“Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns’” (Matthew 16:23).
Just as Jesus never commanded us not to judge, but rather, how to judge (Matthew 7:1-5; Luke 6:37-42; John 8:1-8), we are called to confront wrongdoing (Isaiah 5:20; Matthew 18:15-17; Ephesians 5:11). But as with judging, the challenge for us is how we go about confronting wrongdoing. What is our true motivation? What is in our heart? Think about the conversation between Jesus and Peter leading up to Jesus’ rebuke. “Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns’” (Matthew 16:23). When we respond to evil, are our concerns godly or are they rooted in the desires of the flesh?
I quoted Matthew 5:39-42 in a recent post, “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:39-42). What can we take from this teaching? Jesus is setting an example for how we are to follow in his footsteps. The problem is that we’d rather hit our enemy back, and we’d never, ever think of humbling ourselves to the point of willingly giving our enemy our shirt let alone our coat. We’d rather misappropriate Jesus’ righteous anger, and handle all of our disputes by knocking over the money changer’s tables at the temple. Like Peter, we too often have in mind the concerns of the flesh, not those of God, and our nation, if not the whole world, is perishing as a result. What excuse will we give Christ? Loving our neighbor as our self, not to mention our enemy, isn’t as easy as it sounds; otherwise, the world would be a much different place.
I’m grateful for people like Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Teresa, and I wish more people would follow their examples. As with the rest of us, both fell short of the glory of God, and both stumbled and made mistakes, but consider the legacies of peace they left behind. Both judged, and both confronted wrongdoing, but consider how they judged, and consider how they confronted the evil in their midst. I’ve written before that controversies will come and go, and that I’m less concerned with the issues themselves, as I am with how I represent Christ in them. “It is to one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel” (Proverbs 20:3). Come to me with a quarrelsome spirit, and I’ll send you on your way in peace, but come back alone, and I’ll welcome you with open arms (Timothy 2:23).
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