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Showing posts with label scoffing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label scoffing. Show all posts

Monday, March 26, 2018

As Sheep Among Wolves, part 4 - Listening vs. Scoffing

            On Sunday, we had a confirmation ceremony at my church.  Three young "confirmands" completed a six-week course on the basics of Christianity and then chose to publicly confirm their faith in Jesus Christ in front of our congregation on Palm Sunday.  I was so proud of these three young people between the ages of 11 and 12.  They were very attentive throughout the course--listening and learning. 
            Jesus said we should emulate the faith of a child (like my confirmands who were so attentive to learn and accept Jesus by faith).  Their attitudes are quite a contrast to the religious leaders when Jesus rode into Jerusalem the week before Passover.  You can read the full Palm Sunday story here in John 12:12-19.  Although crowds of children and ordinary people were amazed by Jesus' teachings and the miracles (even raising Lazarus from the dead after he'd been in a tomb for four days), the religious leaders scoffed.  They couldn't or wouldn't believe in Jesus.  Even though they espoused to worship and serve God, they dismissed God's Son as a fraud.
            Jesus knew there would be many who scoff at our faith. It doesn't matter to them that we have experienced the life changing power of God or that our faith in Jesus has changed our lives forever for the better.  They will still scoff and dismiss us and our beliefs.  Many will even labor to destroy us because they feel threatened by how we live and what we teach.  Always remember what Jesus said in Matthew 10:16-20; we are sheep living among wolves.

Matthew 10:16-20
16 “Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves. 17 But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with whips in the synagogues. 18 You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me.[a] 19 When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. 20 For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

The Amazing Rise of Christianity and the Scoffers Who Dismiss It
            Though the religious leaders of Jesus day tried to get rid of Jesus and then his followers, Christianity grew exponentially.  The persecutions, arrests, and murder of early Christians only caused believers to move to new cities where they persisted in teaching people about Jesus Christ and more and more people became followers.  The Christian faith would have died with it's leader Jesus if it was only of human origins.  Since, however, it was God's plan for His people, the Christian faith endured and today more people follow Jesus than any other religious leader.
            There always have been and always will be those who feel threatened by true Christian faith and just want to explain it away.  Even today, when a passionate church or Christian movement grows rapidly, there are scoffers who try to blow it off saying, "There's nothing to it.  It's just a fad and it will fade away."  When John Wesley led a revival of the Church of England in the 1700s, people dismissed the early Methodist movement as a bunch of religious fanatics.  However, people's lives were truly changed.  Drunks put away their liquor, thieves became honest men, Christians gave to the poor, visited the sick and dying and those who were in prison.  The whole fabric of society in England and America was changed for the better as Christians took their faith in Jesus seriously and loved God and their neighbor with their whole hearts.  Yet even then, there were people who scoffed; and there are people who scoff at vital Christianity today too.  "There's nothing to it," they say.  "They're just a bunch of religious fanatics and hypocrites."
            Proverbs, the book of God's wisdom, teaches again and again that scoffing is the enemy of true wisdom.  We must guard ourselves and maintain a childlike faith and not become scoffers like the religious leaders of Jesus day.  So in this blog, I want to examine the difference between scoffing and listening.

Pastor Chris’ Paraphrase of Proverbs 13:1 – A wise child accepts a parent’s discipline; a scoffer doesn’t even hear it.

Scoffing - Lus לוּץ or Liys - לִיץ
            No, I'm not talking about scoffing down your food!  The Hebrew word for scoffing (Lus or Liys) literally means “to make mouths at.”  Scoffing is to speak with a sarcastic tone, to deride, mock, or scorn.  Scoffing is like the stereotypical teenager rolling their eyes when their parents give a lecture because, you know, "my parents are dumb and know absolutely nothing."  When we scoff, we don't listen.  We've decided a person is not even worth listening to.  And so, we can't learn from them because we've already decided they have nothing worthwhile to offer.

Listening - Šâma' - שָׁמַע
            The opposite of scoffing in Hebrew is Sama.  It means to hear.  However, it's more than just detecting sound.  Sama means to hear intelligently, carefully consider, and to listen and obey.  The only way to learn is to listen, deeply contemplate what you've heard, and put it into practice.
            If we are to be truly wise in this wolf infested world, we've got to stop scoffing and start listening.  So I want to give you some practical advise on how to avoid being a scoffer.  Listen to these principles.  Remember and put them into practice in your life.

Practical Application
            First, always try to think the best of others and be respectful.  When you mock someone, you dehumanize them.  When you look at someone on the other end of the political spectrum and say (or think in your heart), "They're just a bleeding heart 'libtard' who doesn't know anything!", you are no longer thinking of them as a person.  They aren't a child of God to you anymore; they're just a label, an enemy on the wrong side of a war.  You do the same if you say (or think), "They're just a backwards thinking conservative clinging to their guns and religion."  You are scoffing at someone's deeply held beliefs and writing them off as unworthy of your mental attention and respect.  And if we go down that road too far, it doesn't take long before we arrive at genocide and holocaust. Once you stop seeing people as worthy of love and respect, it's a lot easier to just see them as problems to be eliminated.
            And here's the thing, mocking people will affect all your relationships negatively—even unintended ones.  When you mock your boss, your employees, your co-workers, or anyone you dislike or disagree with, it bleeds over into your relationships with people you really care about.  Soon you'll find you're being sarcastically disrespectful with your spouse, your children, and your friends.  You just can't seem to help it and you don't know why.  When a scornful spirit takes residence in your heart, it poisons everything that comes out even when you don't want it to.
            So be humble and empathetic.  Try to understand how others feel and why they think the way they do.  You don't have to agree with them or condone their actions, but you do have to care about them and love them.  You have to respect others if you want others to respect you and take you seriously.  People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.

            Second, keep an open mind.  You can learn from anyone—even those you disagree with and those who are just plain wrong.  You don't have to agree with a person or point of view to learn it and understand it better.  And if you have learned an idea you disagree with, you have still learned something.  I have often found listening to someone I disagree with helps me better understand why I believe what I do.  Usually, I learn more from those I disagree with than those I do.
            There is a way you can be right and still be wrong.  Does that seem like a contradiction?  It's true, you can be right and still be wrong.  How?  Well, how you disagree is as important as why you disagree.  If you disagree and do so by belittling, disrespecting, or scoffing, you actions are wrong even if your ideas are right.  God doesn't want us to be scoffers--even if we believe the right things.
            One example of the right way to disagree is a time Rev. Billy Graham (a Christian evangelist) met with Woody Allen (a self-professed agnostic).  They had a delightful conversation about their opposing views on television several decades ago.  Graham disagreed quite frankly with Allen and clearly articulates his position and yet also does it with grace and love.  Graham makes it very clear that he loves and respects Woody Allen even though they disagree.  Allen obviously appreciates and respects Graham for his attitude.  You can watch the exchange on video here.
            Third, listen more and talk less.  Remember God gave you two ears and only one mouth, so you ought to listen twice as much as you talk.  Pastor Chris’ Paraphrase of Proverbs 13:10 says, "People too proud to listen always get into drama, but those who listen to counsel wisely avoid it."  And Pastor Chris’ Paraphrase of Proverbs 18:13 says, "Speaking about something before fully listening is just stupid and brings humiliation."
            You already know your point of view, but you only “think” you know someone else’s.  It’s not going to hurt you to set your own point of view aside for a few moments so you can really listen and understand someone else’s.  Just listening and truly understanding another's opinion (even if you deeply disagree) is an act of respect and grace that ought always to be part of the character of godly people.  And if it is, people are more likely to respect and listen to you.
            Pastor Chris’ Paraphrase of Proverbs 15:5 says, "A fool rolls their eyes when their parent tries to teach them, but a smart person is careful to listen and learn."  Sometimes, when our heart is not right--when a sarcastic, mocking spirit is deeply imbedded in us (because of the topic or the relationship or our stage of life (teenager!!!  parents!!!))--it’s best for us to just keep silent.  If our heart's not right, no matter what we say, it’s gonna come out wrong.  Our tone will be wrong.  Our body language will betray a mocking spirit even if we aren’t aware of it.  So, just keep silent. Pray about it.  Ask God to help you give the Holy Spirit time to change your heart so your words (when you finally do speak) will flow from a pure heart and not a scoffing spirit.
Let's Change Our World by Letting God Change Our Hearts
            Our world is full of mockers, scoffers, and sarcastic, scornful attitudes.  The last thing we need is for Christians to be the same way.  Perhaps, Jesus is calling you to repent of your scoffing, so you can listen and learn and become more Christ-like than you are today.  I know He's calling me.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Honor & Respect

            I got to see my daughter, Grace, march in the Veterans Day parade in downtown Dalton with the Coahulla Creek High School Marching Band Saturday.  They did great.  We stood about three quarters of the way toward the end of the parade route waiting for the procession to make its way to us.  As we waited, a reporter from the Dalton Daily Citizen came by ask why we were at the parade.  I said it was to see my daughter in the band, but it was more than that.  I think it is important for the community to come together to do something big to show honor to those who serve our country.  Americans are blessed with peace, prosperity, and relative security, but these don't just happen by accident.  Many people sacrifice to ensure the blessings we enjoy.  It's important for us to honor them.
            This blog will consider the meaning of honor and respect and encourage you to have them in greater measure.  Let's look together at a time when Jesus--the Son of God, the Lord of lords and King of kings--was not given the honor and respect due to him. 

Matthew 13:53-58
53 When Jesus had finished telling these stories and illustrations, he left that part of the country. 54 He returned to Nazareth, his hometown. When he taught there in the synagogue, everyone was amazed and said, “Where does he get this wisdom and the power to do miracles?” 55 Then they scoffed, “He’s just the carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. 56 All his sisters live right here among us. Where did he learn all these things?” 57 And they were deeply offended and refused to believe in him.

Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his own family.” 58 And so he did only a few miracles there because of their unbelief.

The Hometown Disadvantage
            Normally, when a football team plays in their own hometown, you would say they have a the hometown advantage.  Everyone from their hometown is there to root for them and it gives the home team a certain boost.  Unfortunately, Jesus found the opposite in Nazareth.  You might say he suffered from a hometown "disadvantage".  Jesus was dishonored and disrespected in his own hometown.  Those who knew him best, wouldn’t accept or honor him.
            People are often enamored by the novelty of the novel and take for granted the familiar.  They may listen to someone they don’t know—a teacher, a preacher, an author, a celebrity—just because they are different.  At the same time, they may dismiss the counsel of someone they know, because they know their faults and shortcomings and the things about them that get on their nerves.
            Veterans go off to serve, maybe even to fight, and they learn things like discipline, honor, respect, and wisdom.  They may come home with more life experience and maturity, but their hometown friends and family still see them the way they were before.  
            The people of Jesus’ hometown were amazed.  Jesus' teaching was obviously full of wisdom and power; but instead of honoring Jesus, they scoffed.  They couldn't accept that the hometown boy they watched grow up could be anything more than "the carpenter's son". 
            The book of Proverbs was written to teach wisdom.  I've been studying it since this past summer.  The word scoff comes up again and again in the book of Proverbs.  It is sometimes translated as scorn or mock.  All these words are related and come from a Hebrew root word that means "to make faces at."  Imagine two little kids arguing with each other and they don't know what words to use anymore so they just start making faces at each other.  That's the essence of scorn.
            Proverbs 15:12 says, “Mockers hate to be corrected, so they stay away from the wise.”  Scoffing and mocking and scorn are ways to dismiss or deflect something that makes you uncomfortable or that you don’t want to accept.  The people of Nazareth scorned Jesus because they couldn't accept that he was anything more than "the carpenters son."  Where did he get all his wisdom?  Where did he get his power?  What are all these stories about miracles he'd performed?  He didn't go to college or seminary.  He didn't learn from the best rabbis in the land.  And yet, Jesus' teaching was full of power.  So instead of accepting something they couldn't understand or that made them uncomfortable or didn't fit in their worldview, they scorned him.  Sadly, they missed out on the wisdom and miraculous power and redemption Jesus had to offer. 
            Scoffing and scorn hurts you as much or more than anyone else.  It's so much better to offer honor and respect.  So let's look at what it means to honor and respect. 

            Honor means to value, to prize, to consider very valuable.  Honor is something you do because of who a person is or what they represent.  For instance, the 10 Commandments tell us, "Honor your father and mother."  So you honor your parents because it is a command of God.  You look for ways to show them honor.  You listen, you obey, you do nice things for them.  Even if your parents haven't always acted honorably, you can honor the position. Your honor as a gift you give and it doesn't require people to earn it.
            And here's the thing:  when we honor people, they tend to live up to our honor.  I am always humbled when people show me honor because I am a pastor.  I am humbled because I don't feel worthy of the honor.  Yet, it always inspires me to try to live up to the honor someone has afforded me. 
            Jesus hometown did not honor him because they didn’t accept his position.  Rather than seeing him as the Son of God (or even as a prophet), they only saw him as someone who was not highly educated, who had no credentials, and was a nobody.  To them, Jesus was just a “carpenter's son.”  The people of Nazareth refused to honor Jesus, even as a gift.  They rejected Christ to their own detriment. They missed out.

Respect             Respect is related to honor, but it is not the same.  Respect means to admire (someone or something) as a result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements.  We honor regardless of someone’s abilities or achievements; it is a gift we give.  Respect is merit based.  Respect is earned.
            Now you can still respect someone just because of the position they hold.  If a police officer pulls you over while you are driving, please respect them.  Even if you don't know the person, respect the badge; it is a symbol of the danger they put themselves in for the sake of the community.  The badge of an officer has earned the right to be respected.  We respect police officers, soldiers, judges parents, elders, because each of these titles has earned the right to be respected.
            You may respect someone initially just because of their positio , but that only goes so far.  True respect, deep respect, is something people earn when they prove they are worthy of respect.  If you are in a position of authority, you ought to act in way worthy of respect.  True authority is not something you have to wield; it is something people grant to you willingly when they respect you. 
            Fathers, husbands, do you want your children and wives to respect you?  Then act respectably; prove you are worthy of respect.  Leaders act respectably.  Mothers, wives, women, men, children act in ways that earn respect and you will likely be more respected. 

            Our world needs less scoffing and mocking and sarcasm and more honor and respect.  Who can you honor and how?  How can you show respect?  Look for ways to show honor and respect.  Live honorably and respectfully.  Romans 12:10 says, "Outdo one another in showing honor." (ESV)
            Let me end with this question.  Who is Jesus to you?  To the people Nazareth, he was nobody worthy of honor.  But who is he to you?  Was he just "the carpenters son?"  Was he an influential teacher, religious leader, or a prophet?  Or is Jesus the son of God, the Lord of lords, the King of Kings?             
            Proverbs 1:7 says, "The fear of the Lord" [i.e. the deep reverence, honor, and respect the Lord] "is the beginning of wisdom."  I suggest Jesus is the Lord.  He came to earth to show us the way to live.  He died on the cross to satisfy the cost of our sins.  He rose from the grave on the third day because he has power of sin and death.  And he ascended to Heaven because he is Lord of all.  There are many on earth who are worthy of respect and we honor all that we can, but only Jesus is worthy of worship. 
            What then should we do?  We should fall on our faces before him and submit completely to him.  We should surrender all and let Jesus be Lord of our life.  We respect Jesus for what he did, but even more for who he is.  Thankfully, he loves us perfectly and knows exactly what we need and beckons us to come receive blessings and honor and glory right alongside him.  Isn't that amazing?  I hope you will turn to the Lord with respect and honor and worship him today and every day.