Speaking (or Not) For Jesus
Jesus can't be bullied into our categories.
He can't be jammed into boxes where we think he belongs, and where he seems safest to us.
We can't speak for Jesus--as if we are the authority on exactly what Jesus might say or do at any given moment on any given topic.
And we can't assume that Jesus' silence on any given topic means that Jesus would have affirmed and/or condoned our beliefs about it.
Jesus is not a Republican.
Jesus is not a Democrat.
Jesus is not a hippie sage sitting in a room full of would-be protesters helping them paint signs.
Jesus is not a corporate spokesperson smiling broadly over mergers and acquisitions.
Jesus is not a televangelist.
Jesus is not a sports figure.
Jesus is none of these things... But depending on our world view, our theology, our desire or our downright willfulness, we try to make him into one or several of them.
And we need to quit.
Recently, I encountered this little gem on the Facebook pages of several of my friends:
I realize that I am probably revealing a decided lack of humor by not splitting my sides over how unbelievably funny and witty and smart and superior this little graphic truly is.
It just made me sad.
No, Jesus didn't speak about any of those things. Neither did he say anything about watching porn, smoking, driving too fast or beating your wife. He also didn't say anything about tithing, as some church members will point from time to time. And he didn't give us any real direction on what kind of worship style he prefers (although this last bit would have prevented countless church-splits, and would have saved yours truly no end of grief).
But he did say this:
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-20)Jesus wasn't saying that the manner in which the Pharisees and teachers of the law were keeping the commandments was to be commended. He also didn't say that their interpretations of it were completely valid.
But neither did he relax the requirements of God's law. He told his disciples that their righteousness needed to surpass those of the religious-types.
The Gospel demands more than the law, in other words---but through the One who came to fulfill the law, we now have the Spirit to fulfill those demands, and even "greater things" than he did.
But Jesus in NO WAY says that the law of God is bad and needs to be thrown out. He was, after all, a devout and upright Jew in a 1st Century context.
Getting back to our little graphic...
So seriously... Jesus would have condoned abortion? Not likely.
According to Scripture, child sacrifice was one of the most vile, reprehensible acts that pagans participated in as a response to their own desires and needs. Jews in Jesus day roundly condemned such things.
Jesus condoning birth control in the 1st Century? Not a chance.
Jesus would have encouraged his disciples to have as many children as possible. It was cultural thing. To have children was a sign in the eyes of the ancient Hebrew people that God had blessed you. Read Psalm 127 if you don't believe me.
This one will get me cards and letters... But would Jesus have condoned homosexuality in his 1st Century context? Nope, probably not.
Let's be clear... Homosexuality in Jesus' day was seriously frowned upon by God-fearing Jews---regardless of how prevalent it may have been in Greco-Roman culture.
I am not saying AT ALL that Jesus condemns anyone who has had an abortion, uses birth control or is gay.
He doesn't. During his ministry, Jesus consistently showed compassion and love to those who were on the margins of 1st Century society, and called for his followers to do the same.
I am also NOT saying that as Christians we need to adhere to Mosaic law in it's entirety. After all, one of the first major decisions that the early church made was to give Gentiles a break when it came to law keeping. Here's what they said:
We're not going to unnecessarily burden non-Jewish people who turn to the Master. We'll write them a letter and tell them, 'Be careful to not get involved in activities connected with idols, to guard the morality of sex and marriage, to not serve food offensive to Jewish Christians—blood, for instance.' This is basic wisdom from Moses, preached and honored for centuries now in city after city as we have met and kept the Sabbath." Acts 15:19-21Now there's a lot that we could say about what being "involved in activities connected with idols" might mean. We could also have some serious debates on what the early Church leaders meant by "guard the morality of sex and marriage."
But we're talking about Jesus here...
What I AM saying is that you can't assume Jesus' approval by his specific silence on these issues. Just as you can't assume his condemnation by his reverence for the law.
I am struck anew by the fact that some of us Christians just naturally assume that we speak for Jesus or know the mind of Jesus---especially when we are responding to what other Christians might be saying or not saying about Jesus. And I have to repent of my own part of that.
I am thinking that Jesus is probably pretty tired of our assuming that we speak for him, too.
So let's all agree on something:
Jesus is much more complex than any of us can imagine, and the best we can do is to try to live like him, heal like him, preach like him, show compassion like him and give of ourselves sacrificially for the sake of the world like him.
Oh, and that thing he said about being the Way, the Truth and the Life... We need to stop arguing about that, too. He did say that, and pretty emphatically. So, I am thinking he meant it. We don't have to understand it to believe it---even if the Lordship of Jesus doesn't always fit into our neat little "feel-good" categories.
I'm fairly sure that "Jesus Christ is Lord" is the one thing that Christians of every stripe ought to be able to unequivocally affirm. To do any less wouldn't really be very "Christian" would it?
Here endeth the lesson.