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Getting things into perspective

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Getting things into proportion

23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practised the latter, without neglecting the former.24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

Matthew 23: 23,24

The Pharisees get a really bad press in the Gospels, yet I suspect we would have had a lot of time for them.  They were the people to go to for knowledge of the Law and especially if you wanted attention to detail.

Yet Jesus spoke to them in some of the most forthright and scathing language.  Here is a whole chapter devoted to criticism of their particular views.   

What was it that made Him turn on them so vehemently?    One of the reasons was their loss of a true sense of perspective.   They became preoccupied with detail and missed the heart of the Law.

His criticism of them is summed up the graphic, unforgettable words of our text :

You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

I don’t know about you but I get tings out of perspective as well.    This evening I don’t want to spend time berating you for your failures – but I do want to suggest some CAUSES and some REMEDIES for this problem.

We need to get back to basics and make sure we are putting the stress in the right place.

What things prevent us from seeing correctly?[i]

o       Too rushed

o       Too easily upset

o       Too easily wearied

Too rushed

That’s the mark of this modern age isn’t it?    The faster you go the less you can make out the surroundings let alone enjoy the view.

Yet we fill our lives with so much that is unimportant, and we rush here and there in pursuit of imagined goals and empty ambitions.    There is so little time for reflection and meditation.

So we get things out of perspective. We rush here and there and miss the quiet solitude with Jesus.

In that rush it is often matters of morality and conduct that get blurred first.

Too easily upset

We are easily preoccupied with grievances.  Ours is a day of materialism and individual rights – and it has pressed us into its mould so that we only notice the things we feel are unfair or critical.

We are surrounded by news – and nearly all of it bad.      Bitterness and guilt and discontent blight our vision. Like jealousy in others it colours our view of everything.

Then, thirdly, we may have lost our sense of proportion because of :

Weariness

This may be because we are so busy. It may be because we are recovering from an illness, or not caring enough for our physical condition.

On such days ANYTHING is too much for us to cope with.

Jesus saw this in His disciples – not long after their first campaign of evangelism on his behalf.  He invited them to come with him to a quiet place alone to rest.

Exhaustion, tiredness  (remember Elijah again) needs to be dealt with[1].  We get nothing in perspective when we are exhausted or tired.

It may be that we need reminding of the need for rest, the need to understand our feelings of resentment or disappointment, and to understand our tendency to doing rather than listening.     But there are positive remedies as well:

o       The focus is love

o       The scale is eternity

o       The answer is Jesus

The focus is LOVE

This was surely something missing from the Pharisee teaching?

We sometimes say that love is blind – we mean human infatuation – but to know the Love of God is to have your eyes truly opened and focussed.

How else can we make sense of the world than by His love?

How else overcome the challenges of difficulty and disaster than by His love?

For love is at the heart of God:

1 Jn 3:16 (NIV)

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

1 Jn 4:9 (NIV)

 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Whatever happens – when God says “I love you” – and He does repeatedly in His word and in His Son – our heart melts, and our problems are put in perspective.

We stand at the foot of the cross in order to see the world’s pain and misery in the perspective of love.

Love is the fulfilment of the Law:

Mk 12:31 (NIV)

 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Ro 13:10 (NIV)

 10 Love does no harm to its neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfilment of the law.

It pulls into focus all the law’s demands.

It answers the accusations of Satan

When Satan tempts me to despair

And points me to the guilt within,

Upward I look and see Him there

Who made an end of all my sin.

His love secured my redemption.

My love for Him puts me back into perspective.

Love makes sense of all things:

Ro 8:39 (NIV)

 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I suspect that includes gnats and camels!

And all the multitude excuses and complaints with which I populate my unfocussed thoughts.

The scale is ETERNITY

When the doctor wants to understand the intensity of a patient’s pain he may ask them to express it on a scale of one to ten.   Then there’s something to compare it with.

The measure for believer and unbeliever alike is ETERNITY.

A commentator[ii] speaks of the artist painting a sunset.   He has to select a part of the view and frame it for his canvas. He has to choose his colours, and however brilliant his art it is still a pale reflection of the real thing.  I take my camera to the same task and it is just like that – I have to select a part – a little rectangle of the whole sky.

And this is how we see all things – “in a glass darkly”  “a pale reflection in a mirror” – but the real scale by which we must measure is not today, or this week, month or year – but eternity.

This life is not the opera it is the overture. It is not the book it is the first chapter of the book.”[iii] 

If we are to understand our life we must set it against eternity.

It is a less popular challenge these days – but just as apt: “How will you spend eternity?”

But in a world where everything is perceived out of proportion such a question needs to be asked.  The trivia of so many lives needs to be challenged with the etrnal values of God’s plan in Jesus Christ.

This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

      2 Tim 1:9,10

And thirdly :

The answer is JESUS

When questions are being asked about why this, and why that?  When people are puzzled by the string of apocalyptic calamities that has afflicted our nation recently[iv] we have to set it all beside the question :

Who is Jesus?

Or in His own words    “Who do men say that I am?”

                                      “Who do you say that I am?”

The Pharisees were the experts of their day. What they said commanded widespread respect.   But they were wrong. They had got things out of perspective.

It was Jesus who alone could challenge their misunderstanding and hypocrisy.

It is still Jesus who challenges the presumption and arrogance of today’s “experts”.

He is still the only way to God : the Way, Truth and Life.

When He issued his challenge those years ago He used graphical and indeed humorous language – but the challenge was deadly serious:

You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

We can carry on having life out of perspective – but He comes to us today and suggests that we too have got it wrong –

We need             LOVEWe need             ETERNITYWe need             JESUS 


Possibly because of  rush

                                      Weariness

                                      Criticism

We need to get things back to focus :                                © March 2001  L.Rd   also   May 2001 Backwell

(Shortened)    also at Axbridge 1 July 2001


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[1] 1 Kings 19:7&8


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[i] I am indebted to G. H. Morrison (op cit) for my sermon structure.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] ibid

[iv] Floods, BSE, foot and mouth disease…

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