It’s all you hear anymore. Christians oppose Marriage Equality. Christians oppose removal of the Confederate flag. Christians oppose helping Syrian refugees…
When did Christians become opposed to… well, everything? What do Christians stand FOR when all they seem to do is stand AGAINST things?
And Christians of all stripes (and I’ve been guilty of it here on this blog) all think they know “What Would Jesus Do?”
And it’s only getting worse. Too many are driving Christianity, and it’s simple messages of love and hope, to its death by insisting they know what God wants.
Compared to the rest of the Bible, Jesus’ words are few. We who claim to follow Christ, who wear the name “Christian” (which means “little Christ”), need to know and do what He said. It’s the only way to actually follow Him.
So let’s talk about what The Gospel, literally The Good News of Christ, is not…
A set of rules
There are many lists of rules in the Bible. Most famous is, of course, the Ten Commandments (which most people who
claim to read the Bible can’t quote, at least not in their entirety — in my experience). But there are also rules on cleanliness, rules about what to do with mold on your walls, rules about sacrifices… There are lots of them. But, they’re mostly rules intended for the people during the time of Moses and their time in the ‘Wilderness’ and getting set up in the ‘Promised Land’. Few apply to all people for all time in all situations. (There’s something about putting a railing on your roof? I can’t even get on my roof. — Deuteronomy 22:8)
When it comes to the words of Christ, there are only a couple of rules (though you may find them restated in different forms many times).
1.) Love God. 2.)Love your neighbor.
That’s it. Those are the only two rules. There’s nothing about abortion or marriage equality or who to vote for or any other things that so many people claim to know from the Bible. Jesus said nothing on those things. Love God. Love your neighbor. That’s it. Oh, sure, there’s commentary on those, like “turn the other cheek” and “if someone asks you to go one mile, go two” and “forgive 70 times 7 times” (I’m paraphrasing), but as far as rules go, Jesus didn’t give any new ones that can’t be summed up in those two.
No, The Gospel, the Good News of Christ, is not a set of rules.
A Marriage/Sex Manual
Certainly, a married couple can learn much from the Gospel that can help them in their marriage. But, except for
answering a direct question about the Jewish rules regarding divorce, and another about marriage in the afterlife, Jesus doesn’t say anything about marriage. Seriously. Nothing. Not one word. Not who to marry, not what marriage is, not “thou shalt allow only one man to marry one woman”, nothing. He doesn’t talk about the government issuing marriage licenses, he doesn’t talk about whether either person needs to be a virgin, he doesn’t even mention polygamy.
Nor does he say anything about what a married couple should do in the privacy of their own room. He mentions nothing about who should be “on top”, who should be “in charge”, when “it” should happen… none of that.
No, The Gospel, the Good News of Christ, is not a marriage/sex manual.
Some Christians seem to think they have permission for just about everything. And then they wave their magic wand called “forgiveness” and everyone else is just supposed to shrug and carry on with our lives. This magi
c wand seems to forgive everything. Literally everything. From child molestation to accepting political bribes, to theft, to… well, it’s a long long list.
And while, yes, when we ask forgiveness we are forgiven by God for our wrongs, that does not mean we are free of the consequences and should expect the rest of the world to just pretend like nothing happened.
“But sir! The woman caught in adultery! Jesus said, “let he without sin cast the first stone!” and then he said, “go and sin no more” and she was never punished!”
Yes. That happened. But what is the point of the story? There are lots of interpretations, volumes have been written about that story, but some things to keep in mind:
We don’t know the consequences or circumstances of her act. She wasn’t executed, but did her sin call for her to be executed? Maybe by the laws of Moses, if they were taken at their most literal and fundamental interpretation. Did she have kids or a husband? We don’t know. Was she possibly falsely accused or a victim of rape or some other innocent drawn into the Pharisee’s manipulations? We don’t know. The point of the story isn’t about the consequences because we’re not told what happened to her after this story. (Some claim she is Mary Magdalene, but that isn’t ever proven in scripture.) It’s also not about the worst of sins being forgiven. Would any of us declare adultery to be the worst of all sins? (Hint: Jesus didn’t.)
Self-proclaimed righteous men tried to trap Jesus by throwing this poor woman in front of him and asking what should be done with her. It wasn’t about whether she should “get away with it” or not, it’s not even about Jesus telling her “go and sin no more”. It’s about judgment. A topic Jesus spoke on a lot ( especially in relation to His rules that I mentioned earlier about love God and love your neighbor).
Nothing in that story (or in anything else Jesus said) implies that the adulterous woman (or any of the rest of us) had permission to do whatever they heck they please.
No, The Gospel, the Good News of Christ, is not a permission slip.
A Sales Pitch
Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, step right up and give me your undivided attention. Here at Crazy Al’s Salvation we have, today only, Tickets to Heaven. That’s right, right here at Crazy Al’s we give you the best prices in town but hurry,
these tickets are going fast! Get your’s today!
Raise you hand if you know a preacher that sounds like that. Like a used car salesman trying to fill his quota.
Sound bites. Snippets. Tiny pieces of truth doled out just enough to be a commercial for Jesus without actually taking the time to get to know Him. Just get them in the door, shove them in the baptistry, we’ll worry about the rest later.
What exactly are we trying to sell? Jesus? Heaven? Bibles? Or something else.
Somehow we got the idea that our job is to go around and sell Jesus to people. Some even take it literally, going door to door (though I argue that they’re selling their particular church or denomination, but that’s another blog post).
But sir! Jesus’s last words on Earth! The Great Commission! That’s what He told us to do!
Well, yes. He did say to his apostles (the 11 that were left), after His resurrection, just before His ascension, “…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19–20)
Yes. He did say that.
But that doesn’t mean “Practice your sales pitch so you can recite it to people at a moment’s notice and then get them to mumble a few words in prayer and BOOM! you’ve saved them!”
Nor does it mean “hold an event and get people to walk to an altar and kneel and pray over them”. Or hundreds of other variations on the Used Car Salesman model of saving people.
We are not to sell Jesus. We are to make disciples and teach them. (Which is really two ways of saying the same thing. A disciple, by definition, is a student. So if we teach, then they are disciples.) And that is very different from just giving a sales pitch and offering an altar call.
I know many are going to argue with what I’m about to say, so bear with me and I will try to very carefully explain myself.
I, personally, do not believe there is a magic moment of salvation. There is no an instant where one moment you are “unsaved” and the next you are “saved”. There’s no salvation prayer, there’s no “laying on of hands”, there’s not even baptism, in my opinion, that is the ‘it’ of being saved, of becoming a Christian, of getting Crazy Al’s Ticket To Heaven.
Salvation is not the point. Let me say that again, carefully. Salvation, as it is commonly defined in the terms “being saved” and “rescued from Hell” and being “born again” is not the point. We can debate Heaven and Hell in another post, but right here, right now I am saying they. Are not. The point. Of the Gospel.
The Great Commision says “Teach them to obey everything I have commanded”. And what did he Command? We’ve already discussed it. Love God and love your neighbor. Make disciples (students), and teach them. (Yes, I left out the point about baptism. I will talk about that some other time. Yes, I believe in baptism. Yes, I believe it’s important. Yes, I believe it is a COMPONENT of being a Christian. No, the point is not to drive people to it like cattle through a river.)
We need to stop treating the words of Christ as a commercial for Heaven.
No, The Gospel, the Good News of Christ, is not a sales pitch for Heaven.
A Political Manifesto
Jesus was, without a doubt, very opinionated about the political climate of the time and place that he lived. He had
no kind words for the Pharisees and Sadducees and others that were the “political parties” of the theocratic government of the people of Israel at the time. But at the same time, He said hardly anything to the true governing authority in the region — the Romans Empire. When asked about taxes, he said, “give to Ceasar what is Ceasar’s”. When taken before the Roman governor in the region (Pilate) as part of his “trial” before his execution, Jesus barely said anything to Him except to say that any power he had over Jesus was from above.
In other words, Jesus stood against those that would use religion to control people, but also said that the government’s power came from God, even if that government didn’t follow Jesus’s God.
That’s kind of the opposite of what people are saying today, isn’t it?
Even with the things Jesus said, there really isn’t anything in His words that can be remotely construed as an instruction manual for how to run the government, or how to vote or anything political at all. He was neither conservative or liberal. He was neither Democrat or a Republican. He wasn’t Socialist or Libretarian. No modern political party or ideology can conclusively say, “Jesus is on our side”. At least not based on anything Jesus said as recorded in the Gospels. (The early church, living together and having all things in common, could be defined as Communists — in the strictest sense. But that’s another discussion for yet another blog post.)
If there is anything that could be called directions for how to vote in the words of Christ, it’s this: Love god and love your neighbor. (Are you sensing a pattern here? ) Jesus didn’t give directions on being fiscally conservative (or fiscally anything) He didn’t give directions on how to manage foreign policy, He didn’t give directions on how big a standing military should be or whether civilians should have guns. Except as it is contained in what He did directly say — love God and love your neighbor.
No, The Gospel, the Good News of Christ, has nothing to do with politics.
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I could go on an on. My ultimate point is that the Gospel of Christ needs to be allowed to stand on it’s own. His words, His parables, His lessons, need to be allowed to speak for themselves without us taking everything out of context and turning it into something that it was never meant to be.
Originally published on Wordpress