Of Pigs, Wolves and Pearls

For the first time in my short life, someone has pointedly made fun of my faith. That’s a pretty sad state of affairs, considering that I have been a Christian for the past twenty five years.

Writing this blog has been the first public foray I have delved into as far as sharing my faith. I’ve talked to my students about my faith (in a private school) and to my family, but I’ve never been one to strike up a conversation with the sweet man who bags my groceries. I tend to shy away from confrontations because they make me uncomfortable to the point of anxiety attacks.

I even remember the first one. I was sitting at my grandmother’s table debating God with my uncle. He disagreed with the Bible, and as a young, faith-filled child, I was sure that if he would just read, he would believe! I don’t even remember what the topic was, but I do remember having to get up and leave the table because my legs started shaking in anxiety.

Fast forward a few years to today. I’ve been writing this blog for almost a year now, off and on, as time and inspiration allows. I set out to write this blog in hopes of encouraging friends in the blogosphere in their Christian walks. Often my wanderings turn political, and of course, when you mix religion and politics, sometimes you get sparks! Lately a commenter’s comments have been blazing.  It started when I wrote a blog about how Senator Obama voted against the Born Alive act four times in the Illinios legislature and then really ramped up when I posted a YouTube video from a soldier who had been wounded in Iraq.  The commenter was angry and attacked the Christianity of me and anyone who would support a war, any war.

After deleting some of his comments, I thought perhaps God would rather I try to reason with him.  So I continued to respond to his comments in hopes that he would listen.  This person has recently written,

If Jesus were here, do you think he would have an opinion about the war? I do. And I think he would speak out against it. He WOULD be involved. And I think you would dismiss him.

And in another comment, he wrote

I’m not going to judge your faith.  You have lots of it.  But faith is like a fairy tale island in the setting sun.  Proof is something altogether different.”

And around and round we go…an unbeliever who can’t understand why I would post a video from a soldier who lost a leg in Iraq.  I seriously considered his question about Jesus and wrote a lengthy response in Birth Pains.  But my response only seemed to make him angrier and more frustrated, which eventually led to his telling me that my faith is like a fairy tale island in the setting sun.  He did not understand that I only need to look to God’s Word to find all the proof that I need!  That is the nature of faith.

In Matthew 7, Jesus is teaching a crowd of people on a mountainside. He shares many teachings with them and with us, but I’ll focus today on the first part of this section of the Sermon on the Mount:

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others.[a] The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.[b]

“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye[c] when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend,[d] ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.

“Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy.[e] Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you.

The specks I’ve been examining lately have been those found in Senator Obama’s record.  The record is factual and is what it is.  I can clearly see those specks (as well as those in the record of Senator McCain), and I believe it is our duty as voters to carefully weigh the records of those who will serve us in public office.  It’s part of what we do as Americans.

This commenter took the comments I made about Obama’s record and turned it into an attack on my Christianity and on the Christianity of those of us conservatives who believe the government should not be in the business of hand-outs.  He claims that anyone who supports any war (even the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, WWI, WWII) can’t claim with believability that they are Christians because Jesus told us to love one another.  It appears to me that he is criticizing me without examining the specks in his own eye.

I have prayed and considered over this…my family might even say I have agonized over this.  Was I the one with the speck in the eye?  As I was researching this question, the last statement from Jesus jumped off the page.

I’ve written before about being careful not to be judgmental. Aren’t we supposed to spread the gospel and tell others about Jesus? Aren’t we supposed to enthusiastically embrace those who oppose us?   I think what Jesus is saying here is that there are some out there, who he refers to as pigs, who will trample the pearls (in this case the Word of God) and then turn and attack.

That is exactly the reaction I have received. I was perplexed at the condition of my own heart during this process — why did it make me so anxious? Why did those comments get under my skin and offend me to the extent that I actually considered deleting this entire blog?

And that’s when it hit me.  I was so offended not so much that I was being attacked, but that the pearls were being trampled.  The wisdom I found in the scriptures were not even acknowledged by this person.

Earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said in Matthew 5:

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Granted, I am not being persecuted.  No one is telling me that I will go to jail for publishing this blog (as some in other countries are being told).  But shutting down this blog would be like lighting my lamp and then putting it under a bowl.  And that would be exactly what the enemy would very much like me to do.

So I won’t.

Writing is a talent the Lord gave me, and to shutter it up would be like the man who buried his talent in the ground because he was afraid he would lose it.  When Jesus sent out the twelve, he gave them this instruction:

If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

The Greek word for “shake off” is ektinassō, and it brings to mind the image of someone shaking off dust that sticks to a carpet.  It was used to describe a symbolic gesture someone made that expressed extreme contempt for another and refused to have any further dealings with him.

Jesus knew that we would encounter wolves, and he has given us to tools to both embrace them and reject them as necessary.  Later in the same passage he encourages us to take heart if we are arrested (or, we might say, attacked):

But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Jesus finishes his instructions to the  twelve by telling them not to be afraid of those who will oppose them.  Isn’t that what I was feeling?  Anxiety is a form of fear.  Fear of what?  Of what that person will think of me, an unknown blogger out in cyberspace?  I read these words from Christ and took heart:

So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny[d]? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

“Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn
” ‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her motherinlaw—
a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’[e]

“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

“He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me.
-from Matthew 10

This blog is my rooftop, and I will continue to shout out in the spirit of truth, shaking off the dust that rises whenever necessary.

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