Just say no. A few years ago it was a simple phrase promoted as the appropriate response of kids when encountering invitations to any sort of drug use. It’s simple; it’s direct; it isn’t accompanied by any sort of apologetic. And it flattens out moral decision-making. Sometimes it’s appropriate; sometimes it isn’t.
2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. 3 In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. 5 One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” 9 And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.
Now that day was the Sabbath. 10 So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” 11 But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. 14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. 16 And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”
18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
Christians have long been accused of being somewhat Pharisaic; that is, they are tied to a law of rather exacting standards on one hand, applying it to point out the short-comings of other, yet unable to fulfill that same law themselves on the other hand, opening themselves to justifiable ridicule. I am reminded of this when looking at something of an evangelical in-house controversy over a recent decision by football player Tim Tebow. It seems Mr. Tebow had agreed to speak at a church in Texas, something he has done many times in many places. But he later changed his mind, largely because of the rather direct and somewhat strident manner with which the church’s pastor made known his beliefs regarding homosexuality and hell. Albert Mohler, a prominent spokesman for conservative positions of many kinds, took Mr. Tebow to task for his change of heart. He concluded that Tebow had acquiesced to the demands of the unforgiving press, which complained about participating in hate speech.
I’m not personally acquainted with Tim Tebow. But I wonder if he did something that, while possibly misunderstood in the press, was the more Christ-like thing to do. Mohler’s complaint, available online through Christianity Today, just might reveal an attitude closer to what critics have charged all along, one which puts too many Christians perilously close to the attitude of “the Jews” in today’s text. That is, they are more concerned about rules being observed than about the work of God in the transforming of lives bent and broken in this world. Jesus addressed the crippled man personally, not through a generalized call for everyone to stop doing bad things. It was “the Jews” who complained that healing broke the law and should not have happened! Imagine that if you can.
Unfortunately, we can imagine it. I think Tim Tebow just said no to the legalistic straight-jacket of many of his fellow conservative believers. We cannot be more concerned with pronouncing yet again what the standards are–they are known, after all–than we are with the individuals who have been broken and left by the wayside because of the sins they have committed, whatever they might be. And we must say no to a manner of proclaiming the truth which is antithetical to the One who IS Truth. “We beheld His glory, full of grace and truth.” Let our examination today be one which leads to repentance for losing sight of either of those characteristics.