In the evangelical community, we are often focused on leading others to Christ and rightfully so. We want others to know the love and peace that Jesus Christ offers and beyond that, we desire that our friends and family come to a saving knowledge of Jesus so that they may have eternal life. Many of us use social media and tools like this blog to share our faith; it's become a great way reach many people especially for those who might feel uncomfortable sharing in person. There is a problem, however, when we hide behind screens and keyboards. There's a boldness to share faith but there is also a boldness to bring criticism, judgement and dare I say hatred. Sadly, some don't pave a way to Christ because they are getting in the way.
A story in John 12 is a great illustration of how those in the company of Christ can get in the way of others who are seeking Him. Mary and Martha give a dinner in honor of Jesus who just brought their friend, Lazarus back from the dead. What a miracle! This man who had laid in a tomb for three days and was stinking and rotting with death was called back to life by Jesus. I can just imagine those around the table marveling at Jesus and retelling the story over and over. I imagine many may have crowded outside the door just to listen to the dinner party.
In a moment of love and admiration for Jesus, Mary breaks a container of nard (a very expensive ointment) over Jesus' feet and uses her hair to smooth the oil over his feet and anoint Him. Mary's act was generous, bold and from a thankful heart. The Bible says the whole house was filled with the scent of the oil which I believe blessed all who were witness to this beautiful scene of thanksgiving.
Then someone kills the mood - in perfect foreshadowing it is Judas Iscariot, who would later sell Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver. Judas becomes indignant, offended and furious at Mary's impetuous action. He says to the dinner party, "Why wasn't this expensive oil sold and the money given to the poor?" The Bible then explains he didn't even care for the poor, it was the money that Judas loved.
I wonder who was witness to this party and the beautiful scene and who was then witness to one of Jesus' followers blurting out such hurtful and embarrassing words. Poor Mary must have been mortified and the mood of the room shattered as Judas dressed her down in public. The lovely scent of the room must have been quickly forgotten as nervous eyes shifted from Jesus' feet to Judas and then back to Jesus. What a way to kill such a beautiful moment. Those in attendance did not know Judas would later betray Christ, all they knew was that he was one of His followers, one of His entourage. I wonder if it caused anyone to then question Christ, I wonder if it left a bad taste in someone's mouth. I wonder if Judas' rant stood in the way of someone who wanted to know Jesus better.
It's often said in this age of social media that people know more about what we are against than what we are for. If the disciples had social media back in the day I imagine Judas' Twitter feed would have been filled with snide, cutting remarks of how the disciples day went instead of highlighting the love and ministry that was accomplished.
Paul warns in 1 Corinthians 8 that Christians should not be a stumbling block to other Christians. In this context, he is warning of causing folks to stumble who are trying to stay out of sin. But what about being a stumbling block to those who simply want to know and understand Jesus better? Judas' rant about this woman's generosity and worshipful act was not consistent with the generosity and love that Jesus preached. Judas' demeanor must have caused confusion for onlookers. Are these people for real? How could Jesus keep such folks in His company? Maybe I don't want to join these folks, that Judas guy is a real jerk.
How many of us sit behind our screens and keyboards and impetuously critique the day's news, someone's actions or even other Christian ministries forgetting that the world is watching. There is a lot responsibility once we commit to following Christ and profess Him publicly. Sadly, the world is waiting to prove us as hypocrites. There are those waiting to say, "See, I told you so, those Christians are nothing but a bunch judgmental jerks who care more about winning an argument than loving and caring for people."
The Bible says we will all stand and give an account for how we lived our lives. Wouldn't it be devastating to be shown the faces of people who were genuinely seeking Jesus but chose not to pursue Him after an encounter with us? Yes, we all make mistakes and miscommunicate but when we are knowingly looking for and engaging in an argument to belittle someone else, we are not doing the Lord's work. Jesus eventually reprimands Judas and tells him to knock it off. But I imagine the damage was already done in the minds of some at that dinner party. I wonder if Mary even thought twice about stepping out and being generous the next time she had the opportunity. I wonder if some who had just witnessed the miracle of Lazarus' resurrection were now consumed with the negativity of Judas.
If we choose to travel with Jesus, we must be committed to not getting in the way of others who would like to know Him better. We should remember that the message of love and salvation should be first and foremost whether we are preaching, teaching or casually commenting. Are we Judas who hangs out with Jesus daily but is known for being snide and brash or are we Mary who witnesses His love and can't help but pour out all that we are and all that we have in praise?