Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cutting Off Ears and Other "Ministries"

"When they which were about him saw what would follow, they said unto him, Lord, shall we smite with the sword? And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear." (Luke 22:49-50; cf. Matt. 26:51-53 & Jno. 18:10)

Many of us are like Peter, well meaning, but over-protective, even of Jesus. We go through life "cutting off ears," in order to defend Him—or so we think. But the fact that Jesus chose to undo Peter's actions attests to the fact that right motives do not justify presumptive behavior. Surrounded by a mob of men, including chief priests and elders, brandishing swords and staves, the disciples asked Jesus if this might not be a good time to use one of the two swords they had brought. But before Jesus even answered their question, Peter decided to direct a preemptive strike. After all, he was the who had promised the Lord that even if everyone else forsook Him, he was willing to stand by Him, go to prison with Him, or even die for Him. But we all know how those grandiose promises turned out.

It would be easy to say, "All's well that ends well." Jesus repaired Peter's damage and Malchus got his ear back. The disciple was soundly rebuked (again), and the men standing in the garden that night saw Jesus do one last miracle before He died. But that would be missing the point, don't you think? Jesus told Peter, "Put up again thy sword into his place: for all that take the sword shall perish with the sword" (Matt.26:52). In other words, flashing our swords can become a habit.

The Word of God is a mighty Sword that can be deceitfully man-handled; and I mean that in the strictest sense of the word (2Cor.4:1-2). It is called the "sword of the Spirit," (Eph.6:17), but God graciously allows us to wield it against the devil and "spiritual wickedness in high places." As Paul says, we're not wrestling against flesh and blood. But that's what we see, so that's where we instinctively strike.

If Jesus had not been there to correct Peter's mistake, the High Priest's lowly servant would have been disfigured for life, at best, or even dead. One way or the other, he would have been wounded. And it is easy for you and I to mistake our own contention for contending for the faith. People who believe the end justifies the means will always experience collateral damage in their lives. And as to motive, we may assume it is sincere, but that's all it is: an assumption (1Cor.4:3).

I would not presume to judge Peter or his motives; but I will allow Jesus' rebuke to him to be a lesson to me. I know how easy it is to become authoritarian and autocratic (or should I say, "autocritic?), especially as one becomes older in life, and in the Faith. It is something I have to deal with in my own life. Oswald Chambers said, "God never gives us discernment in order to criticize, but that we may intercede."

There will never be a time when you and I can say we do not offend, and we should always be ready to accept the offense of the Cross; but I don't want to have to spend my life depending on the Lord to "clean up after me."

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