Sunday, 2 May 2010

Matthew 7:1-12. A Christian’s relationships: Our attitude to ‘dogs’ and ‘Pigs’ John Stott

I believe this article is important for the church and in particular for those who are involved in any sort of evangelism.When a church or individual is involved in sharing the gospel they can very often run out of steam and give up before they have gone very far:in other words, they give up too easily.If God has opened up a door of service for us we must go through the door and serve there until the work is done or calls He us somewhere else.Think of Paul, he could easily have given up when things got difficult.Christ also tells us,when referring to one of the churches in Revelation that he stands at the door and knocks waiting -for someone to open, but we don't know if they ever did!That was Christ and the Church who should have known better-he is even more patient with those outside the church(consider how he dealt with us before we believed) and we must also show the same patience.To quote this passage as an excuse to give up on certain people when we experience a little problem is clearly wrong as Stott's commentary makes clear!Do not be weary of well doing.AK

So then the ‘dogs’ and ‘pigs’ with whom we are forbidden to share the gospel pearl are not just unbelievers. They must rather be those who have had ample opportunity to hear and receive the good news, but have decisively - even defiantly - rejected it. ‘It ought to be understood’, Calvin wisely continued, ‘that *dogs* and *swine* are names given not to every kind of debauched men, or to those who are destitute of the fear of God and of true godliness, but to those, who by clear evidences, have manifested a hardened contempt of God, so that their disease appears to be incurable’. Chrysostom uses a similar expression, for he identifies the ‘dogs’ as people ‘living in incurable ungodliness’, and in our day Professor Jeremias has defined then as ‘those who have wholly abandoned themselves to vicious courses’.
The fact is that to persist beyond a certain point in offering the gospel to such people is to invite its rejection with contempt and even blasphemy. Jesus applied the same principle to the ministry of the twelve when he gave them his charge before sending them out on their first mission. He warned them that in every town and house they entered, although some people would be receptive or ‘worthy’, others would be unreceptive or ‘unworthy’. ‘If anyone will not receive you or listen to your words’, he went on, ‘shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town’ (Mt.10:14 = Lk.10:10, 11).
The apostle Paul also followed this principle in his mission work. On his first expedition he and Barnabas said to the Jews who ‘contradicted’ their preaching in Pisidian Antioch: ‘It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.’ And when the Jews incited the city leaders to drive them out, ‘they shook off the dust from their feet against them’ and went on to Iconium. (Acts 13:44-51). Much the same happened in Corinth on the second missionary journey. When the Jews opposed and reviled him, Paul ‘shook out his garments’ and said to them: ‘Your blood be upon your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles’ (Acts 18:5,6). For the third time Paul reacted in the same way when in Rome the Jewish leaders rejected the gospel. ‘Let it known to you then’, he said, ‘that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen. (Acts. 28:17-28).
Our Christian witness and evangelical preaching are not to be entirely indiscriminate, therefore. If people have had plenty of opportunity to hear the truth but do not respond to it, if they stubbornly turn their backs on Christ, if (in other words) they cast themselves in the role of ‘dogs’ and ‘pigs’, we are not to go on and on with them, for then we cheapen God’s gospel by letting them trample it under foot. Can anything be more depraved than to mistake God’s precious pearl for a thing of no worth and actually to tread it into the mud? At the same time to give people up is a very serious step to take. I can think of only one or two occasions in my experience when I have felt it was right. This teaching of Jesus is for exceptional situations only; our normal Christian duty is to be patient and persevere with others, as God has patiently persevered with us.


Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

Are you quoting this text, or is that your writing, brother? It seems like you may be quoting, and you mention John Stott, but I am confused as to what are your thoughts expressed, and those of another, if any. Please clarify.

Though I never use the animal terms "dogs" or "pigs" with regard to humans to whom the gospel is addressed (it sounds too much like the Muslims calling Jews "apes and pigs"), I know from tradition that "dogs" refers to male homosexuals and "pigs" to people who have no understanding of or use for the gospel (pigs can't wear pearl jewelry, nor would they want to).

The topic discussed here, though, has tremendous impact on our witness, and it's one that I am struggling with to this very day.

Our society seems to have become post-Christian, people from complete atheists to church-going types can all fall into this category, which seems to me to be the "pigs" we are talking about. What? Church-goers can be post-Christian? They can be the pigs before whom one must not throw pearls, lest they turn on us and trample us underfoot? Well, sorry, but yes.

To receive Christ and the good news is precisely as the Lord says in the letters to the churches in Revelation: I stand at the door and knock... Everyone, from atheists, to agnostics, to the christianised masses who may be quite religious but are blind to Jesus Christ as He really is, can be so inclined that they either will not open the door, or cannot, for they no longer hear Him knocking, if they ever did.

This poses the question, for me at least, of evangelism in the lands of christianosis (as I blogged some years back —, is it worth it?

Well, of course it is, because even one soul that is led to salvation thru mine or anyone's witness (I'm not here talking about just talking, but one's whole Christian life as a visible witness), is worth it. But it still is very discouraging to be placed, as I now am, in an environment where everyone around me has already chosen, and chosen wrong. I work in a pigsty, so to speak. On good days, I still love the pigs and try to let that love alone be the witness, even though they see me coming and run. On bad days, when I am weak and am crying out for mercy for even my own life, being surrounded by pigs is almost more than I can bear. Almost more? Yes, because if I give in to the old man, I too become a pig, and that herd is headed for a lake, and it's not the sea of Galilee. Christ have mercy!

Fortunately for us, babies are still being born who turn into youths and then young adults. That cream of the crop of humanity is still there, white for harvest, and it is primarily for them that I hang on to a life that otherwise would be almost unbearable, living as I do among people who hate, lie and slander at every opportunity. But it is for the Lord to call us to follow Him into that harvest field, and I hope He calls us there every day. Therein is life, and without end.

Andrew Kenny said...

THe first part followed by the AK is what I wrote followed bt Stott's commentary.Again thanks for your insightful thoughts and link. I like your coined word christianosis. Some would say it is similar to the way we are injected with a small dose of cow pox in order to produce antibodies which will attack both cow pox and the more dangerous small pox.We get a dose churchianity that will later cause people to reject Christ when we meet Him!