July 4 Esight, 2011

Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness.” Luke 11:39First, let me say thank you for all of your feedback on the weekly podcasts, and second, let me apologize for taking last week off. Last Monday came at the end of a very busy week, during which I was engaged in giving 20 presentations in one week at the Mountain View Camp Meeting here in West Virginia. And let me say, boy, was it a rush! So many testimonies of how a fresh perspective of God’s love was transforming things for folks from the inside out! I was so wiped out at the end of it all, but man, was it worth it! So thank you for your understanding of my not writing an eSight or publishing a Podcast for last week.

This week, I’d like to start an I-don’t-know-how-many-part series on a passage that is speaking volumes to me right now. I have completed my camp meeting circuits for this summer and our

Adventist culture has, once again, especially been impressed upon me. I want to make sure though that you understand that I’m talking about our culture. I believe in our message. Our biblically based message is why I am a part of our movement as a denomination, but our culture over the last 150+ years has developed some very dangerous elements that I would like to address. I do not think that it is by accident that in the context of my summer, visiting camp meeting after camp meeting, that our loving Father has directed my attention to these passages. In the next few weeks, I’d like to share some of the thoughts He has been impressing upon my heart because I believe they have the potential to bring the same healing to your heart that they have brought to mine. You see, I, too, have been burned by the unhealthy elements that have developed among us as a people. I pray that the same positive healing and insightful experiences I have had through these passages over the last few weeks will also ring true for you and bring you positive results as well.

So, with out any more explanation, here goes.

The passage is Luke 11:37-54.

We’ll begin right at the beginning and go through this passage for as many weeks as it takes to get through the relevance each passage holds for us today.

“And as He spoke, a certain Pharisee asked Him to dine with him. So He went in and sat down to eat. When the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that He had not first washed before dinner.” Luke 11:37, 38

The placement of this event, in Luke’s orchestration, is right after the accusation by the Pharisees that Jesus was casting demons out of folks by the power of the Devil. Immediately following, in Luke’s purposeful design, he tells this story. A Pharisee invites Jesus to dine, but then Jesus does something very purposeful. He obviously and blatantly skips washing His hands. THIS, although there is NO Old Testament law regarding hand washing, had CULTURALLY grown to be held as equivalent to the law. Camp meeting after camp meeting across this continent drove home to me that we, too, are not immune to these traps. We, too, have things that have become in our culture of Adventist tradition on par with what we consider to be the Law. Depending on which area of the country or continent you are visiting one of our camp meetings, you will find that each area has its own cultural taboos. This should be a wake-up call for us to think through some of the elements of our way of life. It is healthy to reassess ourselves every so often to see whether we are ascribing more significance to some things in our “lifestyle” than what they truly and intrinsically deserve.

There are three points I want to quickly make regarding Jesus’ response to the Pharisees’ head-scratching “marveling”.

“Then the Lord said to him, ‘Now, you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness.’” Luke 11:39

First, I think it is important to note, given some of the folks I have bumped into in my travels this summer, that we cannot derive from this story an example of how we are to relate to someone who is hosting us as a guest. Honestly, if someone invites you to their home for dinner, and the first thing you do is strike up a pointed conversation concerning your host’s hypocrisy, well, in short, you are being rude! The Bible tells us clearly that love “does not behave rudely” (I Corinthians 13:5).

Second, this story takes place in a much broader context and culture. Jesus was a prophet in Israel. He was calling to account a leader in Israel. This is never the way Jesus calls anyone else to account. These words of Jesus and His manner here are very unique to what we normally witness in how Jesus related to people. Here though, we see Jesus taking up His God-given role of prophet and calling the leaders of Israel to accountability. This is what prophets did in Israel. So this again is a unique situation. Unless you are a prophet and the person you are relating to is in leadership, none of us have any right to use this story as an example in methodology or justification for being religiously rude.

Third, and I’ll leave you with this until next week, the reason Jesus so blatantly skips washing His hands in the plain view of this religious leader and provokes this leader’s question is so that Jesus could call to attention the extremely harmful characteristic of a religious system that places more emphasis on external performance-based behavior than on the internal matters of the heart. Let me repeat that. There is something very spiritually damaging in the environment of a religious system that places more emphasis and importance on external performance-based behaviors than on what’s really going on, on the “inside” of people. Why is this kind of focus by a religious system so spiritually damaging? Why is it so relationally destructive to communities and fellowships where people are called into healing relationships with God and each other?

There are three significant reasons as to why this type of religious system is so intrinsically dangerous to one’s spiritual health. It’s with these three reasons that we will pick up next week.

Something to ponder for sure.

Keep living in love. Keep building the kingdom.

I’ll see you next week!

I love you guys,

Herb