The Elephant in the Christian Living Room

By: Jim O'Brien 

One of the amazing perplexities of human beings is the proclivity to focus so intensely on trivialities that we overlook the obvious. Our current vernacular contains the expression "the elephant in the living room." Two thousand years ago Jesus had the same problem with the Pharisees who he called "Blind guides, straining out the gnat, but swallowing the camel!" (Matt. 23:24)

Jesus was referring to a common practice of some Pharisees who would strain wine and vinegar through gauze lest they should drink some winged creature. Leviticus 11 says winged creatures are unclean for human consumption. Nothing wrong with that law-I've never had an appetite for gnats and mosquitoes but normal precautions are sufficient to avoid them.

Jesus was pointing out the hypocrisy of a man who went to the extreme of straining his wine to avoid breaking the law while plotting to murder a political opponent. Such a man has missed the meaning of the law.

Modern Christians share a common blind spot with ancient Pharisees. There's an elephant in the Christian living room. Frequently you see a Christian wearing a

bracelet with the letters, WWJD. It reminds the person to live as his Savior lived. If faced with a conflict, he should ask, "What would Jesus do?"

It's a great thought and a bracelet can be an ever-present reminder that, as Christians, we should live as He lived. But we ask the question with little sense that Jesus was Jewish. He kept the law! He did not strain His wine because that was never the intent but He told the Pharisees, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill." (Matt. 5:17)

As Christians we believe that Jesus will return as King of the earth. Handel's Messiah includes lines from Isaiah, "The government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6) Then follows the beautiful chorus, "And He shall reign for ever and ever."

Here's the elephant in the living room. What law will Jesus enforce when he returns to reign over the earth?

A few days ago a lady from the

Holocaust Center asked about our congregation. She knows we are Christian and that we observe the Sabbath. So I told her that I had attended an observance of Kristallnacht where the Rabbi said that Messiah would come to the earth and bring peace. "Does the Rabbi expect the Messiah to abolish the Law when he comes?" I asked. "No!" was the quick and firm reply.

"That's what we believe," I said. "You believe the Messiah will come, I believe the Messiah has come and will return again. What's obvious to both of us is that He will keep the Law."

When someone asks, "What would Jesus do?" maybe they aren't thinking far enough into the future. The question should be, "What will Jesus do when He returns to rule the earth?"

Until next time,

Jim O'Brien

Pastor, Church of God Cincinnati

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