NAVIGATING SOCIAL INTERACTIONS, 28.01.19
Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.
Dr. Charles Stanley, “The Attractive Quality of Kindness,” Nov.2, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdRiV-ENXyA
Believers often struggle with navigating social situations – i.e. how to respond to negativity, criticism, etc. – when to confront and when to simply let things go. In order to know how to deal with these situations, let’s look at a few examples of how Yeshua/Jesus navigated His way through social situations/interactions.
Yeshua was always under scrutiny, just as believers are today. People are watching to find fault with God’s people all the time. How should believers respond? Carefully, nicely, or with boldness?
In one of those numerous situations in which Yeshua was being scrutinized while healing, “some of the Torah scholars said among themselves, “This fellow blasphemes!” And knowing their thoughts, Yeshua said, “Why are you entertaining evil in your hearts? . . . But so you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to pardon sins…”(Matt.9:3-6). Not only did He perceive/discern what they were thinking before they even spoke, He addressed it instantly. Surely He could have just ignored, avoided the uncomfortable interchange. But He didn’t. Instead He initiated it. He wasn’t afraid of what they would think. He spoke the truth, firmly, assertively, and carried on with what He intended to do.
He was under social scrutiny everywhere He went; if anyone should have been self-conscious, fearful of offending, it would have been Yeshua/Jesus. Did it ever hold Him back .. . . keep Him from doing what He was about? Not at all! Quite the opposite. He moved with ease and confidence, almost seeking out those situations where He would be challenged. After having selected Matthew as a disciple, He went for dinner: “Now it happened that when Yeshua was reclining at the table in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Yeshua and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why does this Teacher of yours eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when He heard this, Yeshua said, “Those who are healthy have no need for a doctor, but those who are sick do. Now go and learn what this means: ‘Mercy I desire, and not sacrifice.’ For I didn’t come to call the righteous, but the sinful” (Matt.9:10-13). Look closely at His response. There are several components: (1) He moved in on the conversation that was going on instantly, and addressed it; the opposite of avoidance; (2) It was the disciples being asked; but Yeshua took the reins and answered their question; (3) He did not crumple at the challenge; He met it head-on; (4) Then He told them pretty much where it was at, clarifying: (a) the purpose for which He’d come, and (b) He quoted from the Scriptures, Hos.6:6, and Micah 6:8. He was basically rebuking them.
Another method employed by Yeshua, was to move into teaching mode when He was under scrutiny, being criticized or challenged. Some were accusing Him of casting out demons by the Beelzebub, the King of demons, and demanding a “sign,” to which He responded: “Every kingdom divided against itself is destroyed, and a house against a house falls. Now if satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say by beelzebul I drive out the demons. But if by beelzebul I drive out demons, by whom do your sons drive them out? For this reason, they will be your judges. But if by the finger of God I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you” (Lk.11:17-20). He so skillfully turned their accusation back upon themselves, while teaching principles, and culminating with a message about the kingdom of God. He used every challenging encounter as an opportunity, rather than running away from conflict, or attempting to avoid any negative encounters.
In fact, Yeshua branched out from that teaching into another when “a certain woman in the crowd, raising her voice, said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that carried You and the breasts that nursed You!” (Lk.11:27). Now you might think this was very nice of this woman, and that He simply should have accepted the statement and accepted her blessing upon His mother; “but instead He said, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (Lk.11:28). He was not interested in anyone’s approval; He was focussed on what He was here on earth to do. It would serve God’s people well to follow His example, and be more concerned with using opportunities for speaking truth, rather than worrying about what others think, being fearful of judgements and disapproval.
Take a look at this scenario from Luke, chapter 11:
37 As He spoke, a Pharisee asked Yeshua to eat with him, so He entered and sat down.
38 But the Pharisee was surprised when he saw that Yeshua did not do the ritual handwashing before the meal.
39 But the Lord said to him, “You Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and plate, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.
40 Fools! Didn’t He who created the outside also create the inside?
Now, first of all, someone might charge Him with having been rude; after all, it was the Pharisee who had invited Him to eat with him. Shouldn’t He have been a little nicer to him? One might have expected that He would begin to apologize, wash His Hands, explain, or something. No. He did neither. Instead He scolded and lectured the Pharisee, calling him a “fool.” He continued to lecture and scold, using this as an opportunity to make an impact on the man, to convict him of his erroneous thinking and ways, saying: “But woe to you Pharisees, for you tithe mint, rue, and every garden herb, yet bypass justice and the love of God . . . Woe to you Pharisees, for you love the best seats in the synagogues and the greetings in the marketplaces. Woe to you . . . ” (Lk.11:42-44). Even after “one of the Torah lawyers says to Him, “Teacher, when You say these things, You insult us too” (Lk.11:45), “Yeshua said, “Woe to you Torah lawyers as well, for you weigh the people down with burdens hard to carry, yet you yourselves will not touch the burdens with even a finger . . . . Woe to you, Torah lawyers, for you have taken away the key of knowledge. You yourselves did not enter, and you stood in the way of those entering” (Lk.11:46,52). After this rather abrasive lecture, “the Torah scholars and the Pharisees began to be very hostile and to interrogate Him on many issues, plotting against Him to catch Him in His words” (Lk.11:53,54), making no impression upon Him whatever.
Yeshua responded with great kindness when individuals requested healing, deliverance, etc. For instance when the blind man Bartimaeus, was crying out for Jesus/Yeshua, “Jesus answered and said to him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” . . . . Then Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well” (Mk.10:51,52). If our goal is to be like Jesus/Yeshua, we should exercise the fruit of the Spirit, and kindness is certainly one of those.
“God is kind even to the wicked people of this world, or He could strike them dead,” Stanley points out in his teaching (“The Attractive Quality of Kindness,” Dr. Charles Stanley, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdRiV-ENXyA ); “you can’t fight kindness; it’s a conquering element . . . a strong vibrant Godly trait . . . God answers our prayers as an act of kindness.” Recall, also the occasions where the crowds were needing to be fed, and Jesus/Yeshua multiplied their sparse resources of bread and fish, rather than sending them away. The Scriptures say, He had compassion on them.
Yeshua went about His business with purpose, boldness, and authority, never losing sight of the purpose for which He’d come. Perhaps that is what is lacking amongst God’s people today. Believers are more focussed on having a nice, happy, little life; concerned about not offending, rather, being politically correct, about being disapproved of, being rejected, even persecuted. But Yeshua warned that we “will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Mk.13:13). In no way/at no point does He indicate that we should avoid challenges, persecution, or any negatives, but rather, taught His followers to meet them head-on. Paul and his team were known for their boldness: “So they stayed there a considerable time, speaking boldly in the Lord” (Acts 14:3, only one of many examples). Let us walk in the footsteps of Jesus/Yeshua and focus on representing HIM – being His ambassadors (2 Cor.5:20), and stop worrying about offending others, but “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all ways into Messiah, who is the Head” (Eph.4:15).
© 2018, revised 2019 by Verna Crowther. All rights reserved.
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