Friday, September 25, 2009

Toughness: The Fifth Tool of Reconciliation

Jesus used truth to bring people into a right relationship with the Father. He also touched them and healed them to point them in the same direction. At times, he was utterly transparent in telling people the way to God. While at other times, he was totally tender, having compassion on the lost, the least and the helpless. But there was another side to Jesus. In many situations, he was tough or used what we call today, “tough love”.

There is a role for tough love in the ministry of reconciliation. While some of us tenderhearted may shy away from this approach (while others might gravitate towards it), it definitely a method that Jesus used.

He was especially tough on the religious leaders of His time. He used terms for them such as “wicked and adulterous generation” and “brood of vipers.” (Matthew 12:39; 12:34) He pronounced upon the teachers of the law and Pharisees the seven woes (Matthew 23). He was constantly confronting them on issues such as healing on the Sabbath (Luke 5:17-6:11), right action in God’s temple (John 2:16), or the clean/unclean debate. (Matthew 15:1-20)

He was hard on the wealthy. He proclaimed, “blessed are the poor” (Luke 20) and then confronted a rich young man who expressed desire to follow after him. (Matthew 19:16-20) And, at times He was tough on the poor as well. When a Canaanite woman approached Him for help for her daughter, Jesus answered, “I only sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” (Matthew 15:21-28)

But Jesus was also tough on those who loved Him and followed Him. When his mother and brothers wanted to speak with Him, he said, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? Here (they) are…whoever does the will of my Father in heaven…” (Matthew 12:46-50) He even seemed to reserve the especially “tough love” for his disciples, His closest followers.

He chastised them for having too little faith. (Matthew 16:5-12) He rebuked His chief disciple, Peter, by saying, “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:21-28) He taught the “toughness” of following Him by saying, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me…” He constantly reminded His listeners to “count the cost” if they so wished to follow Him. (Luke 9:57-62)In fact, His teaching was so blunt and hard, that many of His followers turned back. (John 6:66)

There was no ill will in Jesus’ tough approaches to reconciliation. If anything, Jesus knew the consequences of people who were non-reconcilers. He knew the heart and the need for “tough love” at particular points in people’s lives. And He effectively used it as a tool of reconciliation.

Next topic: Timing as the sixth tool for reconciliation…

Until then, Shalom!

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