For whatever reason, some people see Jesus as a syrupy sweet do-gooder who had little backbone and treated everyone with a sort of nebulous love that knew no difference between right and wrong. Without a doubt, Jesus was motivated by love in all that He did, but sometimes our understanding of love leaves something to be desired.
Several of the things that Jesus did might surprise some of us. For example, Jesus made a whip and, with anger, turned over the tables of the money changers who were selling their wares in the temple at exorbitant prices (John 2:13-17). Jesus also said some things that appear to be more harsh than loving.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” Matthew 7:21-23 (NASB)
“Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it.” Matthew 21:43 (NASB)
By no means are these fun, feel good passages, but through them we can find a common denominator—our character matters to God. It’s not that our Creator lays down exacting standards that none of us can meet. Far from it! His patience and graciousness can be mindboggling at times! The Lord of all things, however, doesn’t just accept us to accept us; transformation is always His goal.
Regardless of initial appearances, Christ’s apparent harshness is indeed motivated by love. It all comes down to a matter of influence. We all have the potential to influence others for good or for bad. The greater our degree of influence, the further reaching the ramifications of our character become. The bottom line is that godly character will truly bless others, while serious character flaws will damage—not help—other people. Consider the following:
Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. James 3:1 (NASB)
Was James saying that no one should attempt to teach others about the things of God? Not at all! He was simply communicating the fact that those who teach have the potential to extend greater influence on the lives of others. And because God really loves people, what that influence looks like matters a great deal.
It is very easy, in our celebrity-driven culture, to value people for their gifts and abilities. We have a tendency to applaud and follow those with charismatic personalities and awesome communication skills. But those things mean little in the eyes of God—He values the growth of our character far more.
We dare not wait until we achieve perfection before we begin serving God because that will never happen in this life. At the same time, those who truly want to glorify God through their service cannot ignore the painstaking process of character building. Day by day, step by step, our loving Father will forge the character of His children through the crucibles of life.
Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. 2 Timothy 2:20-21 (NASB)
Would you rather be a vessel of honor for God’s glory, or a chamber pot that holds human waste? The answer is a no-brainer! Lord, have Your way in our lives!