Matthew 15 is used by some to argue that Jesus was not opposed to violence. In this passage, some Pharisees confronted Jesus about he and his disciples not washing their hands before eating. He responds by pointing out that the Pharisees themselves are breaking the law in Leviticus 20 since they are not honoring their mother and father. (more on this later) He goes on to say that it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, it’s what comes out. Pharisees were, of course, offended.
The first question is: Does Jesus condone violence? The law in Leviticus he is referring to says that children who curse their parents should be put to death. Is Jesus endorsing that parents execute their children if they don’t honor them? Well the response to this begins with another question: Do you as his follower also kill children if they do not honor their parents? If Jesus approves of it then we should too, right? But if you are not okay with the killing of children, then you can’t believe that Jesus was okay with it too (since as our Lord we must follow what he himself teaches/believes). The only way you can use this passage to defend violence is if you are also willing to personally condone the execution of children. Most people would certainly not. So whatever Matthew 15 means, it can’t mean that.
So what does it mean? It’s true that Jesus says that the Old Testament is inspired but this doesn’t mean he condones all of it. In fact in many places he contradicts what is taught there. Right in this passage he does just that, by saying it’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you, it’s what comes out. He is contradicting food laws here.
Another example is the Old Testament law of “Eye for an eye tooth for a tooth.” This was the justice system of Old Testament. But Jesus says (such as in Matthew 5:38-46) you may have heard that, but *I* say never retaliate so that you may be children of your feather in heaven. He is saying that in order to be a child of God you have to be willing to disobey some Old Testament laws.
A third example is in John 8. In this passage, a couple is caught committing adultery. The woman (not the man since they were chauvinists in this day) was brought to Jesus to see what he would say, since the Old Testament law says they should stone her to death. But he said no, let the one who is sinless throw the first stone. Of course nobody would. The implications of this passage are huge– He is essentially saying the only person authorized to carry out capital punishment is one who is sinless. But there are no sinless people on the planet, therefore there should be NO killing of anyone!
So what IS Jesus talking about here? He is saying that the Pharisees are breaking the Law with their tradition. The tradition he is referring to is called Corban. The Old Testament commandment to honor your parents meant you would support them when they can no longer support themselves. The reason is simple, this was before Medicare, so if you did not support your parents, they would die. But what if you don’t get along with your parents? Maybe you don’t want to support them. The tradition of Corban says that you may instead give money to the temple, and then you are sort of given a “pass” from your obligation of supporting your parents. This law put more money into the pockets of the temple elders and was essentially a loophole that allowed people to “screw” their parents. (Also see Mark 7:10-12) So in condemning this tradition, Jesus is exposing the gross hypocrisy of the Pharisees, and pointing out that they neither understood nor respected the very laws they claim to defend.
Second question is: How can Jesus repudiate some of the Old Testament teachings if it all points to him and he affirms that it’s divinely inspired? To begin, be sure to note that we did a series in April called Glimpses of Truth on how to interpret violence in Old Testament. In it we addressed this question. Greg’s new book called Crucifixion of the Warrior God/Cross Vision is now out which looks at this in depth. And Woodland Hills is also hosting a conference in September which is devoted to exploring this issue. The conclusion of all of this is that if all scripture is breathed by God for the purpose of pointing to Jesus who perfectly expressed God’s love on Calvary, then that means the entire bible should be interpreted through lens of his perfect love as expressed on Calvary. On the cross, God crosses an infinite distance, to take on the ugly revolting appearance of a guilty, tortured criminal in order to reveal the incredibly beautiful love of God who is willing to be tortured and die for his people. Moreover, the cross reveals what God has always been like — in that He will sometimes reveal His infinite beauty by bearing the ugliness of our sin. His ugliness in these moments simply mirrors our fallenness. But the important thing is that he is *willing* to step into it in order to stay in relationship with us.
Greg received a letter a couple of weeks ago, which perfectly exemplifies this concept. This couple works at a foster home that takes in abused kids, and are committed to this ideal of meeting kids where they are at. They took in a 10 year old girl who after her first night at the house they discovered she had smeared feces on the walls of her bedroom. Most people would have freaked out at this. But because they are committed to meeting kids where they are at, they knew if she did this, she must have felt the need to do this. So they did not get angry with her, they had compassion instead. So they said to her “as long as you feel you need to do this, you can”, and they dedicated a section of the bedroom wall for it. And every morning they would clean it up for her.
They understood that if Rosie was ever going to grow out of this behavior, she needed to know she was loved in the midst of it. They loved and met Rosie where she was at.
Over the months as trust between them grew, Rosie eventually shared why she did this. Starting age 4, her drunken father would come into her room and molest her. This kept happening until one night during the act she accidentally defecated and her father was so disgusted he ran out of the room. In that moment a lightbulb went on in her head. This was the way to keep her father away. So from that day forward, she would always smear poop on the walls of her room before bed. To most, the smell of feces is disgusting but to her it was not — it was the smell of protection, and she could not sleep without it.
Upon hearing this, her foster parents told her what a smart solution this was. So every night before bed, they put on latex gloves and got down on their hands and knees beside her and helped her smear poop on the wall. These amazing people lovingly entered into this ugly, smelly place with this child and because of that, she was eventually able to transform and move beyond it.
Unless you are convinced that God can love you in the midst of your poop, you will never outgrow where you are. It’s the love of God that transforms everything.
There are many “poopy” pictures of God in the Old Testament. At the time, everyone in the ancient near east saw God as a violent warrior. They thought that a deity’s viciousness equaled his power. This by itself does not tell us anything about God, but simply about the people. The thing that tells us about God is the fact that he was willing to enter into our sin, our poop, by putting gloves on and helping us to smear it if that is what we need.
If you walked in and saw Rosie’s caretakers smearing poop on the walls with her, you would probably call child protection services! But as soon as you know what’s going on, the meaning is completely transformed. It’s still revolting but it’s revoltingly beautiful. They were willing to go to extremes in solidarity with Rosie. When you trust the caretakers, you see this is actually an indescribably beautiful act. And once you trust the character of God as revealed by Jesus on the cross, all these violent Old Testament portraits of him become evidence of his profound beauty.
This is how Jesus could believe it’s all inspired and points to him even if he doesn’t condone the specifics. These stories do not condone the poop that God stoops to wear, but affirms the God who stoops to wear it.
So, beyond aiming to show this kind of radical compassion to others, how do we apply this teaching to our life? It starts with looking at the wounds that Rosie’s poop smearing revealed about her and asking the same question of ourselves. What are some of our own “poop smearing” practices that reveal our own wounds?
We were all created with some some core needs. These needs are non-negotiable. They are:
When any of these needs are unmet, it can lead to poop-smearing.
We will start by looking at the first three of these needs. (The other three will be covered next week)
A lack of worth leads to feelings that you are worthless, invalid, ashamed, defective, unlovable, inferior, and/or invisible. Worthiness-Wounds will always lead to poop smearing! Greg as a kid struggled with this wound. But later in his life he invited Jesus into those memories and received immense healing from this. Jesus does not change the past but he transforms the meaning of the past.
Without purpose, it leads us to feel incompetent, weak, criticized, Iike a failure, inadequate, unimportant, and/or insignificant.
Greg recommends looking closely if you feel any of these things. Where did you learn this? Invite Jesus into this memory and allow him to transform it.
When we lack freedom, we may feel manipulated, intimidated, helpless, deprived, controlled, smothered, and/or powerless.
With each of these core needs (and the symptoms of deficiency), Greg encourages you to go through these words and ask God to help you search heart to find out where you learned and felt that, where you got that message. Identify these memories, as many as you can. Then offer up your imagination to the Holy spirit and invite Jesus into that memory. Invite God into your poop so that he may love you out of your poop!
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