“Woe to you…for you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you…for you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte (convert), and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves” (Matthew 23:13, 15).
I traveled across the Atlantic to Europe to start churches so when I read this I sat up and paid attention. Truth is, when I really listen to Jesus it dawns on me how many assumptions I make about my good behavior. Looking at Jesus’ straight talk to religious leaders here I was challenged to embrace two things to avoid the sting of his words.
Extend grace from the start. It is the Holy Spirit who will convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8-11). It is my job to say that it is by grace that they can be saved (Ephesians 2:8-9). So I accept and overlook moral and cultural ‘offenses’ and offer with my actions and my words the grace of Jesus.
Discourage self centered belief in the Bible. Many religious leaders in Jesus’ time followed the rules in the Bible that gave them social status. In a religious society there are lots of religious things you can do to make yourself look good. So staying away from religious social ladder climbing is essential. Jesus did not like it and neither should we.
Looking at my life today and my years in Europe to date I have some things to think about. In the end we simply have to admit what we have done wrong, accept God’s grace and move on in obedience and in community. Jesus lived in community and encouraged obedience. Extend grace, discourage self serving belief in the Bible..