Broad Brushes…with Precision Tips

There are times you need a broad brush when painting a large surface like a wall or floor. But there are times you need a fine brush with a precision tip when painting a picture with fine details.

I don’t like it when people paint with “broad brushes.” I’ll admit I’ve done it myself at times, probably most of us have. I don’t like it when I am painted over with a broad brush and I don’t like it when I see people do that to others. We live in a culture that does this all too often. We do it in relation to politics, religion, race, careers, demographics, even what part of the country we are from, and the list could go on and on. Why do we do that? Well, I think sometimes it is out of ignorance or fear. Other times it is that we aren’t patient to wait on more info or maybe we are too lazy to look deeper into something or someone. Many times people unwittingly paint with a broad brush, but often people do it intentionally so as to cause strife.

We’ve seen this all too often in our instant media society. You haven’t done this? Bet you have. Ever “liked” or “shared” something on social media and then realized it was inaccurate or false or maybe there was more info that came out later and changed the story? Yeah, I’ve done that. Something sounds good so we grab hold of it and paint with a broad brush. Ever had a teacher or coach when you were in school punish the whole class or team because of one person’s breaking the rules? Yeah. It happens.

Here are just some ways we paint with broad brushes. Just fill in the blanks as you go:

 “all white people must be…” “all black people must be…” “all Asians, Hispanics, Africans, Europeans, etc. are…” “all people from the south must be…” “all people from California are…” “all people from the north or the Midwest or the northwest…are…” “all immigrants must be…” “all Republicans are…” “all Democrats are…” “all people who live in the suburbs are…” “all people who live in the cities are…” “all homeless people are…” “all rich people are…” “all people who are fans of my team’s rival are…” “people who aren’t wearing masks and gloves are…” “all people who are wearing masks must be…” “police officers are all…” “all politicians are…” “if you work in such-and-such and industry you must be…” “most preacher’s kids are…” “all of those people of a certain denomination or doctrine are…”

You see how that goes? You could go on and on and on with those analogies, but you get the point. I bet you filled in every one of those blanks with a negative. Broad brush strokes.

I, like most everyone in this country, have been troubled by the events of this past week. The death of George Floyd was appalling, unnecessary, absurd, ridiculous, and many other adjectives. The same can be said of the death of Ahmaud Arbery and many other cases too. The violent responses and the organized destruction is troubling. I have thought long and hard and prayed about what to say in response. I don’t want to be guilty of painting with a broad brush nor too narrow a brush either. I have wrestled with saying too much or too little or being misinterpreted. I’ve even seen people criticizing Christian leaders for not saying something. Broad brush strokes. Should we? Yes. But should we take our time to prayerfully and thoughtfully respond? Absolutely. Honestly, many don’t know what to say because it likely doesn’t matter what you say, you’re going to have someone shoot at you. That’s okay, however, as long as we speak truth in love and stand on the Word of God.

I cannot fully understand some of the deep-seated tensions that many in the black community feel and have experienced for many years. I have experienced betrayal, back stabbing, being lied to and lied about, being bullied and made fun of for various things (and not just as a kid either). I’ve experienced prejudice and rejection. I’ve been in situations in other countries where I was a minority and would have felt pretty insecure were it not for security traveling with us. I have experienced hurt at the hands of others…even fellow Christians. I’ve been attacked because of my faith (but nothing like the persecution of our brothers and sisters around the world). I’ve been unfairly treated by employers. I’ve been lied about by co-workers. I’ve had unfair treatment by police officers. Yet, I still cannot fully understand all that my black brothers and sisters deal with and have dealt with. So, I don’t want to pretend as if I do.

What we saw this week in Minneapolis was abhorrent. As I have read and communicated with people I know in law enforcement, there was no excuse for the actions this officer took. I stand with those who call for justice. George Floyd was known to be a Christian who was seeking to minister to people there. Had he made mistakes? I don’t know. Maybe…certainly…all of us have. Others describe him as a man who God was turning his life around. I won’t use a broad brush with him. However, we need to be careful that we don’t paint others with broad brushes too. Were the police targeting George Floyd because of his race? I don’t know, because I don’t know what was in their heart. No broad brush strokes. It’s possible that is true. But I don’t know. Were the men in south Georgia doing the same thing? Again, I don’t know what was in their hearts. Were they wrong? Absolutely. Were they white supremacists and racists? Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know. Broad brush strokes. What I do know is that George and Ahmaud didn’t deserve what happened and certainly their families don’t deserve to be going through this incredible grief, no matter if they were or were not doing anything wrong. We shouldn’t paint everyone from small towns in south Georgia with a broad brush stroke. At the same time, we should not paint all police officers with broad brush strokes. Are there bad cops? Sure. But the vast majority, who are of many different ethnicities, are good people who want to serve their community and stand for the law and justice. They are underpaid, over stressed and highly risked. So let’s not use broad brush strokes. At the same time, we shouldn’t use broad brush strokes to paint those who are protesting. Some are properly and peacefully and prayerfully doing so and some are simply taking advantage of the situation for selfish reasons. We know that people of various ideological groups are in fact sending people into these communities to stir up division. That may seem like a broad brush stroke, but it’s true. And in fact this creates a broader brush stroke that further divides and antagonizes the situation. Others are taking advantage to simply steal stuff and destroy businesses.

I appreciate what Hall of Fame Coach Tony Dungy wrote on Saturday. Among other things, he said:

What happened to George Floyd was inexcusable and it should never happen. Justice needs to be served, but in seeking justice we can’t fall into the trap of prejudging every police officer we see. What started out as peaceful protests have devolved into arson and looting and that should never happen, either. Yes there should be protest. But we do not have license to perform criminal acts because we’re angry.

Today we are a divided country. We’re divided racially, politically, and socio-economically. And Satan is laughing at us because that is exactly what he wants. Dysfunction, mistrust, and hatred help his kingdom flourish.

You can read his full statement in several places. It’s worth checking out.

We see it in the national media that all too often like to paint with broad brush strokes. Not all do, but sadly most do. This doesn’t help matters at all. It only seems to further enflame things. We’ve seen this repeated over the years on so many spectrums in politics and social issues and even in this pandemic over and over again. Oh, well let me be careful. See? There I did it! That might be a pretty broad brush stroke, so…maybe I shouldn’t go down that road. But you get the point. Broad brush strokes are engrained in our society.

So…there is a lot I don’t know. There are a lot of broad brush strokes that we all can tend to paint with. I tell couples in marital and premarital counseling that there are two things that will kill their marriage: assumptions and expectations. When we look at a person or a situation and we make assumptions, we are painting with a broad brush. When we have expectations of people, in marriage or work or leadership or church, etc., then we are going to be disappointed and disillusioned by those broad strokes. This is true in these current situations we are witnessing. Why? Because we are all human and we are going to let one another down. We should not make assumptions nor have unrealistic expectations about people or situations. Broad brush strokes.  

What do we do? What can we do? How do we need to respond? There’s a lot I don’t know the answer to. However, here are some things I DO know for sure. And it has to do with broad brush strokes, but ones with pinpoint, piercing precision. Here is where we turn in times like this:

Hebrews 4:12 says,
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

God’s word paints with some pretty broad brush strokes. Jesus spoke with some pretty broad strokes. But since He’s God, He can do that. But here’s the difference. When He does that, He does so with pinpoint precision. Right into the very heart of mankind. This is where we turn. God’s word.

One of the broadest brush strokes that I can see from God’s word that explains the current situation we are in is this: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9.

In Matthew 15, Jesus says, 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person.

Pretty broad brush strokes. So when we see people killing others unjustly…when we see people selfishly taking advantage of a situation to steal and destroy…when we see people seeking political power and gain from a horrible situation…when we see people taking advantage of others…when we see people lying, causing strife, tearing one another down; we then come to understand the evil, sinful, wickedness of the human heart. Yes, that’s a broad brush stroke, but one that God’s word paints with because we, in our sinful hearts, painted ourselves with that brush.

 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23)

And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. (Mark 10:18)

“None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12)

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

All broad strokes that God’s word paints the sinfulness of mankind….the sinfulness of MY heart. There are many more. We are ALL sinners by nature and by choice. This is the problem.

What about justice? Doesn’t the Bible teach us to stand up for that? Certainly. Isaiah 1:17 is where most people go, seek justice, correct oppression. However, look at the context. What does God say before that? 16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, 17learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. We must look at our own sinful hearts first. This is the beginning of the answer. We can’t correct oppression and seek justice from a sinful heart.

However, when the Bible speaks of justice, it is God who dispenses that. We are not in that position. Our hearts are sinful and wicked. So we trust Him to do so.

 30 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10)
God’s vengeance is always just and His justice is always perfect.

Isaiah then says,  18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

We can’t cleanse ourselves, so what do we do? Jesus painted with a broad brush but yet His brush also has a precision tip that pierces the heart. He spoke to those religious leaders who sought to stone the woman caught (likely trapped) in adultery saying, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7) Broad brush, precision tip.

He taught on the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5, 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother[c] will be liable to judgment; Broad brush, precision tip.

 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. Broad brush, precision tip.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers,[i] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Broad brush, precision tip.

21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. Broad brush, precision tip.

I could go on and on. This is how God’s word and Jesus paint with a broad brush over and over again that shows ALL of us are guilty. But He also at the same time takes that precision tip and gets down into the finest, darkest corners of our lives and points out the hardness of our hearts and the hidden sins we don’t want to acknowledge. Not one of us is sinless. So what do we do? We need a Redeemer…a Deliverer!

Praise be to God He painted with the broadest brush ever! Just as the Hebrews painted the doorpost of their homes at the Passover, with the blood of a spotless lamb so that the death angel might pass over them, ultimately paving the way for their freedom from slavery, Jesus did the same!

 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17) A broad brush!

God provided the ultimate spotless Lamb to sacrifice for our sins in Jesus.Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29) That is a pretty broad brush!

I don’t know much, but I do know this: I am the one who had my knee on the throat of Jesus as He was nailed to the cross. I had the hammer in my hand. MY sin is why he died. At the same time, before Jesus, I was the one who was being held down with Satan’s foot on my throat choking my life away. I was under bondage to sin and death. BUT GOD…set me free by His grace! That grace is offered to “whosever would believe.”

The broad brush of grace paints over the sins of the world, but only through faith in Jesus. And it does so with a precision tip that is intimate and personal to each individual who puts their faith in Jesus. This is our ONLY HOPE! Thanks be to God for the broad brush of His grace dipped in the blood of the Lamb and the precision tip of that brush that continually works on the finer details of a heart that is surrendered to Him so that we might be made over as a new creation and be more and more conformed to the image of his Son (Rom. 8:29). Broad brush, precision tip.

So let us as believers, paint with THAT broad brush in these days. A brush of GRACE. PRAY for God to do what HE is better at…justice and vengeance. Let us be a praying people of grace, love and mercy. But ones who are a humble and repentant people who allow God’s word to pierce our hearts and expose our sin as we seek what God requires of us. He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

I will choose to not paint others with broad brushes…not be quick to judgement…be quick to listen and slow to speak… pray for truth and justice…pray for God to bring spiritual awakening and healing to our land…treat others with the grace I have been given…walk in repentance…trust in God’s sovereignty…leave the results to Him. He’s a much better artist than I am!

Spiritual problems need spiritual answers. Spiritual battles need spiritual battle plans and spiritual weapons.

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
(2 Chronicles 7:14, emphasis added)

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