Matthew 23:24 “You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”
I cannot read Matthew 23 without remembering how this scene played out in the Visual Bible video. The actor playing Jesus was a dedicated Christian, and he had been very concerned how this extended denunciation of the Pharisees was going to come across. They started filming late in the production day, not expecting to finish that day, but once they started, the Holy Spirit took over. Everything flowed in a powerful, unified stream, quite unexpectedly, and at least one of their cameras ran out of film in the process. The actor made it through with no mistakes at all, and then fell to his knees on the stone pavement of the set. The actor playing Peter, completely unscripted, rushed to his side to help him. The result is incredibly moving, making it very clear that Jesus said these things in an agony of love for the Pharisees. It tore Him up that they missed God so badly while thinking they were pleasing Him. This verse about gnats and camels is pretty amusing taken out of context, but it was a very graphic, easily understood illustration of just how mixed up the Pharisees were. I can easily think of some people who fit into this same category, and I am sure Jesus is just as grieved with them, because He loves them just as much. It’s not that we are to ignore issues, but rather that we are to let God show us what is important and what less so, and as Paul pointed out so forcefully in 1 Corinthians 13, remember that it must all be grounded on and bound up in love.
I have been leery of legalism much of my life, but I must not let that attitude cause me to take important things lightly, much less teach others to do so. (Matthew 5:17-19) However, having condemned legalism in the past, I must not be guilty of it myself. I am to abide in the love and grace of God, walking in obedience because I am already loved, accepted, and forgiven, and not in some misguided attempt to earn that standing with God. I am to proclaim the holiness of God but not apart from His love, and vice versa. I am not to draw back from strong words any more than Jesus did, but I must always speak the truth in love. (Ephesians 4:15) I am to abide in Christ so that He may be manifested in and through me.
Father, I am frequently reminded of how far I have to go to be a perfect representative of Christ. Thank You that You use imperfect vessels! Thank You for all You allowed me to take part in yesterday, and for the really good things that happened. Thank You for Your plans for today. Thank You for the wedding I’ll be performing this afternoon, and for the counseling I’ll be doing with another couple right after that. Help me be Your agent in every interaction, speaking Your words by Your Spirit to work Your will for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!