The Wisdom of the Young Ruler

Many people think of the young ruler as an idiot.

In many ways I find him very wise, but ultimately lacking perspective. I don’t know, I do very much understand why he would run away from Christ when asked to give up all he had, it is reminiscent of something of that inside of myself. Maybe I’m the only person that takes seriously what a fantastic claim that Jesus gives when he asks of us to give up everything we have, and follow Him. What a huge decision that is, to be asked to give up everything we trust in for something we cannot be totally sure of. It is hardly the things that could be decided in the moment’s thought of the altar call. That is somewhat undercutting what a great sacrifice this is, I have been thinking and mulling over this proposition for a very long time. Slowly and slowly, the caverns of my heart are opening up as the Holy Spirit comes and airs every room of my heart.

In some ways, the young ruler was the wisest of us all, such a huge decision cannot be made with such lightness. Externally, we may have the greatest ambition, but internally we know nothing of Jesus. To walk away in my eyes was a more righteous action than committing a part of our hearts. Anaias and Sapphira would have profited greater from not giving their share to the apostle than giving short of everything.

Reading from an outsider’s perspective of the calling of the disciples, it is simple to think it obvious to drop the nets to follow Jesus. A book is still somewhat a disconnection from reality, and it is easy to read of faith of other peoples within the Bible. Yet, when the rubber hits the road, when Christ demands of YOU, to give up everything that we hold dear, I find that an entirely different proposition more difficult than reading of other people who had done so before.

There is a disconnection I think we feel from the young ruler, that we are somehow better than him. This decision is without realising how much of a sacrifice, that is, without having experienced poverty in life. For one, I feel like him more often that not torn between what I can see and what I cannot understand.

The sermon at church today was of Simon Peter and his redemption through Christ in the last few verses of the Gospel of John:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.””(This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”” John 21:18-19 (English Standard Version)

What church history tells us, is that the death that Simon Peter suffered was one of cruxifiction. Origen said of his death, “Peter was crucified at Rome with his head downwards, as he himself had desired to suffer.” As one who would not consider himself worthy to die the same way as Jesus. There is an intense humility in that, that I do not possess at this time.

To be brought continually to that place where we realise we have nothing, we deserve nothing and we are nothing is a place of continual rejoicing for me. To some, it might be reprehensable but to know the insurmountable riches in Christ, and that perhaps that is something of worth. To reach that place in my heart, I need faith, more than I have now. To know that assurance of things hoped for and conviction of things not seen.

I am increasingly becoming sure that if there was just one righteous man on earth like Jesus, then the world would be changed. But in the meantime, we have billions of young rulers too scared to step outside of their comfort zone. I am a young ruler, tempered to what the world proclaims as success, chained to the desires of the heart. More than not, I am scared of what is hidden behind closed doors, than wanting people to see what I do when eyes are not closed.

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Should we judge?

Lately I’ve been thinking about judging others. Now, Christians are often called very judgmental and the like. I think it’s a fair observation, except for the fact that the observant may be acting very judgmentally towards Christians.

Often quoted Bible verse about judging is Luke 6v.37-38 : “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Matthew 7 has a similar version with some absent phrases from Luke. The context of the text is Jesus talking about loving enemies and being kind to those who wrong us.

The context here is important as I think it is speaking of salvation. Previously Jesus was talking about loving your enemies and why? We shouldn’t judge others because we do not know who is in the favour of the Lord and not. Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you and furthermore do not judge whether people are saved or not. Jesus was asking for some tolerance from the Jews, not to look down on others that were struggling, but to lift up and invest in them.

Furthermore, I think what Jesus is highlighting most here is that there is a Pharisee in all of us. The Pharisee is the one that wants to see the speck in others while not seeing the log in himself. Jesus talks about this in subsequent verses. Using a concordance, the same word ‘krinete’ is used in Romans 2v.3:

Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?”

John Calvin remarks in his exposition of this passage:

This disease, in the first place, draws continually along with it the injustice of condemning any trivial fault, as if it had been a very heinous crime; and next breaks out into the insolent presumption of looking disdainfully at every action, and passing an unfavourable judgment on it, even when it might be viewed in a good light.

In fact, my Greek dictionary tells me that the word krinete in the Judaism context was that God judges and he alone. Jesus here is warning people not “to pronounce an opinion concerning right and wrong” (Strong’s) but to be gracious towards their enemies.

Nevertheless, I don’t think that this verse can be taken on its own. My other text I think is what I believe in, is the account from the Gospel according to John 7. It reads:

“I did one work, and you are all amazed,” Jesus answered. “Consider this: Moses has given you circumcision —not that it comes from Moses but from the fathers —and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses won’t be broken, are you angry at Me because I made a man entirely well on the Sabbath? Stop judging according to outward appearances; rather judge according to righteous judgment.”

The context to the last verse is important. Jesus is accused of performing a miracle on the Sabbath and the Pharisees have grinded it into him. Then Jesus in the passage above turns the accusation around pointing out that the Pharisees themselves have been circumcising on the Sabbath.

Therefore the context of judge here is more concerned with hypocrisy. The Pharisees judged Jesus unfairly without considering themselves and their practices. I think that’s why non-Christians accuse Christians of being judgmental, they criticize others yet they do what they hate.

Christians are against homosexuality and yet they condemn them like they are lepers. Christians are against fake emotion and stealing yet they have TV networks like TBN (Whoops, did I say that? =D). Christians are against abortion, yet they do nothing to help those teenagers that decide to have a baby.

I think the image that comes to mind is from the TV show (forgive me) Glee. One of the main characters gets pregnant from a one night stand with another character. The implications from the show are that her parents are Christian because they have brought her to purity balls and promoted abstinence to her constantly. But her parents could not find it in themselves to forgive her for disobeying them.

Now, that’s a terrible indictment against Christians, if we can’t forgive others, how can we expect God to forgive us? Not to discount that the main character had done something wrong, she was certainly portrayed repentant and willing to correct her wrongs. How can we let our judgments cloud our unconditional love towards others?

Therefore, I think that making judgments is correct but only ultimately righteous judgments. God after all judges people: “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or his stature, because I have rejected him. Man does not see what the LORD sees, for man sees what is visible, but the LORD sees the heart.”

That is one of the many differences between us and God : we cannot see inside people. So I implore that Christians do not judge so readily, but only with great wisdom and discernment which comes from God. He gives us this wisdom because he is the one who is omniscient. Therefore, we cannot make objectively true judgments because we cannot see everything, yet we can make judgments which are beyond reasonable doubt, ie. eating rat poison will kill us.

I remember a real life situation, one of the guys I knew there used to really piss me off, like really badly, he was one of those skater dudes with 5 girls clinging to the fabric that clothed his body. If you know me I really hate skaters, my opinion is they are arrogant prats which the world would do better without. Anyway, I could ignore that, I was always polite and patient with him.

One day, he was especially pissing me off as he always was, being loud and obnoxious and mumbling about something or rather. He was disruptive and so I flipped at him, I absolutely flipped at him, which I have learned not to do very often. Again if you know me I have this bad habit of being extremely acerbic towards people I don’t like. No one knew that I held up so much resentment towards him. But I told him to sit down or piss off…he picked the latter option. Someone told me later that his mum had cancer.

I felt so so so so bad. Not excusing his behavior, but I knew that I had judged him without stepping into his shoes. I had slayed a mockingbird.

I hope that Christians would stop being so judgmental against everything that doesn’t fit with their idea of what a Christian should be. Maybe there is a bit of hope for skaters. Christians aren’t those that go to church every week and act properly but those who are chosen by God. I wish people would get that in their heads, going on protest rallies ain’t the only way to get people to make people listen. Being obnoxious and proud isn’t what a Christian is supposed to be, broken and humble is a statement louder than words.

I am never perfect, but I hope that people realize I try incredibly hard. Though I sometimes live a terrible testimony for God, they would not forget all the other times I have acted rightfully. I hope people know how hard I am trying, and forget how hard I fail sometimes. Above all, I hope that God doesn’t judge them too harshly but grants the grace that saves me from his condemnation.

PS. – Technically I am making unrighteous judgments against TBN as I have never actually seen TBN ever in my life…but I have seen the roster. Anything with Joel Osteen should be avoided at all costs.=)