You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
Not really the verse you were expecting for the start of today's devotional writing was it? I have to say as I pondered and prayed this morning this was not the verse I expected God to bring to my mind. And then God reminded me that I like to run from confrontation and sugar coat things so as not to have to deal with reality. Ouch.
Matthew 12:34 are the very words of Jesus Christ himself. He was responding to the Pharisees who He called hypocrites. The Pharisees were the ultra religious ruling class who enslaved their followers with rules and regulations and made them buy their forgiveness with heavy fees. Jesus spoke these words as this group of people was trying to entrap Him and force Him into blasphemy. I have to admit that every time I read this account and I read Jesus' words I want to tap Him on His holy shoulder and whisper, "Um, Jesus, remember what our moms said? 'If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.'" I imagine if I were to do this He might offer me a few choice words, too.
Sometimes the Christian life feels like a great big paradox. We are taught to "turn the other cheek", "pray for our enemies", and "lay down our lives for one another". So when we are wronged and we burn with anger and hurt we often drown ourselves in guilt thinking our hurt and our thoughts are sinful and eventually we let the other guy off and sometimes allow them to continue mistreatment. What if Jesus used these strong words to show us it's ok to call things for what they really are? What if Jesus knew just how dangerous these people really were and He wanted everyone to hear it so they would be protected from the life they were being made to live? Imagine if you happened upon a real heap of vipers, you wouldn't stand there and debate about whether or not they were poisonous and harmful. You wouldn't wait it out and hope the vipers would turn from their poisonous ways. You would declare to everyone around you, "Watch out! You're going to be hurt if you go any further! Stay away from this, it's dangerous!"
I'm not saying we should publicly shame people and call down hellfire and brimstone. But what if instead of making excuses and looking the other way in the face of blatant disregard and disrespect we called things as they were and made a decision to step away? Yes, "love believes the best" but Jesus also tells us to pick up our mats and walk, not to be door mats. I can still name a behavior or something harmful and hope for the best for that person and pray for them. The fact is, Jesus died for ALL, even for those Pharisees. He called them what they were and continued toward the cross for them.
I can even remember a time in my life when I had to call out and name something very harmful in order for my life and family's life to improve. I had to say the words, "You are an addict" to someone I loved dearly. Oh, those words still sting to this day, because my flesh still soaks in pride. If I'm not careful shame and embarassment follow close behind. But if I had not declared the truth only God knows where I might be today; probably not typing these words, of that I am certain. We need to follow Jesus' example and call out those things that endanger us, our loved ones, and even our country. Freedom comes when we make our minds up about the things that threaten our well being and we call them out. Jesus called out the Pharisees because they were getting in the way of people who desperately wanted to know God once and for all. What is getting in the way of the abundant life Jesus died for you to have?