms are necessary but they dull down the sense of what is actually happening as much as a doctor calling a fatal heart attack a myocardial infarction. It sounds fancy but it is just a nice way of saying “Heart attack.”