Sunday, March 25, 2012

Getting Your Pearls Trampled, Matthew 7:6, I Cor. 5:9-11

It’s a funny image--pigs trampling pearls, or throwing what is sacred to dogs. The word translated “holy” is very close to the Greek word for earrings, so some scholars think it the parable reads, “Don’t give your earrings to dogs.” I don’t know how many of you ladies have ever worn earrings and had a puppy, but I know more than one woman who has had an earring chewed off by a puppy. It’s not good for either party. But what does Jesus mean by these images?
Remember that last week we were talking about Jesus’s prohibition against judging people. We aren’t to judge another based on externals, nor do we want to be judged that way. We acknowledged that we have been guilty of judging others, and I bet we have all also been judged in the same way. Being on the receiving end of such judgments is like having your pearls trampled on. Remember these aren’t judgments that hold us accountable for our sinful behaviors, but that attack who we are or what we value. It’s when that which is precious to us gets stomped on, ridiculed, and criticized. Such judgments result in our not being able to trust others.
We all have secrets. We don’t tell everyone everything. Some things we should tell, but even those things need to be to people we can trust. We share precious things with our families, our spouses, and our closest friends that we don’t share with anyone else. In Celebrate Recovery, we have 8 principles based on the beatitudes, which also read as an acrostic, spelling the word RECOVERY, which go along with the twelve steps. Principle 4 the “O” says, “Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust.” This goes with steps four and five, the searching and fearless moral inventory, and admitting our faults to ourselves to God, and to another person. In CR we take time learning what makes a good sponsor or accountability partner and praying God will show us that right person. We need accountability, but we don’t have to share our darkest secrets with the whole world. Neither do we have to share our most precious things with the whole world.
But Jesus isn’t talking about the things we think are our pearls, He’s talking about the things that are truly sacred and holy, and I do hope some of those overlap. The things of God are precious and holy. Our Muslim friends use this concept for not translating the Koran. It is profaned if it isn’t in the original Arabic. Some Christian denominations use this concept for not having any images or instruments in worship. But these interpretations are still not what Jesus is talking about. The gospel, our calling, and our witness are holy. There are people who hate the gospel, who hate truth. They scorn it and mock it. They do not want to be corrected. They do not have ears to hear. Some people just don’t care about the things of God and mock them. Jesus will later tell His disciples as He sends them out in pairs to stay in a town and a house as long as they are welcome, but if the people of the town refuse to listen then to shake the dust off their feet against that place. We saw Paul do this in the Book of Acts. Jesus Himself remained silent during His own trials before Caiaphas and Herod.
Now Jesus had already called “blessed” at the beginning of His sermon those who were persecuted for righteousness sake. He had already told us to be salt and light in the world. He has already told us to spread the good news at the risk of even losing our lives. But there is a time to speak and time to be silent. If your conversation is leading towards an argument, you know for sure that it is time to back off. In his course on Fear Free Evangelism, Chris Walker talks about being able to discern how much of the gospel to share with a person and when it is appropriate to continue a spiritual conversation and when you need to wait. This discernment comes through prayer, which is what Jesus will talk about next.
Jesus is also talking about our correcting someone else. He has just given us the beam/speck illustration. But sometimes when we confront even a brother or sister, they do not have ears to hear. Have you ever tried to reason with someone who was drunk or on drugs? You probably didn’t get very far. But it’s not just the addict who can be hard-hearted. If someone isn’t interested in changing, you are wasting your time. This doesn’t mean you say nothing. But you don’t keep going after a person who is determined to continue living in disobedience to God. Jesus calls such people “dogs and pigs,” and although these animals can be cute, it’s an insult to be called one! Paul describes the process of leaving such people to their own devices as “giving a person over to Satan” with the hopes that they will come to a place of repentance. This needs to happen especially when the behavior of someone is harming the church. The person needs to be removed from having influence and impact on the body. As painful as this can be, many people need to hit that rock bottom place before they even want to hear about the things of God and return to God. This can be true for a believer as well as a not yet believer. There are times when we need to separate ourselves from both, but that doesn’t mean we should stop praying for them.
Another part to Jesus’s teaching is setting healthy boundaries because we are to be holy. There are unhealthy relationships that we need to end. There is company that we should not keep, and there are activities and entertainments, which profane the sacred. If you are trying to overcome an addiction, you shouldn’t be hanging out with people who are drinking and using drugs. If you are having problems in your marriage, you shouldn’t be carpooling alone with your attractive co-worker. If we are going to preserve that which is holy, we need to be holy ourselves. Scripture says that “Bad company corrupts good character.” Paul gives us a list in I Corinthians 5:9-11 of the types of people with whom we should avoid associating. READ Notice that Paul again is very clear that he is not talking about worldly people, although if you are trying to recover from a hurt, habit, or hang-up, you want positive friends, Christian or non-Christian that will support you and not drag you down, but Paul is talking about those who claim to be believers.
It’s not always hard to keep your pearls from getting trampled by your fellow believers; though we’ve probably all been mauled a time or two. It’s a little harder when it comes to our relationship with the world. In all situations we need to ask God for discernment. As someone once said, “We are not to be judgmental, but neither are we to be judgment-less.” We need to know when to speak and when to be silent. And we need to always act in love. Our goal is always to help people come closer to Christ, not to drive them away, even though it seems that some folks need to take a step backwards in order for them to move forward. Other times it means we need to step back so someone can move forward. Prayer is our best offense for keeping our pearls from being trampled and our earrings from being eaten.

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