There Is No Excuse for Being a Bully
In Luke 4, Jesus preached in the synagogue on the Sabbath day. What He said was amazing, but what He didn’t say was even more astonishing. He stood before a whole group of well-educated Jewish theologians and quoted from Isaiah 61. Jesus said:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord…Luke 4:18-19
If you read Isaiah 61:1-2, you will notice something odd. Jesus left a portion of Scripture out of the text. If you didn’t catch right away what Jesus left out, you can bet the Pharisees did.
Specifically, Jesus left out: “…and the day of vengeance of our God.” Why would He leave this out? Was he sidestepping the vengeance of God in His message? Surely He knew that these men who had memorized entire swaths of the Old Testament would readily notice the omission. As a subjugated people under the heavy-handed Roman Empire, this would have been the part that appealed to them the most. They would have considered themselves to be the broken, the poor, and the captives. They eagerly awaited deliverance and having God pour out vengeance on their enemies. But Christ left this statement out. He didn’t say a single word about it.
How did the people react? We are told that “the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.” It appears as if they were astonished that Jesus would ignore this important part of their deliverance—the vengeance. He amazed them and probably made the blood boil in a few of the more self-righteous Pharisees in the audience. Then Jesus commented: “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” You see, Jesus did not come to condemn. Just read John 3:17-18. His mission was to salvage and restore.
Notice what else it says: “And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth.” His gracious words! Again, amazing! They were in wonderment and just amazed at how much grace His words delivered.
The Point He Made
Jesus drove home a point which many readers often miss. Vengeance is the Lord’s, and He will take care of those who do wrong. We are to show grace as we have been shown grace. Those who heard Him heard it loud and clear: they wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. I wonder who we sound more like—Jesus or those religious Pharisees? Do we focus more on vengeance or grace?
When it comes to the area of sexual impurity, too many of us stand ready to condemn and verbally assault those that indulge in it—and even wish God would enact a bit of vengeance right now. This type of Christian bullying should have no place in our lives, and the name-calling must come to an end if we want to reach them. Jesus grew angry at those who tried to intentionally keep someone from Him or coming to God—mostly the religious elite who had more skill and desire to condemn than to restore.
I’m not at all suggesting that we overlook sin or water down the Gospel, but I am asking what are we most known for? Do others know us more for our grace while addressing sin or for our vengeance and heavy-handed attacks? I’m afraid that I may have been guilty of preaching vengeance more than grace. The Lord knows my heart: I don’t want to be a Christian bully. I want to be just like Jesus. I want people to be amazed because of God’s grace. Our speech should be more disciplined.
Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”
I wonder how many people we meet and greet every day who are emotionally and spiritually hanging by a thread. They need us to be the conduit of God’s grace. The condemning words of bully Christians have done more to hurt the name of Christ than all the adulterers put together! Let’s be ready to restore those who have fallen, and a great place to start is with our words.