Facebook is heating up again. My democrat friends are writing words celebrating Paula Deen’s fall from grace. My republican friends are writing words lamenting it. My republican friends want our borders secured. My democrat friends, are celebrating the Senate’s passing of the immigration reform bill.
All this back and forth has me thinking about the traditional positions of both my liberal and conservative friends, and how it might affect our door keeping. Door keeping, as in opening or shutting the door of heaven.
A nightmare of mine is that on the day of judgment, my day of judgment, in the moments just after I die, I stand before God. And He says the words, You’re guilty, of shutting the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces.
Father in heaven, let me never hear those words!
Jesus ripped up on the Pharisees and the lawyers of his day for doing just that. Jesus said directly to them, “You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces.” (Matthew 23:13)
Jesus said of them, “They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.” (Matthew 23:4)
I never want to hear those words directed at me.
How Jesus Loved People
The disciples were scarfing some food, and maybe they were feeling especially hungry because they dove in without washing first. Some Pharisees and lawyers gathered around and began to criticize Jesus for it: “What’s up with your disciples eating with defiled hands? How come they don’t follow our tradition of washing before eating?”
Jesus takes this opportunity to explain to them the problem with their traditions. And he really lets them have it: “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites… You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother…’ But you say that if anyone declares what might have been used as Corban (that is, devoted to God) then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition… And you do many things like that.” (Mark 7:1-13)
Now washing before eating is a good thing, but it’s just not a priority in God’s way of thinking. God’s priorities are found in God’s word, in the bible. Jesus said to them that their emphasis on washing and their other traditions were hindering people from entering into the kingdom of heaven. Declaring something as Corban was a tradition used to dedicate the thing declared, to God. The problem was that some of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day took this to such an extreme that the dedicated thing was off limits to use in any other fashion, even if it meant violating God’s commandment to honor one’s father or mother. So they were so wrapped up in their traditions that when an elderly parent was in need of something, the Pharisees and lawyers wouldn’t permit a person to help their own mom or dad.
Love Like Jesus
Do you realize you control the door to the kingdom of heaven? Whether or not that door is opened wide, or slammed in someone’s face, depends on you. Like the Pharisees, our own traditions can shut the door of the kingdom of heaven on people. But Jesus loved people by opening up that door. So don’t get hung up on your own traditions. If you’re a republican who buys American, don’t let the fact someone owns a Toyota Camry distract you, from opening up God’s kingdom to that person. If you’re a democrat who traditionally leaves a small carbon footprint, open the door wide to that guy who drives a Dodge Ram Mega Cab pickup.
Perhaps the most common way in which we shut the door of God’s kingdom on people occurs when we fail to love like Jesus. When the tradition of our fleshly humanity wins out over God’s Spirit in our lives, we repel people away from the kingdom of heaven, we shut the door. Of course that’s what this series is all about, opening the door of heaven to people by loving them like Jesus.
Our traditions. We can be very passionate about them. Flesh vs. Spirit, Republican vs. Democrat, Maddow vs. Limbaugh, or perhaps the two most contentious opposing traditions of all, Android vs. iPhone. Our traditions can shut up heaven from people.
“You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!” Jesus said.
Let those words never be spoken to you or to me.
Whatever your traditions, even if they’re good traditions, don’t let them shut the door to heaven on someone. You be someone who opens up God’s kingdom to people.
You can too.
[Image via _Zeta_ – Creative Commons]