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by Vernon Dunning

He wanted to redirect people toward God's core concerns. He wanted people to value God's concept of compassion. He wanted people to see God's character and concerns as He is, not as they had heard from others. He wanted them to learn the joy of having confidence in God. The route to that discovery lay in their repentance. His objective was not to squash, but to liberate. Consider some of the things Jesus said and did in Matthew:

1. He touched lepers (Matt. 8:2-3).
2. He healed the servant of a gentile (the Roman army officer) and declared the gentile had more faith than anyone he met in Israel (Matt. 8:5-10).
3. He further declared gentiles would assemble with Abraham, and Isaac and Jacob in God's kingdom while the sons of the kingdom would be cast in outer darkness (Matt. 8:11-12).
4. He did not have His disciples fast, which was a common religious activity used to declare humility before God (Matt. 9:14-15).
5. He healed the blind (Matt. 9:27-30)
6. He invited the weary and burdened to follow Him (Matt. 11:28).
7. He was accused of tolerating Sabbath violation (Matt. 12:1-8).
8. He healed a withered hand on a Sabbath (Matt. 12:10-13).
9. Jesus transgressed Jewish tradition (Matt. 15:1-6).
10. He healed a Canaanite (Matt. 15:21-28).
11. His concept of significance before God was different (Matt. 18:1-6).
12. His concept of forgiveness was different (Matt. 18:15-22).
13. He drove the moneychangers out of the temple area (Matt. 21:12-13).
14. He said the tax collectors and harlots would enter God's kingdom before the chief priests and elders (Matt. 21:31).
15. To the chief priests and Pharisees, Jesus said God's kingdom would be taken from them and given to a nation who produced the fruit of God's kingdom (Matt. 21:43).
16. Jesus told the Scribes and Pharisees they were hypocrites (Matt. 23:15-39).

Recommended commitments for us:

A. As Christians, we all should be more committed to a patient sharing of "whys" instead of a quick dismissal of those in Christ by an emotional reaction.
B. As Christians, we should not assign bad motives to Christians with whom we disagree.
C. As Christians, we refuse to seek internal resolutions by destroying people in Christ.
D. AS Christians, we inspire others to listen to us by who we are in Christ and how we act in Christ.
E. As Christians, we are committed to making our congregation an oasis of hope in Christ for people in Christ who dare to study and think.

One of the enduring strengths of the spiritual kingdom God built on Jesus' death and resurrection was and is its ability to encourage believers to grow and question. Understanding is the pathway for the journeys of faith. May spiritual growth never make us feel threatened. May fear never be substituted for faith.

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