Jesus communicates with a variety of people in the New Testament; and His speech, attitude and commands appear to contradict with each interaction He makes. But instead of noticing these contradictions and analyzing their purpose, we cling to a few interactions that seem acceptable to us and that fit our design, and expect everyone to live by it no matter who they are. We watch as Jesus commands the rich man to sell all His possessions and give the money to the poor (Luke 18.22), and our hearts begin to unknowingly or knowingly judge all those with money.
“They are not being obedient to God’s command,” we think. All the while we fail to recognize that Jesus encountered other individuals with money, yet He never required this act of sacrifice from them.
Jesus meets Zacchaeus in Jericho and invites Himself to Zacchaeus’s house for dinner. Zacchaeus is a tax collector and has become rich from taking money from the poor. Jesus never asks Zacchaeus to sell all his processions. Zacchaeus hears people criticizing him, so he stands up and declares that he will give half his money to the poor and pay back those he has cheated. This is an amazing sacrifice, but it’s definitely not what Jesus commanded from the rich man earlier in the chapter – Jesus commanded all his money be given. However, Jesus says salvation has come to the house of Zacchaeus, even though he didn’t fulfill the entire command Jesus gave to the other rich man (Luke 19.1-9).
Or we become confused when Jesus interacts with the Gentile (non-Jewish) women whose daughter is demon-possessed. She begs Jesus for a miracle, yet He tells her something that might be considered offensive, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs” (Matthew 15.26.) This interaction is in stark contrast to Jesus’ encounter with another Gentile, the Centurion. This soldier asks Jesus to help his servant who is paralyzed, and Jesus instantly asks if He should go heal the servant (Matthew 8.5-8). Why is Jesus treating the two Gentiles differently? One is a Canaanite, the other a Roman. One is a woman, the other a man. One has no worldly significance, the other a leader in a powerful military. Is Jesus showing partiality? No, the Bible says that Jesus does not show partiality to His people (James 2.1 NIV).
What are some other seeming contradictions?
Jesus tells the man wanting to bury his father to follow Him and “let the dead bury their own dead” (Matthew 8.22 NIV). Yet, during a funeral procession, Jesus’ heart is moved and He brings the widow’s only son back to life (Luke 7.11-16). Also, Jesus weeps for Lazarus and goes to his tomb to bring him back from the dead (John 11.38-44).
Jesus tells the parable of the King who becomes a poor stranger without food, drink, shelter and clothing; and the people who do not help Him will be judged (Matthew 25.34-46). Yet, when one of Jesus’ disciples accuses Him of wasting one year’s worth of wages on perfume that should have been given to the poor, Jesus says, “You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me (John 12.8 NIV).
Jesus calls the religious leaders vipers, hypocrites and sons of the Devil (Matthew 12.34 NIV, Matthew 23.13 NIV & John 8.44 NIV), but Jesus willingly meets with a religious leader, Nicodemus, in the cover of night to discuss faith (John 3.1-2).
Why does Jesus seem to treat every person differently?
He feeds 4,000 (Mark 8.1-10), yet He doesn’t help His hungry disciples who realize that they only have one loaf of bread between them (Mark 8.14-17).
He heals a blind man with mud (John 9.6), yet He heals Bartimaeus without touching Him (Mark 10.46-52).
He speaks to the crowd in parables (Matthew 13.34), yet He explains those parables to His disciples (Matthew 13.36).
And the list goes on.
The answer to Jesus’ movements is simple: Jesus (one of the Persons of our Triune God) knows the heart of each of us, and He knows the best way to strip us of our sins, idols and fears; so He can meet us on our level where we can receive His truth best. “He said to them, ‘You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight’” (Luke 16.15 NIV). We can’t fully anticipate Jesus’ movements because only He can fully discern the hearts of people.
And what we value higher than God is different for each of us.
Some people value money, power, fame, security, laziness, food, appearance, bitterness, acts of service, intellect, comfort, youth, influence, affirmation, glory and other people more than they value God; and Jesus shot right to the heart of the issue. He altered His presentation of truth, so the people listening could better understand it. But He never alters Truth. The Holy Spirit may move, but Truth never changes.
We learn from Jesus’ interactions that we must not allow ourselves to put a blanket command on everyone. Not only does a single church have different parts, the entire Global Body of Christ has different parts (1 Corinthians 12.12-14).
I see many Christian leaders wanting Church Globalization, but too often they are seeking Church Homogenization (making everyone the same). A church pastor, congregation and movement will be different in Georgia, different in California, different in Texas, different in Korea, different in the Middle East, different in South America and different in Africa because the people in those different areas are being led into God’s Kingdom through Christ in a unique way that applies to them socially, demographically and personally.
We add guilt onto people when we expect them to live out our God-ordained purposes, and we become thieves by trying to rob them of the purpose God has for them. The one injustice about mass communication is that people may be reading, hearing or seeing a movement of God not designed for them. Christians are becoming so confused by all the finger-pointing and name-calling within the Global Body of Christ, and this confusion is immobilizing them in fear and preventing them from living a life of faith. But if we would all do what God has set before us while encouraging our sisters and brothers to find their center in Christ in whatever season of life, field of service or movement in which they find themselves, we would be a united force in this world.
A Kingdom divided falls (Matthew 12.25 NIV). When Christian leaders judge, bash and criticize other Christian leaders for the way God’s leading them, they tear apart the Body of Christ. There is nothing wrong with promoting our God-ordained purpose; but we can do it without accusing others of indifference, fruitlessness, and disobedience. We must ignite passion without igniting shame! God wants all of His children to enter the Wedding Feast of Christ, and He will use different people and different tactics to get His children to accept salvation through Jesus because He loves us THAT much (Matthew 22.1-14).
Glean the gold from the Christian leaders you find on TV, Online or in books; but do not allow their agenda to make you question what God is doing in your life and what He is calling you to do. The Holy Spirit in your heart takes precedent over the most skilled speaker, dynamic leader and awesome writer. People can encourage you on your path, but they must not make your path–only the Holy Spirit can do that. And when God gives you a passion burning in your heart to fulfill a need in His Kingdom on Earth, don’t make it your mission to make everyone like you. We are all (ministries and individuals) different parts in the Global Body of Christ–all working together to fulfill God’s awesome plan!