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Cursing with the Cross

While taking a few days off last weekend to visit a couple of Christian colleges with my son Daniel, I had more free time than usual. As a fantasy football commissioner, I scanned the television to check the latest update on NFL scores. At the end of Sunday, I caught a glimpse of a post game interview. This press conference sent a mixed message as this cornerback spoke about praying to God followed by several bleeps, curse words. This all took place as this player proudly wore a large golden cross on a chain.

You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye, Matthew 7:5.

Jesus anticipated situations like this during the first century. Instead of encouraging a Monday morning quarterback mentality, Jesus warns individuals against prematurely judging others. Rather than point out another person’s flaws, Jesus urges believers to get your own life right before judging a specific kind of behavior. When it comes to cursing, unless your own language is currently glorying to God, then you are not eligible to criticize, condemn or rebuke Jalen Ramsey.

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless, James 1:26.

Jesus’ earthly brother makes a similar statement in a letter written to Christians scattered throughout the Middle East. Following Jesus’ resurrection, James came to faith, believing his older brother was indeed the promised Messiah of the Old Testament. One of the themes within this Catholic Letter is that faith is dead without action. Thus, James declares that unless you keep a tight reign on your tongue, don’t consider yourself to be religious. While everyone is hypocritical at some point in time, if your faith is a priority, make sure you walk in step with integrity.

by Jay Mankus

Innocent or Guilty?

Blameless, in the clear and not responsible are words associated with innocent.  Growing up in the Roman Catholic Church, I was taught to let God be the ultimate judge.  At some point during the catechism process, I was introduced to the passage below.  First century religious leaders began to serve as the judge and jury, publicly criticizing and condemning less spiritual people.  Overhearing what these men were doing, Jesus provides an important lesson about being innocent or guilty.

Do not judge and criticize and condemn [others unfairly with an attitude of self-righteous superiority as though assuming the office of a judge], so that you will not be judged [unfairly]. For just as you [hypocritically] judge others [when you are sinful and unrepentant], so will you be judged; and in accordance with your standard of measure [used to pass out judgment], judgment will be measured to you, Matthew 7:1-2.

The metaphor opening up a can of worms was coined sometime during the 1950’s.  The expression refers to inadvertently creating numerous new problems while trying to solve a current issue.  Just as newly exposed worms begin to freak out, judging others without looking inwardly at your own life first infuriates those people being called out.  The person doing the finger pointing often alienates everyone else in the room regardless if a rule has been broken or violated.

Why do you look at the [insignificant] speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice and acknowledge the [egregious] log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me get the speck out of your eye,’ when there is a log in your own eye?  You hypocrite (play-actor, pretender), first get the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye, Matthew 7:3-5.

According to Jesus, outward guilt or innocence shouldn’t be your main concern.  Rather, everyone should examine their own life first, removing any hints or traces of hypocrisy.  Once you have gotten your own life in order, then your own credibility can be used as a resource to help others.  Unfortunately, modern times have revealed new religious leaders, the mainstream media.  With one article, blog or video clip, lives can be ruined without any concern for innocence or the truth.  Perhaps, members of the media need to read the passage above so that their hypocrisy, play acting and pretending will cease in the near future.

by Jay Mankus

The Intrinsically Good and Evil

One day Jesus was disturbed as he observed religious leaders judging other individuals.  Outraged by this display of self-righteousness, Jesus compares unfair judgments to the principle of sowing and reaping.  Warning the Pharisees in the crowd, Jesus explains that the standard by which you judge others will be measured, applied to you in return.  Immediately following this statement, Jesus transitions into a discussion about what is intrinsically good and evil.

For each tree is known and identified by its own fruit. For figs are not picked from thorn bushes, nor is a cluster of grapes picked from a briar bush, Luke 6:44.

Using a parable to prove his point, Jesus refers to humans beings as fruit bearing trees.  Essentially, what Jesus is saying in paraphrased form, “if you want to encapsulate who someone is, pay attention to the fruit which they bear on a daily basis.”  Some will produce excessive fruit, others will have sporadic growth seasons and a few won’t bear anything at all.  As you interact with society, brushing up against, coming in contact with and experiencing what different people have to offer, reputations will be developed and formed either good or bad.

The [intrinsically] good man produces what is good and honorable and moral out of the good treasure [stored] in his heart; and the [intrinsically] evil man produces what is wicked and depraved out of the evil [in his heart]; for his mouth speaks from the overflow of his heart, Luke 6:45.

The climax of Jesus’ teaching comes in the passage above, mouths speak out of the overflow of human hearts.  Thus, if you listen carefully, you can hear for yourself what is intrinsically good or evil.  The next time you listen to a conversation, observe a discussion or watch a report on cable news, your ears should be able to pick up something based upon the content.  Are these words good, honorable and moral?  Or has a bruised and wounded heart spewed depravity, hatred and wickedness?  While you can’t control what others say, you can cry out to Jesus to mend any part of a broken heart.  As this healing process begins, you should begin to recognize subtle changes in your vocabulary.  May the Holy Spirit transform your life to display that which is intrinsically good.

by Jay Mankus

Perhaps Its Time to Get Off Your High Horse

As a child, adults, parents and teachers often quoted euphemisms.  These indirect expressions were meant to drive home a point during a teachable moment.  Whenever I appeared to be too judgmental, I heard “get off your high horse.”  The point of this phrase serves as a rebuke to stop criticizing everyone.  Essentially, this a warning to avoid claiming to have a superior moral ground than everyone else.

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;” Luke 6:39.

In the attached You Tube scene above, a man is forced to determine the eternal fate of his two children.  The only catch is one can go to heaven with the other eternally condemned to hell.  The angelic being reveals flaws, imperfections and secret sins formerly unknown to this father.  After a brief period of contemplation, Mack declines to go through with it, offering himself up to take his child’s place in hell.

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? – James 4:11-12

After watching this powerful clip from the Shack, conviction consumed my heart.  To a certain extent, I felt like I was the character in the movie, guilty of the same crime, judging others prematurely.  Everyone has a reason for the behavior that they display daily.  Whether its innocence lost at an early age, bad parenting or unwholesome addictions, each impacts actions, character and words.  The key to getting off your high horse is developing a heart that breaks for the pain of others.  May this scene and these words inspire you to see the people in this world through the eyes of Christ.

by Jay Mankus

Entertaining Evil

Captivate, delight and enthrall are words associated with entertaining.  Whenever you have the opportunity to host a party, you want to make it memorable.  In the first century, Jewish families threw wedding receptions that lasted up to a week.  When guests became extremely intoxicated, the premium wine was swapped for a cheap replacement.  Modern readers to an event like this might suggest these people were entertaining evil.

When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”  “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”  His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you,” John 2:3-5.

The word reputation refers to what others think about you based upon previous conversations and encounters.  Reputations may not be accurate if you don’t make a good first impression.  Nonetheless. this perception is based upon what you do, how you behave and the words you choose to express.  If a Jewish family ran out of wine at a wedding, this was like committing social suicide, a stain that would tarnish your families’ name for a generation.  Afraid of this outcome, the mother of Jesus and friend of the bride comes up with a plan.  Despite initial thoughts, Jesus honors his mother’s request.

Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? – Matthew 9:4

According to Jesus, entertaining evil begins in your heart.  Perhaps, you’re jealous of someone else’s success?   Maybe the thought of someone you don’t like succeeding triggers schemes within your mind?  In the passage above, some Pharisees believed Jesus was on the verge of committing blasphemy.  Judging him quietly without hearing Jesus’ rationale for his words is equivalent to entertaining evil.  The average bystander might suggest, ” wait a minute Jesus, you’re over-reacting, don’t you think you’re taking this a little too far?”  Well, if Lucifer planted a seed of lawlessness within the mind of Eve and that’s all it took to open the door for sin to be conceived, Jesus is right to address this issue.  Therefore, the next time you are quick to judge others, make sure you don’t entertain evil.

by Jay Mankus

Hijacking Controversial

At the top and bottom of every hour, news updates distinguish the important issues from the trivial.  These sound bytes shape the daily talking points found on the front page of national publications.  Yet, who decides this information, what measuring stick is used and how is content filtered?  If you read between the lines, it appears that some entity, group or individual is hijacking controversial.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged,” Matthew 7:1.

While the definition of controversial refers to giving rise to public disagreement, the media is slanting this term based upon a secular worldview.  Subsequently, anything related to Trump must be controversial.  As if trying to alter thoughts, poison minds and scare the uninformed, this strategy has been successful up to this date in time.  However, in this age of social media controlled by political outsiders, perhaps controversial will be set free.

For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, Matthew 7:2.

Like any person who ages, I have changed with the times.  In some areas I have become more conservative and liberal in others.  Yet, I don’t go out of my way to define others who share different beliefs as controversial.  In his sermon on the Mount, Jesus reminded his audience about the danger of judging others.  May this practical advice change the current tide to release controversial back to its original intent.  And by doing so, the world will end up becoming a more pleasant place to reside.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Intolerant?

Over the past eight years, anyone holding conservative or traditional beliefs have been successfully defined and labeled as intolerant.  The mainstream media has convinced progressive minds that a Trump presidency will fundamentally harm minorities.  In the last few days before election day, messages of fear were spread to ensure a desired outcome.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer, Romans 12:12.

However, after Donald Trump was announced as president elect on Wednesday morning, the tables have been turned.  Those once judging others of not willing to accept or allow opposing views are now throwing tantra tantrums.  College students have opted out of exams, high school students have been offered counseling and protesters are trashing neighborhoods in anger.  Perhaps, the accusers have now become intolerant?

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, Deuteronomy 31:6.

Whenever individuals place their trust in temporary ideas created by human beings set themselves up for failure.  Life is hard enough as it is, but those who want to remain in control will not find peace until they let go.  In times of uncertainty, faith can kick in if you cry out to the Lord in prayer.  Despite what people may label you, seek the Lord for insight so that when the final outcome doesn’t go your way fruits of righteousness will shine through.

by Jay Mankus

Sinning, Stupidity and a Slippery Slope

You don’t have to be Forrest Gump to say something that you regret.  It only takes a careless word, foolish act or fopa caught on film to ruin one’s reputation.  Perhaps, this is the difficult lesson Donald Trump is learning following his generalization of Mexican immigrants.  Whether you are blatantly sinning or do something stupid, is the media ready for the slippery slope for those who are politically incorrect?

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets,” Matthew 7:12.

I wouldn’t call the band Ratt prophetic, yet their classic song Round and Round reveals a simple truth, “what comes around goes around.”  Or as the apostle Paul proclaims, “you reap what you sow,” Galatians 6:7.  Taking this one step farther, Jesus makes the finger pointers aware of their actions, “you will be judged in the same manners that you judge others,” Matthew 7:2.  Therefore, before you pick up a stone to throw, jump on the pile of bashers or incite a mob, be careful what you wish for.

And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself, Matthew 22:39.

Currently, Donald Trump is the media’s whipping boy.  However, tomorrow it could be you.  Sure, the elite do control the bully pulpit, yet the Lord controls the universe.  Subsequently, no one is perfect and stupidity is not immune to the wise.  I’m not sure what source or standard cultural leaders are following today, but when the shoe is on the other foot, a ground swell of forgiveness will likely emerge.  Therefore, follow the golden rule by treating others as you want to be treated.

by Jay Mankus

 

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