11 My son, don’t despise Adonai’s discipline or resent his reproof;
1 John 3:18-4:6
18 Children, let us love not with words and talk, but with actions and in reality!
19 Here is how we will know that we are from the truth and will set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 if our hearts know something against us, God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts know nothing against us, we have confidence in approaching God; (CJB)
19 “And on these grounds, we will know that we belong to the truth and will persuade our hearts in the presence of the Unchangeable: that if our hearts blame us, God is greater than our hearts and knows all. Beloveds, if our hearts don’t blame us we have the confidence to come near to God. (Derived from Mounce Interlinear)
3 asking, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for someone else?” 4 Yeshua answered, “Go and tell Yochanan what you are hearing and seeing— (CJB)
3 asking, “Are you the Coming One, or should we expect another?” Yeshua answered them, saying, “Go and report to John what you hear and see—” (Derived from Mounce Interlinear)
I often feel as though I’m panning for gold when I read the Book: sifting through wet sand for gleams of reality. What struck me most in the reading from Matthew turns out to be a bit elusive to communicate. It has a great deal to do with the habit Jesus has of answering a question with a sideways jump. Every time he does this, his purpose seems to be to cause his hearers to form their own conclusions rather than rely on Jesus’s words. It’s as if Jesus is saying, “You figure it out!” or “Don’t ask me, use your brain!”
Working backward, the 1st letter of John is saying the same thing: talk is cheap. John also drives the point home by describing what in modern terms would be called ‘cognitive dissonance’ but my grandmother called a ‘guilty conscience’. When I really pay close attention to the sense of what the author is saying, it’s that God is greater than any judgment we might make, even of our own selves. In other words, it’s wrong to put our own self-judgment higher than God and use it as a justification for trying to avoid God’s Presence. If we are honest we will thoroughly understand that God is greater than our conscience, and we will be convinced in our deepest hearts that because God knows everything, that it would be pathetically silly for us to use our shame or misgivings as an excuse to avoid God’s company and reject the gift of divine well-being. Shades of Adam and Eve in the Garden!! What’s more, John makes the same point that the Gospel makes, that we know the truth because it’s self-evident, if we only stop to figure it out for ourselves. If we don’t understand, we’ve learned through experiment and experience that we can trust ourselves to figure it out, and so we are encouraged to keep on trying.
This is also the same wisdom that the Desert Mothers and Fathers were trying to express when they told a young hermit to “Sit in your cell and your cell will teach you everything.” I know this wisdom first-hand from my experience teaching Karate: Karate will teach itself to you, but you absolutely must devote all your energy to the “action and reality” of trying to figure it out! The only way to learn is to experiment, and you are the only one who can do the investigating and draw the conclusions. Keep on doing this!
One more backwards step to Proverbs:
Don’t despise Wisdom’s discipline,
or begrudge her lessons.
Whether we are confident or not,
Truth is our home, nowhere else.
Unchangeable Love is the air we breathe
and the ground we walk on.
Blame is irrelevant to Reality.
Shy or not, ashamed or not,
Trust God; be trustworthy—