Bullies are a fact of life. We’ve all encountered people who use intimidation as a method for getting what they want. An easy one-size-fits-all answer would be handy (like the good ole “5 across the lip”), but unfortunately it isn’t that simple. In studying Luke, I’ve noticed several occasions where Jesus dealt with bullies disguised as “concerned citizens”. They were the gatekeepers on acceptable speech and actions in public…the editors of the “Jerusalem Times” you might say. Their official title was “The Pharisees” and in Luke 6:1-11 Jesus chose to challenge them directly over the Sabbath. Let’s look at His model of approach to such people.
- The Contexts of the Encounters – In verses 1-5, He and His disciples are accused of eating grain unlawfully out of a field because their picking and eating was viewed as “harvesting, threshing and winnowing”. In verses 6-11, He was accused of doing unnecessary medical work on the Sabbath by healing a man with a withered hand.
- Their Expectations – The Pharisees devoted themselves to a life of keeping the “Traditions of the Elders”, which was a compilation of rules built around and on top of the Law given to Moses. The Jewish leaders had completely erased the lines between instructions given by God and ones they had originated. Naturally, they didn’t see this as a problem and expected the Messiah to embrace and affirm them.
- The Problem – Jesus didn’t do things hap hazardously. He had purpose in His teaching and rebukes. He chose these two occasions to address wrong thinking regarding a huge part of Jewish life-the Sabbath. The Sabbath had become a burden. It was no longer a day of worship and refreshment as God had designed it to be, but a heavy burden, so He took action.
- The Confrontation – In both encounters, it’s important to note that Jesus didn’t violate any part of the Law given to Moses. His violations were of the “Tradition of the Elders”. Even regarding working on Sunday, He simply spoke and the man was healed when he responded by “stretching out his hand”. In the illustration He gives of David (verses 3-4) and the question He asks (verse 9) points back to the original Law. In effect, He took the occasion to cut through the politically correct rubbish and point out the beauty of what was given originally. From the beginning, Jesus kept the Law and became the only one ever to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17). His collisions were with the harmful corruptions of it.
- Our Battles – We are faced increasingly with choices to do battle in the area of political correctness regarding speech, actions and beliefs (inside and outside of the church). Our decisions must be based on scripture and by asking this question, “What is Godly Correct and what is Politically Correct?” Sometimes it’s a clear cut answer, sometimes not. Based on Jesus’ example, here are three questions to consider when deciding a course of action:
- Is it the right fight? In other words, is it the right place and time, or would another occasion or venue be better. Pride can cause much destruction and as followers of Christ, we must be careful not to be goaded into the wrong fight.
- Are my motives pure? Issues of right and wrong should be the driver, not preferences or differences of opinion.
- Have I prayed for God’s leadership? Jesus prayed often and when He spoke, it was under God’s authority. The most important part of any conversation of this type (spoken or written) is the time I spend with the Lord beforehand.
Series: Thoughts on Luke – Luke 6:1-11