I can’t claim this as my own, but the 21st Century Christian e-newsletter this week has something you need to read. What would it have looked like if the Pharisees had offered Jesus some “friendly advice” to make things go more smoothly for him? They could have offered him these five tips:
1. Back off on the Sabbath healings. Can’t you just do your good work on the other six days? It’d cause a whole lot less trouble. Don’t rock the boat.
2. Clean up your image. It’s hard to take you seriously if you’re going to go healing on the wrong day of the week, spitting and making mud, sticking your fingers in peoples’ ears, and playing in the sand! Don’t even get us started on that water-to-wine stuff!
3. Think about who you hang out with. Do you really want to be known as the friend of tax collectors, political wackos, prostitutes, lepers, and uneducated rednecks? What would your mother think?
4. Let go of some of your “out-there” teaching methods. You’re doing a lot of this story-telling stuff. Why don’t you just make your point and quote the verse? And why do you keep answer questions with questions? Can’t you just speak plainly?
5. Watch your tongue! It’s just not polite to go around calling people “broods of vipers” and “sons of hell.” Don’t be such a downer! Whenever we hang out, you keep going on and on with “Woe” this and “woe” that. That’s no way to win friends and influence people!
It’s not hard for me to imagine the Pharisees giving that advice. Aren’t you glad that Jesus wouldn’t have taken it? It is remarkable to consider the way that he spoke the truth in love. He was kind and direct. He was compassionate, but he was intolerant of wickedness in God’s name. He called things like they were—regardless of who liked it and who didn’t. Simply put, Jesus taught perfectly.
While you and I will never be the teacher that Jesus was, we can learn from him. Let’s imitate his compassion and his courage in our interactions.