When is Being Polite Not Being a Friend?

Do you have one of “those” friends? You know…the type that are really nice and fun to be with, but have no recognition of their terrible breath, or smelly clothing, or that their house stinks from dog pee? Or some other socially unacceptable aspect of their person that they are so used to that they never notice it, but everyone else does? And, because we like them and don’t want to hurt their feelings, we have learned to ignore it, ourselves?

Are we really doing them a favor? Are we being polite at the expense of being a good friend and telling them, lovingly and softly, that they have this “problem” they really need to attend to? I would say, “No!”- if we really like someone who does something (or doesn’t do something) that is affecting their ability to be more acceptable in society (in general), we owe it to them to point it out. Even if it means they may be distressed or embarrassed. In the case of socially unacceptable dress or hygiene, ignorance is NOT bliss. In certain cases, we may be hurting their feelings a little but we may also be saving their life: bad breath can be an indication of gum disease which can cause all sorts of health problems, and failing to shower may cause skin lesions that can lead to infections, and…well, you get the point. We may be doing them more of a favor by being honest with them about their personal hygiene than we are by being afraid to tell them.

As important as personal hygiene is, what about one’s spiritual hygiene? We know people, all of us do, that are socially clean but spiritually filthy. Don’t we owe it to them to help them “clean up” their act, too? Of course we do, but you will find (I am willing to bet) that your spiritually dirty friends would rather you told them they stink and need a shower than that they are sinning and setting themselves up for eternal damnation. They would rather be told they have bad breath and ring around the collar than be told about Yeshua’s sacrifice and how it can save their soul.

So, nu? What do we do? I say we try to help them, no matter what, but we do it intelligently. We need to, first and foremost, not say anything until we provide an example of what we are talking about. People do not accept “Do as I say, not as I do” under normal conditions, so with something as difficult as spiritual issues, they absolutely need to see you practicing what you preach before you can address their lack of repentance. As Yeshua tells us in Matthew 7:5, we must first remove the log from our own eye before we tell our brother about the splinter in his eye.

This doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t say anything until we are perfect- that just isn’t going to happen. What we do is live our own life as best as we can to remain obedient to God’s commandments (i.e., Torah- you won’t find anything new or different from Torah anywhere in the New Covenant writings, since that is all that Yeshua and His Disciples taught), and when we screw up make sure that we admit it, ask forgiveness and do better. This is the example I believe is best to show a non-Believer: we are still human, we still make mistakes, and we aren’t expected to stop having fun, making jokes (they just have to be more acceptable in mixed company, that’s all) or living our lives as we want to. The only real difference being that now we want to live our lives in obedience to God instead of obedience to sin, which means we care about how we live our life, we care about others, we care about doing what is right (even when everyone else seems to be doing wrong) and we are repentant when we mess up. It is a life-long commitment to being better tomorrow than we are today. Both spiritually and socially.

Being “holy” means to be separated from the rest. The Supreme Court said that being separate cannot be equal (Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka-1954), and they were right, but separate doesn’t mean better. We need to separate ourselves just from those things that are not godly. We can still be with the same friends, but we don’t have to partake in things they do which we shouldn’t now; we can still be with family, but we don’t have to partake in events that aren’t spiritually correct (like going to the horse races, for instance); we can still go out on a date, but we won’t stay the night, even if asked.  This is what I think is important when telling friends and family about God and their salvation: they are afraid of what they will lose, and we need to tell and show that they don’t really lose anything except what they didn’t need, in the first place.

Don’t worry so much about hurting someone’s feelings when you know they are ignorant of the bad impression they are leaving on others. And don’t be afraid to tell them, as well as show them, the advantages of accepting Yeshua and committing to being holy.

Being holy is harder than being with the rest of the world, but it really does feel better.

Parashah Vayyakhel (and he assembled) Exodus 35 – 38:20

Moses calls all the people to him and asks that they offer up, each according to his or her own desire, the materials needed to build the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle. Everything from wood to precious metals, base metals and gemstones were required, as well as cloth and people to do the work. God names Bezalel and Oholiab, from the tribes of Judah and Dan (respectively) to oversee the work because of their skills, and to teach others how to do the work needed. They were to be both the skilled craftsmen and skilled instructors.

The rest of this parashah, in fact, most of the rest of the book of Exodus,  is a very detailed and exacting narration about the construction of the Tabernacle and the Ark, and of the other items associated with the Tabernacle.

There is always a message, even in what seems to be a simple description of constructing the Tabernacle. The contributions came from the old, from the young, from men, from women, from the common people and from the nobles. In chapter 35 we read about how every man who had wood brought it, every woman who could spin spun the linen, and the rulers brought the stones needed for the ephod.  Both common and ruler, men and women, any and all who had what was needed brought their possessions (much of which they received when they left Egypt) and didn’t just hand them over, but gave them to the workers, gladly and eagerly. Shaul tells us in 2 Corinthians, 9:7 (which he is quoting from the Septuagint) that God loves a cheerful giver, and all the people gave cheerfully. So much so, in fact, that in 36:5 the workers ask Moshe to tell the people to stop bringing stuff- they already have way too much!

Yet, what? Only a month or so before this these same people who are happily and faithfully obeying the Lord, were dancing and reveling before a Golden Calf! Can they really be as faithful as they appear, given their proclivity to change faith and belief with the changing of the wind?

Yes, they can. Yes, they do, and yes, they did. I am not a “people person”- I have been in customer service in one form or another most of my career, and I have been (and am, now) in a position of leadership at the place where I worship, yet I am not really all that interested in “people.” A friend once told me that humanity is a wonderful thing: it’s the people that screw it all up! I couldn’t agree more.

And after having confessed my lack of compassion for and trust in people, I am still happy to say that I believe the message (at least, for me) in this parashah is not so much about the building of the Tabernacle as it is about the people giving so cheerfully and selflessly so soon after such a terrible sin. The difference between then and now is only one thing: they repented. They repented and God forgave them, and now they are cleansed.

Ever get so dirty that you can’t remember what clean felt like? I have, many times. Not just working around the house for a day, but when I was in the Marine Corps and we did training in the field. I was in woods, in desert, covered with dirt, sweat, and camouflage paint. You get used to it, and when you get back home you spend a good amount of time in the shower, cleaning everything two or three times. Then, when you come out all squeaky clean and neat, you feel GREAT!!

I imagine that is how the people felt, after they did T’Shuvah (turning from sin) and Moshe told them that God had forgiven them and would maintain His presence among them.

Sin is like a crust of foul smelling and filthy dirt that covers us, and when we are in it long enough we don’t smell it anymore. It’s only after being cleansed that we remember how good it feels to be clean. So, even after a terrible sin such as the one with the Golden Calf, being cleansed can make us more joyful and faithful than we thought possible.

The more we live in dirt the less we remember what it feels like to be clean. The more we allow sin to rule our lives, the dirtier we get, and the further from the joy and peacefulness we can feel only when in God’s presence. We may not smell the sin, but God does. He will not associate with sin and will not allow sinfulness in His presence, so when we stink from sin we can’t get close to God.

The Grace He provided through Yeshua is what cleans us so that we can come into His presence, and allows us to experience the joy and peace His “touch” brings.

We all sin, we are sinners from our birth, but we can also be cleansed. Yes, this is a job for Clorox- spiritual Clorox, that is. And that Clorox of the spirit is called Grace, and it is delivered by the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit). This Clorox isn’t bleach- it is the blood of the Messiah, Yeshua. And whereas bleach cleans your clothes, the blood of Yeshua cleans your soul. Whiter than Clorox could ever get it, too!

We will sin, we will fall, but we can also get up. That is what happened at Mt. Sinai. They learned the temporary nice feeling we get from sinning is nothing compared to the complete and overflowing joy we get from obeying the Lord.

Sin feels nice for a little while, but the joy of the Lord feels great all the time. Which would you prefer?