Today I want ask the question, “Do The Ends Justify The Means?” I have developed a hobby/habit over the summer of using twitter to talk about God, Jesus and the Bible. This grew out of my concern with what I see as false beliefs about God, Jesus and the Bible being deliberately spread, to either drive traffic to a specific blog or web-site, or even worse in an outright attempt to lure people seeking God, away from the truth in His Word.
I was having a conversation, well as much as one can have a conversation with the 160 character limit on Twitter, with someone and I asked what did Jesus teach about the ends justifying the means? Their response was I don’t think he did. Of course this sent me on a search in the Bible, to try to prove my point that you can not do something you know is really wrong, just to achieve an outcome that is what you believe to be better or right. That is what lead me to this Scripture passage.
So lets take a look at the Scripture.
Mark 8:31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and the he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter, “Get behind me Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
So here we have Jesus, and he is not just some good teacher. Peter, just recently before this had proclaimed that Jesus, You are the Christ! The savior, the Messiah of the Jewish people. So his disciples are expecting great things to happen now. What they had hoped to be true was true, Jesus, God’s Son was here walking with them. They were ready to do anything for their Messiah, well until Jesus starting telling them what was really going to happen, not what they had thought should happen.
The Jewish people had suffered greatly at the hands of their captors, the Romans. Now that they knew Jesus, the Messiah was here leading them, surely a victory over the Romans would follow shortly. Yet that is not what Jesus told them. Jesus, the Messiah was going to be rejected by his own people, suffer greatly and be killed. How could this be, this isn’t what their vision of a returning Messiah looked like.
Don’t we all do that sometimes. We have this picture in our head, if this happens, then this will happen, and eventually that will lead to everything being ok. If I charge that new TV I really want, but can’t afford to pay for right now, I’m sure I can pay it off in a few months. If we buy this big house like everyone else is doing, we’ll be ok, I mean after all the bank approved us for the mortgage, so we’ll be able to afford it. If you are like me, don’t we sometimes get ahead of ourselves looking at what we think is going to be the outcome, without really looking at what the real facts are. Yes a new TV would be nice, but why don’t I just save some money for a few months and then see what I can pay cash for. Yes those nice big houses were nice, but now after the housing bubble burst and we own more than the house is worth that is not a pretty picture. Today’s secular world wants us to focus on the here and now. Be satisfied now, eat that 1500 calorie meal, buy that luxury car, how about some designer clothes. If you are one of the lucky people still working you deserve to have nice things. Just imagine what Peter and the other disciples were thinking. We’ve been following this guy for years, now we can see he is God’s Son, our Messiah, and instead of things getting better, he says things are going to get worse.
Of course Peter was upset, he had this vision of what good things were going to happen and now he gets told, sorry that’s not what God’s plan is. Sin is still alive and well on earth and there had to be a blood sacrifice made for that sin. Sorry Peter, you just don’t get it. Like us today how often do we just not get it. In our lives what do we seek, the things of God or the things of men. When we have decisions to make, how do we make them? Do we believe and trust the words of Jesus or our own thoughts and ideas. That really is what it comes down to. That really is the hard part, learning to trust God more and ourselves less.
See God does not confine his plans to what makes sense to us. God is not limited to our way of thinking. What we think should be the answer is not always what God’s plan is.
Mark 8:34-37 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”
One thing that I find interesting about what Jesus tells us here is how important is this message. He had been talking with the disciples, and had just rebuked Peter. I can see them standing together, Peter with his head down and kind of dropping behind James and John. Suddenly Jesus turns and calls the crowd following, ok everyone get close, this lesson is going to be important, I need everyone to understand what I’m going to say. This message is not just for his disciples, but for all who are following him and not just those that were there that day, but for all his followers from that point on. Yes that means me, and you living 2,000 years later. I think another reason Jesus gathered together everyone he could to hear this message was due to what He was going to say. Jesus used parables to get his point across a lot of the time. This would not be any parable. No Jesus wanted this to be heard by as many people as possible so what was said was not misinterpreted by his followers. I would say it worked, this same message is in Matthew 16 and Luke 9. Ok so hopefully we can agree Jesus wants everyone to know that this is a very important message. So in Christ’s words, what is he telling us? First if we are going to follow Jesus as our Lord and Savior, what is the first thing we must do?
Deny oneself…… So what does it mean to deny oneself? I think we need to look at this “self” as being that part of us which is of this world. It is what has been formed, not by God, but by our life living in this broken world. It is our wants, our desires, all those things the world tells us are important. How we look, what kind of car we drive, what kind of job we have, where we live. Everything that somehow reflects on us and not on God, that is what “self” is to me. So now we need to ask ourselves, what am I denying myself? This answer is going to be different for every person, because we were all made by God differently and were shaped by our experiences differently. Yet the call from Jesus to each of us remains the same. We must deny ourselves, but the message of Jesus does not end there.
He then calls each of us to “take up our cross” and follow him.
This part of Christ’s message I believe has several meanings. First notice Jesus did not tell us to take up His Cross. He tells us to take up our own cross. So what is this cross Jesus is talking about. First and foremost the cross in the times Jesus walked and lived had one meaning, crucifixion. The person being crucified would be forced to carry their own cross to the crucifixion site. This was the ultimate act of submission. Not only are the Romans going to painfully kill you, but you are going to be forced to carry the ways and means of that death yourself. So if we want to follow Jesus we must deny ourselves and submit ourselves to God. See to be a Christian should not just an act that we do once, boom… we become a Christian at conversion and that’s all there is. The decision to accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior is the most important step we take, but it can not be the only thing we do.
In today’s Scripture God clearly tells us more is required. First deny oneself, then submit our whole life to Christ. How should we do this?
Jesus tells us, “take up our cross and follow Him.”
I think this is another meaning of the “cross” in the words of Jesus. Each of us has our own cross, that is one thing that we are always fighting against. One thing we have tried to give to God, but yet we still battle with it. No matter what your cross is, an actual physical aliment, or an emotional problem, like Anger, Greed, Lust, Anxiety, Depression, Compulsion, Worry. Part of the problem could be that we are still trying to fight against it ourselves. Thinking of ways to solve this problem in worldly ways. Christ does not call us to leave this problem, our cross behind us. No here he tells us what to do, pick up our problem and follow Him. See even though we want to leave our problem, our cross behind, that is not what Jesus tells us to do. He wants us to submit to Him, and bring our cares and our problems with us. Develop a relationship with Jesus, learn from God’s Word, do God’s work as you are able with this Cross you carry. You see our most important job as followers of Jesus is to shine the light of God out into the world. One way to do this is by not attempting to put on a perfect persona, look at me I’ve been Saved By Christ and now my life is perfect.
No I am imperfect, my life can be a mess, but God still Loves me, and He is in control in all situations.
Surely it is possible for God to heal or solve your problem instantaneously and I believe He still does that if it is His will. There is one thing we tend to forget, when we are weak, He is strong. Saint Paul speaking in his second letter to the Corinthians, tells us of a thorn in his flesh he asked God to remove three times, we don’t know what this “thorn” was, but we do know what God’s response was.
2 Corinthians 12:9
But he said to me,“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Once we accept that God will heal us or he won’t heal us, he will deliver us from our problems or he won’t, then we can get on with doing the work God has given us to do today, living in this broken world. See God doesn’t want us perfect, his glory shines through our imperfections. Even though we want to healed, want our lives to be easier, it takes a conscious decision to submit ourselves just as we are to Christ. I think it is only once we can accept this level of submission to Christ that then we are ready to hear clearly the rest of the words Jesus spoke.
“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? How important is this message, “whoever loses his life for My sake” this saying is repeated more times in the Gospels than all but Christ’s call to “follow Me.” See Jesus wants us all in. We can not be a half Christian. We are either a true follower of Jesus or we are not. We are either willing to submit totally, to the point of death or we are not. Thankfully most of us living in the United States don’t have to make that ultimate sacrifice. However we know that is not true throughout the world. Christians in many other countries do face persecution and yes even death. See they don’t need to have a sermon on sacrificing themselves to follow Christ. Some of them live it every day. What some of us here in America face is a call to sacrifice something else. That good old American dream of work hard, get rich, and enjoy all life has to offer. I am not saying we should not work hard, scripture is clear that what ever job we have, we are to do to the best of our abilities. We are to perform that job like we are working for God, because ultimately that is who we are working for.
What I am trying to say is when we are given choices, we need to make the right decisions. Do we work to earn more money for the benefit of God’s Kingdom or as an attempt to earn more money for something we want? Do we work extra hours for our families benefit, or because we like spending extra time with that co-worker. Both parents working full-time jobs away from the family home and leaving the kids and family duties as a secondary concern, after the job duties is not what I believe God intended for our lives. “What good does is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul.”
I don’t want to paint our American way of life with a broad brush and say it is all bad. No, our work ethic is what helped make our country great. However what also made our country great is having its people and leaders following God’s plans for their lives, by doing the right things, in the right time. See it does matter when people do the right thing. That is really what each person, each family should be focused on. Jesus walked the earth as a man. He led his life as an example for his followers to learn from. That saying from a few years ago, What Would Jesus do? It was relevant when Jesus walked the earth, and it is still relevant today. If we have any questions about what we should or should not do, we need to seek out Jesus. See God is always at work, whether we see it or not. His plan will not fail. It really is up to each of us as individuals if we want to be part of his work. What your part is, I don’t know. Heck I have a hard enough time figuring out if what I’m doing is God’s will. See that is the great part, even if we try and fail. God will not fail us. His grace is there to help us get back on our feet and give it another go. So as I look back to the question I started with, Do the Ends Justify the Means? I think the Means should always justify the End. If you truly want to be a follower of Jesus, the right way you do something (What would Jesus Do?) will always justify the end, whether you are successful or not, will not be as important as when you are doing it, you reflected the light of Jesus into the world. That really is what we are here for, sharing Jesus with others, by our words, by our actions and by our resources. So whatever you do, do it the way Jesus would have you do it. Let the Means Justify The End, whatever that ending is!
Bless & Be Blessed