Speaking To Both Groups

Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. (Luke 15:1 NASB)

“I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:7 NASB)

“And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him. But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger!  ‘I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight;  I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”‘  So he got up and came to his father.” (Luke 15:16-20 NASB)

I’d like to see some remorse over what they’ve done.  It vindicates me.  And it’s selfish and petty of me.  The question I’m wrestling with is this, “Were the tax collectors and sinners coming near Jesus to hear Him repentant at that point, or was Jesus calling them a step further with His parables?”

The reason I wrestle here is partly because this is where I spend my time, in the interstitial spaces between closely related statements.  Most people find it boring as all get out and it’s hard to discuss in any company mixed or otherwise.  It’s just not interesting to most people, but it brings me full stop as I think it through.

The other reason I wrestle here is that I have to let Jesus be my guide rather than my tradition or contrary teachings.  The Holy Spirit needs to be allowed to use Scripture to make me more like Jesus.  Jesus knows what this means, I don’t.  But I need to know.

Jesus doesn’t say that the younger son repented.  Instead He described the thoughts and actions of the younger son and left the terminology to His audience.  At the beginning of the chapter, the tax collectors and sinners came near to hear Jesus.  The observation of the Pharisees was that Jesus welcomes them and has meals with them.  That could have been hyperbole for Jesus allowing them to come near Him, or it could have been more detail about what Luke meant by “coming near Him to listen to Him.”

Since Jesus has already said that eating with Him and listening to His teaching in their streets was not enough (Luke 13:26,27), I don’t think either one really constitutes “repentance”; at least not as Jesus intends it to be understood.  Which leaves me thinking that Jesus was telling the parables to both groups.  The only way I can think that He wasn’t is if the “eating with sinners” was the celebration over their repentance (Zaccheus?).  So, I’ll hold out that it’s possible they had repented.  On the other hand then, why the detail about the younger son?  Was that to explain to the Pharisees what He meant by repentance?  Again, it’s possible.

But I believe it’s more likely that Jesus is also speaking to those who came near about what they needed to know to make that closeness life-changing.  They had come near to listen, and so Jesus took that opportunity to tell they what they needed to know, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.”

I’ll unpack that tomorrow.  For today, what do you think?  Had the sinners repented drawing near to hear or had they not?  And why or why not?

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Responding to Repentance

“I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:7 NASB)

“In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10 NASB)

Something that I keep forgetting to do with these parables is keep the beginning of this chapter in mind as I’m reading them.  The beginning, the setting of the scene, is the difficulty that the “righteous” had with Jesus gadding about with “sinners”.  What Jesus wanted is illustrated by the first two parables, and then left hanging in the air in the third.  He wants them to rejoice over these that return.

I sometimes find it hard to keep that in mind as I see what gets “caught in the net” of evangelism, or simple human need.  What these parables make clear is that when I choose not to rejoice, I’m missing out on what in heaven is an opportunity to party.  And the question for myself is why would I do that?

Probably one of the reasons, and I’m guessing there are several, is that I kind of like the setting of “working out my salvation” to be undisturbed.  I get how ridiculous that sounds, but I also suspect that I’m not alone, we just dare not speak it (or write it) aloud.  Stating the obvious, without being disturbed I will never be pushed to grow in my Christ-likeness.

Another reason that I, perhaps others, fail to party at appropriate times is that I think more in terms of resources and logistics than in terms of a life in need.  I’m wondering how I can help this person and am distracted by the limited resources I see.  Instead I believe I simply need to come along side with whatever resources I have and let One feeding 5,000 with simple fish sandwiches worry about the resources.

But I think the worst reason, the one that really misses the point of Jesus, replacing it with the point of my culture, is that the goal of myself and the person is life-change.  The truth is that the real need is a life patterned after Jesus.  Whatever I do should lead that direction.  Physical needs sometimes distract people, and are all they can see.  Repentance, or a change of mind and heart that permits the Spirit of God access to their lives, isn’t normally the first thing people want when they come to the church.  What they want is the stuff of their lives to improve.  I get lost trying to connect the one with the other, partly because I don’t think people see me as being much like Jesus.

These are just a few reasons I get distracted from the party over repentance.  Perhaps you have others.  What do you learn from the party in heaven missing here on earth?

Finding Repentance

“But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger!  ‘I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”‘  So he got up and came to his father.” (Luke 15:17-20 NASB)

In the previous two parables, someone searches diligently until they find what was lost; shepherd for sheep, woman for a coin.  But in this parable the father remains at home looking at the horizon.  In the previous two parables, the rejoicing at having found what was lost was to illustrate the rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents.  In the third parable, the change in the younger son describes repentance.

I have been asked what repentance is, what it looks like and and so on.  Normally people refer to the word “turn” or “return” with repentance when that is the least common word used for it in Scripture.  The most common word used is a “change of mind”.  This meaning is the least common explanation of repentance.  The repentance of the younger son didn’t happen on the way back.  That would simply be return.  The repentance of the younger son happened in the far country.

“But, having come into himself…” doesn’t use the word, “afterthought”, but it does describe it.  He was thinking one way, living one way, seeing things one way, and suddenly stops.  He comes to himself.  There’s a part of him that “wakes up” as if from day dreaming.  That’s the first part of repentance.

The younger son, having come into himself, then takes honest stock of his circumstances compared with what he has known.  Not the wasteful living he has known, but the life he has known with his father.  He compares his circumstances with those of his fathers field workers.  He’s actually worse off than they are.

Keep in mind that his assessment is a comparison with the results of his choices versus the circumstances of his life with the father.  This parable presupposes an experience with the father with which to compare current circumstances. In other words, for the popular understanding of repentance, he had something to return to; it is going back to something once possessed and enjoyed.  This is going to have meaning for us as we apply this concept to any evangelistic endeavor.

The younger son then comes up with an apology.  He will go back and ask to be a hired person.  This is the humbling part of the process, the part where we acknowledge we are entitled to nothing.  That’s difficult for us as people.  Regardless of culture, we have this concept of entitlement of one sort or another.  But repentance brings us to a place where we renounce any entitlement.

Finally, the younger son stood up and went back.  This is the final part of a process that included much more.  We’d love to skip to this part, and return to the robe and ring and sandals and veal without honesty and humility.  Then, when the robe, ring, and veal are missing from our “return” we are upset with the results, thinking we did our part, where’s God’s part?  Repentance cannot simply be a return.  It must be a process of changing how we think about what we did and do.

Having been in a 12-step program for years, I described the program to those outside and inside as a spiritual discipline of repentance.  I got a lot of confused stares doing that. I was okay with such a response.  I still believe it is a spiritual discipline of repentance.  And to an extent, I still follow those tenants.  The program systematized repentance so people had steps to follow instead of a word to figure out.  And it also brilliantly illustrates how difficult the process can be.

So this is what I learn from the parable of the lost son, or one of the things.  What do you learn?

Found Coin Party

“Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?  When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!’  In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”  (Luke 15:8-10 NASB)

I’ve heard several interpretation of why the coins were so important to the woman, and in each case it seems to detract from the point.  Frankly it’s money of some sort, and I’m good leaving it at that.  The point is that the woman sought the lost coin, found it, and partied with her friends and neighbors over it.  The point of the story illustrates the party in heaven “before the angels of God” when one sinner repents.

Again, this parable seems odd as a story, but the point is really supposed to be at the forefront.  Jesus again points out that heaven, and here, specifically God Himself, rejoices over one who repents.  A couple of details different from the previous parable, besides the difference in what was lost and found, are the reference to “heaven” versus to “before the angels of God”, and the absence of “than over ninety-nine who need no repentance”.  I’m not sure of the significance of these differences, they could be literary style.  I would like to point out that “in the presence of the angels of God” does seem to imply (or I infer from it) that God is the One rejoicing as opposed to the angels; as if He sort of embarrasses Himself like David in dancing with joy.  It paints an interesting picture if so, and would illustrate an equally interesting characteristic of God.

Again, though the element of repentance is present.  The lost which is found is connected once again to a repentant sinner.  So, the success of the searching is contingent upon the decision of the one sought to repent.  This is sort of key here.  We really love the picture of Jesus seeking us to bring us back to Himself, and He does.  But also keep in mind, Jesus doesn’t violate our choice.  He doesn’t take away the right He gave us to choose. So the responsibility is on us.  He seeks, He calls, He “waits on the porch looking”, but we have to decide to return or agree with Him.  This the point of connection I see with the previous chapter’s treatment of the cost of such a choice.

I don’t understand this passage as arguing against the high cost of discipleship.  Rather I see this passage as explaining the action and attitude of God toward it.  He seeks us to make that difficult commitment.  He seeks us, but He doesn’t then “lower the bar” to get us in.  In the next parable, the change in the younger son illustrates what Jesus means by repentance.  So, when we look at the lost sheep and lost coin, those items represent those people who have changed their minds about their lives.

So God seeks the “lost” from the fellowship of His people, but then calls them to change their mind about their situation.  This may be a different concept than many have toward evangelism.

What does God reveal to you through this parable?

Who’s Who Among Followers of Jesus

Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him.  Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

So He told them this parable, saying, “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?  When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’  I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:1-7 NASB)

One of the the things that bothers me about the “cost of discipleship” Luke records Jesus describing at the end of chapter 14 is how impacts evangelism.  I am to share my faith, what does that mean, and how is that done exactly?  In fact, it’s really easy to simply lift Luke 14:25-35 out by itself and construct a picture devoid of evangelism; how could you evangelize if Jesus puts such impressive barriers before would-be “disciples”?  So, this next section of three parables is really important as a balance to the expensive cost of discipleship.

Before diving into the three parables though, I want to point out two thins: 1) Jesus says in Matthew 18:17 that someone who will not return from sin is to be treated as a “Gentile and tax collector”, and here that such were following Jesus.  And 2) Pharisees and scribes made up part of those following Jesus.  We think of them as entirely adversarial, when it is probably more accurate to say that those following Jesus fit a spectrum of sinners all the way to “righteous”; including many in the middle of that spectrum.  The question is how committed were they to being “disciples”.  That’s how this passage connects to the previous one.

The context is the grumbling of one group following Jesus about another group also following Jesus.  The Pharisees and scribes grumble about Jesus cavorting with the sinners and tax collectors they scrupulously avoid.  Jesus explains the issue with three parables.  The first is about a lost sheep.  Ironically, this parable has a parallel in Matthew 18, where we find “church discipline”; and also where we seem to fail to connect the two dots.

The parable is about one who, having 100 sheep, loses one along the way somewhere.  He leaves the 99 in the field to find the lost one.  He’s secure in their safety in the flock.  Keep in mind this is a parable, and not necessarily a picture of actual events.  For once finding the lost sheep, the shepherd throws a party rather than returning to the flock in the story.  The point is that the shepherd rejoices and parties over the found one, not the 99 still in the flock in the field.

But keep in mind that the explanation includes a concept I will need to return to at some point, repentance. The party in heaven is over those returning to the faith, those who’s mind’s have changed to align with God’s mind; they’ve swapped their paradigm for His.  Having done that, the party begins.  What I question is whether all along their sinful path their acceptance had always been assured, but their enjoyment of the benefits of such acceptance had not.  In other words, had they excluded themselves from the benefits of the household of God, even while the access had always been available?

I ask for this reason, I wonder when or where along the spectrum of life with God, are people considered “saved”.  Although, as I read Scripture, I become more convinced that this is probably the wrong question.  I am becoming more convinced that the real question should be whether my relationship with Jesus is present or absent.  Am I enjoying the benefits of His acceptance, or have I rejected such benefits to pursue the enticements of the world.  Paul writes of Demas a few times, one of which includes a return to the faith and fellowship with Paul.  So, perhaps the issue should be about recovering those who have had a relationship and wandered off.  In which case, these parables are not about “evangelism” in any sense, but about recovery of followers.

On the other hand, the categories of tax collectors and sinners versus Pharisees and scribes argues for a more indistinct option.  These categories have more to do with fellowship within the worship of God by Israel than within the “church” so to speak.  In other words, the relationship is different.  Jesus seems to be teaching throughout that fellowship with Him restores fellowship with Israel and Israel’s worship of God.  What needs to be done is to extrapolate that and apply the concept to fellowships of believers.

Sorry for the abrupt ending, but here’s where you share what you find in this parable.  What do you find here?

Life Saving Repentance

 “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
And He began telling this parable: “A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any.  And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’  And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.'”  (Luke 13:5-9 NASB)

And so we have a warning from Jesus, to repent or perish.  In a sense it’s like saying life is short, but in another sense it’s like warning someone from a cliff.  The way it’s worded is as a warning that if things continue then the result will be destruction.  This isn’t an usual proclamation for Jesus, He began His teaching with “Repent for the Kingdom of God is near,” and gave that same message to His disciples on both “sending out” events.  Repentance is arguably the core of Jesus’ message.  But what does it mean?

Most of the time I’ve heard repentance described as “turning around and going the other way.”  Yet even this is overly simplistic.  Turn from what to what?  The word for “return” which is where we get this simple definition isn’t even the normal word for “repent”.  The normal word is “after thought” referring to a “change of mind afterwards”.  The mind or pattern of thinking about something changes.  Which is great, but still, from what to what?  And in verses 1-5, Jesus really doesn’t say from what to what.  But I believe He does give us a glimpse of what He wants in this parable.

The fig tree has a problem: It doesn’t produce figs as it should.  The conditions are good, the tree is the right sort, it’s in the right place, it’s just not making figs.  The owner says to cut it down and the gardener says to give it a year of even better treatment.  The question left hanging in the air, leaving us in suspense is, “will the tree produce figs, or will it perish?”.  So what is the change or turning from and to in this case?  Doing what we’re designed to do?  Being what we’re designed to be?

There is much in our culture that fights against design.  But our culture isn’t made up of the “people of God” either.  So it shouldn’t surprise us.  But when the “people of God” struggle against the design of their Creator, then there is a problem.  Jesus is speaking to Jews of the first century.  They considered themselves the “People of God”, and rightly so.  Scripture has declared the same thing in both Hebrew and Christian Scriptures.  Yet, their Messiah shows up, and they rejected Him.  While this was wonderful news for Gentiles like me, it broke Jesus’ heart.  His people were not being what they were designed to be.

Flash forward a few thousand years, and ask the question, are followers of Jesus today being what they were designed to be?  It would be overly simplistic to answer for every church and every believer.  On the other hand, trends in the American culture seem to indicate an anemic influence of biblical values.  And the news seems to have no problem finding examples of those who claim to follow Jesus being better examples of moral evil rather than moral good.  It seems indistinct and difficult to change the course of all believers across the country, so how about me…and you?

Are we being what we’re designed to be?  Are we doing what we’re designed to do?  Are we fig trees bearing figs?  Or are we trying to produce peaches?  Are we trying to be evergreens?  Are we trying to be gazelles?  Are we unhappy with who or what God has designed us to be and are we trying to be “self-made” whatever?  Our culture tells us that we can be whatever we want, “anyone can be anything”.  Disney produced a movie to that effect this year, “Zootopia”.  I love that movie.  It’s about overcoming the confining cultural barriers and being whatever you want.  To an extent, I believe that myself.  But only to the extent that my culture seems very invested in me not being a devoted follower of Jesus.

So what will I do?  Will I resist my Savior’s design and purpose for me?  Will I fight my culture’s design and purpose for me?  Will I relent to my Master, or will I relent to my culture?  Will I choose a path laid out by my King, or the path everyone else is following?  Will I conform?  And if so, to whom or what?  There are plenty of competing philosophical positions out there to choose from, and it would be very “American” of me to decide on a “cafeteria plan” approach to them.  Why not be a reincarnated believer in the natural order established by aliens?  Literal “bear hug”, who’s with me? <cricket, cricket>

As we pursue an understanding of Scripture, and through the lens of Scripture, of God Himself, a very different “philosophy” comes into focus.  What we discover is a philosophy deviant from our culture, and everyone else’s too.  It’s not European, nor Asian, nor African, nor Native American, nor Polynesian. It’s not even some admixture of such cultures, even though that is a common claim.  It’s divine, and it’s different; and if I’m going to change at all, it will be from a human culture to what God describes in Scripture.  So, from my view through this particular “knothole”, repentance is “counter culture”; and therefore cool.

So what do you learn from this parable?

Fearless Transmission of the Kingdom of God

But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’  I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.  Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.  But it will be more bearable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you.  And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades.  The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”  (Luke 10:10-16 ESV)

Rejection.  We fear it.  It’s a defensive part of volleyball and basketball.  We do it in fear and pain.  Rejection is a powerful human action.  In a sense, it’s also a divine action.  While the word is not used, the action of not regarding the sacrifice of Cain was rejection of the sacrifice.  But also keep in mind that God continued to speak with Cain.  It was rejection of his sacrifice, not of Cain, not until later after he killed Abel.

Here in this passage, rejection is referred to as “rejection” but also in terms of not being received.  And Jesus reserves a harsh judgement for such activity.  Consider that for a moment.  Rejection and harsh judgement are things we are not terribly comfortable with.  We fear them both.  Yet these woes and judgements of Jesus were to be encouragement to the seventy He was sending out.  In the face of rejection, the seventy were to respond with a challenge to the village.  Shaking the dust from the feet, but also a call that the Kingdom of God has come near regardless of your rejection.

The truth is I fear rejection.  I fear what others think of me.  And I shouldn’t.  Think about it sure, but fear it, no.  There’s no cause for me to fear it.  The truth is that when I bring the Kingdom of God near to others, they become responsible to receive or reject.  In a sense I have brought them to a terrible precipice.  The judgement they incur on themselves when they reject the Kingdom is severe.  Yet notice that the judgement is for the “day”.  In other words, once the Kingdom comes near, even should they reject it, they have time.  They can repent, change their minds.

So bringing the Kingdom of God near to people is both a danger to them, but also a hope.  They may reject, but they may, after rejecting, repent.  Yet all I can think of is myself, how will I feel, what if they don’t like me, how uncomfortable with I be, and so on in additional nauseating procession.  I want to be thought well of by others.  Well phoey on that!  Who cares?  While that’s easy to say and to write, it’s hard for me to live out.  But I must.  It’s not an option, it’s an imperative.  I must live out fearless transmission of the Kingdom of God to those around me.  For the Kingdom of God has indeed come near to them.  They need to know that.

I need to change.  What do you need to do?  What’s your view through the knothole?

Honest Change

Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.” (Lk. 7:39 NASB)

Luke provides the “interior” speech of the Pharisee.  We skip right over that because we’re so used to it in books and works of fiction.  But it really should arrest our attention here.  How would Luke know what the Pharisee was thinking at this event?  For that detail to become part of the story of Jesus, Jesus would have had to tell the disciples.  That would have happened had they asked perhaps, but they wouldn’t know to ask until after the resurrection.  And after the resurrection, wouldn’t there be bigger questions to ask?

Continue reading “Honest Change”

The Overwhelming Difference

 And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume. (Luke 7:37-38 NASB)

One of the elements of the Gospel accounts I have to keep reminding myself of is that no one around Jesus really understood Him.  Even as Peter makes his dramatic statement about Jesus being the “Son of the Living God” he turns around and rebukes Jesus.  So, when I read about someone responding to Him in a way that seems to recognize something about Him that is obvious to me but couldn’t be even known to them, it should stand out.  This woman is one of the most dramatic examples.

Continue reading “The Overwhelming Difference”

The Heart Is Like A Fruit Tree?

For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit.    For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush.    The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart. (Luke 6:43-45 NASB)

One of the images Jesus seems to prefer are references to fig or fruit trees. He also uses grapes, He refers to a mustard seed and tree.  But He seems to use references to the fruit produced most often.  In Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, Jesus uses this imagery to refer to false prophets (Matthew 7:15-20).  Here in Luke’s Sermon on the Plain, Jesus is using the imagery to refer to the human heart.

Again, context is important here.  The fruit is what reveals the “log” or “splinter” in the eye.  The “logs” and “splinters” are things in the heart.  What Jesus is providing is the measure which we use to “judge”, right here in the same context as His charge not to judge.  He says that by the same measure we judge we will be judged.  Rather than have no measure, we are to examine our hearts.  Actually, considering the log and splinter parable, we are to have someone else help us with our heart.

One of Jesus’ points in the log and splinter parable is that we are often unaware of what sort of fruit we’re producing.  So, combined with the prior parable, this reference of Jesus to fruit, trees, and our heart would mean that we are to actually invite someone else into our examination.  That’s not very American of us.  We don’t broke no guff from anyone.  It seems that Jesus expects His followers to do just that.

So as to be clear, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11 that we are to examine our own hearts, but in saying, he doesn’t prohibit inviting someone else to look at us as well.  Jesus is very accurate in pointing out that we are often blindest when it comes to our own logs and splinters.  When the fruit of our lives indicates a heart problem, we are often the last to see it.  What we tend to see first is the reaction of people around us, and we reason backwards from there.

But if we adopt a transparent, humble approach to our walk with Jesus, then we have the benefit of discovering these logs and splinters much sooner.  And that reduces the damage we cause to the relationships around us.  This doesn’t make it easier to be open to criticism, and it doesn’t mean we take criticism from just anywhere.  Keep in mind that some who criticize haven’t removed their own logs or splinters.

So what I’m advocating in applying this passage is accountability as to what is in our hearts.  What sort of fruit are we producing?  What are people gathering from us?  Are the fruits of the Spirit evident or are we producing bad fruit?  This sort of invitation to others to inspect us for logs and splinters is part of what keeps spiritual leaders able to lead.  It’s a strange quality, and not necessarily popular.  But I believe it’s necessary.

An area I have struggled with, and continue to struggle is pride.  I don’t mean to, and I’m typically the last to notice I’m exhibiting it. So I need people around me relatively log and splinter free to point it out.  My wife is excellent at pointing out when I’m producing selfish fruit because she’s the closest person to me.  I need this sort of accountability in my life.

It’s very easy for me to excuse my own splinters and logs of anger, resentment, selfishness, pride, and so on because I convince myself they don’t affect others.  But these things in my heat “leak” and produce fruit in spite of my efforts to hide them.  I may be blind to such a log or splinter, but others see my fruit, and can either move on to a different “tree” or help me prune my own, and change my heart.  In very plain terms I need help to repent.  I need it.  I can try to repent on my own, but I’m still blind to my own stuff.  I need help to see so I can help others see.

So my heart is changed, I repent, in the context of others who will come along side me and point out to me the fruit I’m producing.  To the extent I’m open to it, I will become sighted enough to help others with their logs and splinters, enabling them to help others.  It’s this quality of transparency in a congregation or group of followers of Jesus that enables them to become a healed group helping others heal.

Transparency and the openness to criticism isn’t the only quality that makes healing possible.  But without it, I’m not sure the Holy Spirit has the opening He seeks in the life of His followers to make the changes He’s after.  We may like to think that His work is personal, and it is.  But He prefers to work on a person in the context of the corporate body of the Messiah.

That’s my view through the knothole.  What do you see?