“These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble.
They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me.
But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.” John 16: 1 – 4
They, the Jews believed that they were doing God’s work, eliminating the sinners and blasphemers from the synagogue. They believed their doctrine and traditions were truth. They believed that other people were sinful and they were without error. They believed Jesus had a demon and they had the Holy Spirit. They believed that they were right and Jesus was wrong, because they had upheld these beliefs and traditions for so long as the elders and priests of the church. They refused to listen to anyone because they believed they were righteous, defending God’s law and doing this all in God’s name.
And…here comes Jesus, a fresh dynamic young man with new ideas. A preacher with a creative expression proclaiming God’s love, grace and mercy – and they chased Him out of the synagogue!!
Jesus’ own people, the people He went to the synagogue with, the Jewish people He grew up with, the priests who likely taught Him, rejected Him and eventually killed Him. Jesus warned us – the synagogue is not a safe place – in fact it may be even more dangerous.
I was a mature adult with children when I entered the realm of church membership and with this sense of belonging came a huge helping of naivety. I wasn’t raised in the church and so I expected there would be a difference in the way people treated each other within the church as opposed to in the world. But, this whole scenario in my observation above is all too familiar and it saddens me. While some church people are shocked at the behavior of people in the secular world, I am sad to say, that I am even more shocked by the behavior of people in the church who profess God. It is disappointing to say that the church is not a safe place to be.
I see people busily doing ‘God’s work’ believing they are serving Him; while I cannot judge another person’s heart or desire to serve, I am convicted that I need to be careful of what I do and how I relate to my brothers and sisters in the church. I don’t want to ‘kill’ any of Jesus’ servants, simply because I am so caught up in protecting God’s law or church. God really does not need me to protect His law or doctrines. Neither do I want to chase someone out of the church because they do not meet the ‘image’ I have in my mind of who a Godly person is. After all, Jesus did not meet the image of a King or God’s Son that people were anticipating.
Jesus has told us plainly, these same people in the church – will attempt to kill us, physically (in some countries) and spiritually and in so doing, either stop or slow our ministry, believing they are doing this for God. But Jesus warns us about this so that we may not stumble or be discouraged.
It has consistently been a blessing to meditate upon your Holy Word. I feel disappointed by the knowledge that our own church family could some day choose to harm or discourage us. But I feel empowered that Jesus has told us this to help us to stand firm in our ministry and in our faith despite this. I am thankful that Jesus went before us and that He has been able to warn us of these dangers in our churches.
I pray that You will help us not to be so over-righteous in our beliefs, doctrines and traditions just because we’ve had them for so long we think they’re right. We need to be still and listen to You when You talk to us. I pray that You will help us not to discourage others who do not share our ministry or meet our expectations because it is possible we may not be serving You when we do this. In Luke 9:49 when John told Jesus he forbade someone from casting out demons because they did not follow with their disciples, Jesus told John “Do not forbid him for he who is not against us is on our side”.
I pray that we will not be a stumbling block for anyone, but particularly for those who are fresh, young and dynamic with different ideas who are seeking to develop a ministry in Your name. Remind us daily Lord that there is only one safe place to be and that is resting in Your arms.
In Jesus’ Name