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Monday, March 12, 2012

Straining gnats and Swallowing Camels - Mark - pages 337-335


"You strain a gnat and swallow a camel." - Jesus

This is hands down my favorite sarcastic quote of Jesus.  

As I was reading today, I was struck by how adamant Jesus was about religious people being self-righteous and self-clueless.  This quote wasn't in my reading today, but his words took me back to this scathing accusation that cut into their hearts with the precision of surgeon's scalpel.  

I think I can easily picture Jesus as this meek man who turns the other cheek, sleeps on a rock as a homeless man, and lets little kids climb up on his knee for a tender Bible story.  But it's tough for me to imagine Jesus as tough.  It's even harder for me to picture Jesus as sarcastic--saying something that slices through diplomacy to the core corruption of the moment.  He's been given such a pleasant face-lift throughout the years, that the general populace couldn't fathom Jesus getting mad, joking around, or picking a fight (I'm not necessarily implying a physical fight, though there are times his aggression definitely manifested itself in the physical. aka - the temple tirade.)

The aforementioned quote is one of my favorites because I feel that humans, by nature, tend to make mountains out of molehills, and conversely, molehills out of mountains.  They overreact and overcompensate.  I say they, but I'm part of "they".  I'm a sucker for turning big things into small things and small things into big things.  Someone said it well..."We make majors out of minors and minors out of majors."  This is an evil unspeakable.  I believe it is these subtle evils that put Jesus in a straightjacket more than beer, sex, and swearing.  But so many people get off the hook because these latent evils aren't as pronounced and announced as the blatant evils.  They are malignant just the same.  I hate how we treat them as benign nuisances.

When people make a big deal out of small things, Jesus gets torked off!  Here we are straining gnats with our self-made soul-sifter, thinking ourselves cunningly intelligent and uniquely positioned to point out others' shortcomings and overgoings, when we are beautifully blind to the camel hanging out of our own soul.  We are gnat-pickers, nit-pickers.  We love to grind axes and split hairs, but are woefully unaware of our own glaring idiosyncrasies.  

Gnat focused people...
1. Are in a constant state of evaluation.
2. Try to justify themselves by tearing others down.
3. Look for ways to catch someone else in a lie.
4. Can't relax in their own skin.
5. Think everyone is just like them.
6. See the 10% bad and disregard the 90% good.
7. Are paranoid of people's opinions of them.
8. Make a big deal out of minutia, mincing and mulling over scenarios.
9. Are hard on themselves and, thus, other people.
10. Position themselves as morality cops.
11. Guard the "letter of the law" while disregarding the "spirit of the law".
12. Obsess over policies, procedures, and protocols.
13. Are master trouble shooters and horrible beauty shooters.
14. Make everyone else around them nervous with performance-anxiety.
15. Are wound up tighter than a snare drum with controlling demands.
16. Are impossible to love because they don't love themselves even though they're narcissists.
17. Are ready to crucify anyone who disagrees with them. 
18. Stubbornly refuse to be teachable because they know everything.
19. Have intelligent arguments to defend their gnatty behavior in the court of law.
20. Are largely unaware of how much people dislike them and avoid them.

The camels that are hanging out of their mouths are:
1. A gross lack of self-awareness.
2. A refusal to see themselves through the mirror of people's reactions to them.
3. A condition I call "diarrhea of the mouth".  (talking without saying anything)
4. An inability to ask questions or inquire of someone's else's story/reality.
5. A clueless conscience; very little conviction over blatant sin.
6. An obnoxious, noxious attitude that acts as a people-repellant.
7. An addiction to the approval, affirmation and attention.
8. An angry spirit that drives their every dealing.
9. An unstoppable urge to talk about other people behind their backs.
10. A perfection disorder...they can't relax in their own skin for the life of them.
11. A desire to impress others with one-upmanship.
12. (and worst of all) A stonewalling of anyone who tries to confront them on their camel.

And Jesus got sick of it.  He called it out.  In another passage he put it another way, "You point out the speck in someone else's eye when you have a big-honkin'-dog log in your own eye."  You're accusing a room of stinking when you're the one with dog poop on the bottom of your shoe.  You're making fun of someone for sneezing when you have a green burger hanging out of your nose.  You're evaluating the performance of someone else's singing ability as a tone-deaf critic.  It is this discernment-discrepancy that drove the heart of Jesus nuts.

I love how he picked this fight.  I love how he didn't back down on this issue.  I love how he stepped into the ring, put on his boxing gloves, and came out swinging.  He was tired of this tomfoolery.  This immature horseplay.  This ridiculous rats nest of religious blindness.  Jesus knew that only sarcasm would cut to the quick.  The rabbi turned rabid.  The prophet protested.  Jesus snapped.

When will the church quit its gnat-sifting ways?  When will we clean our own house instead of cleaning everyone else's clock?  How long will we live under the enchanting spell that the problem lies with "everyone else"?  Here's how you will know when the Holy Spirit has come to town...people will start asking this question, "Could it be me?"  If everyone would just concentrate on their own crap, they wouldn't have time to stir up the stink in everyone else.  I think the reason so many people have so much time on their hands is because they aren't--as a step in Alcoholic Anonymous says to do--"taking a searching and fearless moral inventory of their own soul."  When you start doing that for real, you'll be amazed at how little time is left to butcher everyone else around you.  

Lord, keep me from "straining gnats and swallowing camels." 



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