Love Like Jesus–Open The Door To Heaven: Chapter 26

Two_young_people_demonstrating_a_lively_conversation

Today’s post is from my new book Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus). Last Saturday we posted Chapter 25: Love Like Jesus — Forgiveness And Paralysis. Love Like Jesus is due to be published later this year.

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.”

Matthew 23:13

Battles On Social Media

Social media is in its usual tumultuous state. My Republican friends are attacking a prominent democrat. And my Democrat friends are attacking a prominent Republican.

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, and how my big opinions can have a way of slamming that door closed.

A nightmare of mine is that on the day of judgment, my day of judgment, 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 chastised 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 bind together burdens heavy and grievous to be borne, and lay upon the shoulders of men, but with their finger they will not move them.” (Matthew 23:4, YLT)

I never want to hear those words directed at me.

How Jesus Loved People

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.”

The disciples were eating 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 with your disciples eating with defiled hands,” they asked. “Why don’t they 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 way of setting aside the commands of God and prioritizing 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 give to their father or mother. So 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 there are other more important priorities in God’s way of thinking. Jesus said to them that their emphasis on washing and their other traditions were hindering people from entering into the kingdom of heaven.

When Jesus talks to them about their tradition of Corban, he’s talking about their tradition of setting something apart and devoting it to God. Again, I think we can all agree that this is a good tradition. Setting something apart and dedicating it to God is commendable. 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. They were so wrapped up in their traditions that when an elderly parent was in need, the Pharisees and lawyers wouldn’t permit a person to help their own mom or dad.

Like Me, Or Like Jesus

Do you realize you and I 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, and depends on me. 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. Sometimes we lose sight of loving like Jesus because of our traditions. We become more concerned about conforming someone into our own image, than we do about conforming ourselves into the image of Jesus, and loving the way he does.

We can become focused on trying to make our wife, or our husband, or our friend, relative, or even our enemy, like us. We can focus on making our spouse take care of things around the house the way we do. We can focus on trying to make our friend’s politics like our politics. We can focus on making our fellow Christian’s theology like our theology. We can focus on making people like us. And other people can focus on making us like them.

But when we do, we focus amiss. Focusing on making people like ourselves is just a distraction from Jesus’ commandment for us to love like Jesus. I think the reason so many of us fall into this pattern is that it’s so much easier. It’s so much easier for me to criticize or complain about the way in which someone else is not conformed into my own image politically, or theologically, or in the way they do things around the house, than it is for me to seek God’s Holy Spirit’s help in conforming me into the image of Jesus.

Instead of focusing on making other people like me, I need to focus on making me like Jesus.

In the context of politics, Bob Goff puts it this way: Don’t worry about what’s happening in the oval office, concern yourself with what’s happening inside the oval around you. There are people inside that oval. Jesus commanded you to love them.1

So can I encourage you? If you’re a Republican who has an established tradition of buying American, don’t let the fact someone owns a Toyota Prius get in the way of you 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.

Maybe the most common way in which we shut the door of God’s kingdom on people occurs when we become distracted in this way. When the tradition of our world view 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 book 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, Android vs. iPhone. Our traditions can be a closed door between heaven and the people around us.

Love Like Jesus

“You have a way of setting aside the commands of God in order to establish your own traditions!” Jesus said.

Let those words never be spoken to you or to me.

Let’s never set aside Jesus’ commandment to love. Whatever your traditions, even though they’re good traditions, don’t let them shut the door of heaven on someone. Don’t let them get in the way of God’s commands.

Don’t let them get in the way of loving like Jesus.

 

Notes:

  1. Bob Goff, 10/1/2017 Teaching At Westside: A Jesus Church

Image of people talking via Ananian on Wikimedia — Creative Commons

 

 

One thought on “Love Like Jesus–Open The Door To Heaven: Chapter 26

  1. Pingback: Love Like Jesus–Make Friends With Money: Chapter 27 | God Running

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