What We Know For Sure

Published by DonDavidson on

Last week I pointed out how the Jewish leaders, and especially the Pharisees, regarded Jesus as a law breaker because he did not conform to their interpretation of God’s laws regarding the Sabbath.[1] But that was not their only problem with Jesus.

He offended the Jewish leaders by ignoring their traditions,[2] associating with sinners,[3] and calling the Jewish leaders hypocrites, blind guides, and snakes.[4] They knew that only God can forgive sins, so they considered Jesus a blasphemer for claiming that power—not realizing, of course, that he was the Son of God.[5]

So convinced were they that Jesus was a false prophet, or worse, that they accused him of being in league with Satan.[6] And they eventually had him arrested, condemned, and executed.

Mark Twain once said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” The Pharisees knew for sure that Jesus could not be from God, for he did not conform to their ideas of what a prophet or a Messiah should be.

Of course, none of us today would repeat the Pharisees’ mistakes, would we?

Wouldn’t we?

Sincere, faithful, dedicated Christians hold differing views on a variety of moral, practical, and political issues, such as when life begins, the role of women in the church, and questions surrounding human sexuality.[7]

And that’s fine—until we start turning people away from Christ based on what we “know for sure” that just might not be so. When we do that, we are being arrogant instead of humble, acting with judgment instead of mercy, and acting like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time.

I think God weeps when we judge, condemn, and exclude people for violating our traditions or our interpretations of scripture, no matter how sure we are that we are right. Indeed, I think he wishes we were all a little less certain—and a lot more humble—about what we “know for sure.”[8]

When Jesus was asked how to obtain eternal life, he didn’t talk about rules and laws and Thou-shalt-nots. He simply pointed to the two great commandments—love God above all else, and love others as much as you love yourself.[9] Then he said, “Do this and you will live.”[10]

I am well aware of what Paul says in Romans 1:13-32 about the wrath of God—I am a big fan of Paul, by the way—but I also remember what Jesus told his disciples about how to save a rich man: “with God all things are possible.”[11]

So I believe that it is possible for God to save anyone, even those that we “know for sure” are beyond salvation’s reach.

[1]. For example, see Matthew 12:1-14, Mark 2:23-28, Mark 3:1-6, Luke 6:1-11

[2]. See Matthew 15:1-14, Mark 7:1-13, Luke 11:37-54

[3]. Matthew 9:10-13, Mark 2:14-20, Luke 5:29-39, Luke 7:36-50, Luke 15:1-10

[4]. Matthew 15:7, Matthew 23:13-32, Mark 7:6

[5]. Matthew 9:2-8, Mark 2:1-12, Luke 5:17-26

[6]. Matthew 12:24

[7]. I have discussed at least two such issues in previous blog entries: abortion and homosexuality.

[8]. Jesus’ condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:13 could apply to us if we seek to exclude people from God’s kingdom because we think they don’t measure up to what we think a Christian ought to be:

But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut the kingdom of heaven in front of people; for you do not enter it yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.

[9]. In this context, “love” is not a feeling, but an action. As Jesus says in Matthew 7:12: “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

[10]. Luke 10:25-28; see also Matthew 22:37-40 and Mark 12:28-34

[11]. Matthew 19:26; see also Mark 10:27 and Luke 18:27


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