Jesus, Shut Up!

Sermon_on_the_MountFor the last 67 days (holy cow, has it been that long???), my friend Eric and I have been posting the Sermon on the Mount on social media piece by piece. For those of you who may not know, the Sermon on the Mount is the passage of Jesus’s teaching found in Matthew 5-7. It’s been an interesting project, to say the least.

As a wrap up to the project, we answered 5 questions. I’ve added Eric’s answers without edit (so blame him if you spot a grammar mistake!). Ultimately, this project was not about telling Jesus to shut up. Many people tend to ignore or shut him up when his words clash with their lives. Rather, Eric and I wanted HIS words to be heard anew. So here you go:

Why did you want to do this project?

ERIC: I actually started this project at the suggestion of my friend, Todd. It kept coming up in discussion several weeks prior how Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is controversial, even today, and how even many Christians are offended by things that Jesus in this particular sermon. Todd suggested posting it verse by verse or section by section without any commentary just to see how people react. Sort of give people a “slow reading” of it. I prayed over it and had absolute peace about doing it. So, it began…

CHRIS: For me it started when I saw the Facebook thread between Eric and Todd. They were talking about posting the Sermon on the Mount (SotM) piece by piece every day. I thought it was a great idea for a couple of reasons. First, the SotM was not originally a unified message given at one time. It’s a collection of the teachings of Jesus that Matthew compiled wrote out. Posting it on social media bit by bit would have been close to the way Jesus taught it – little bits at a time rather than a multiple chapter treatise on ethical and moral behavior. Second, with all of the negative junk that’s posted every day, I wanted to be one of the voices posting things that build up and develop people. True, Jesus’s words aren’t words of encouragement, but they can build us up spiritually, morally, and ethically.

Did you have any difficulties carrying it out?

ERIC: My greatest difficulty was remembering where I left off the day before! I would do it first thing in the morning, and sometimes I wasn’t fully awake! LOL!! But the greatest difficulty for me, personally, was just the weight of Christ’s words. They’re heavy at times. In giving others a sort of “slow reading” of it you force yourself to read it slowly and REALLY consider what Christ is saying! Matthew 5:44 was particularly heavy for me. During this time it seems like I had enemies coming out of the woodwork. And here’s Jesus telling me to pray for them! NOT EASY! Certainly challenging! But, I submitted and did it!

CHRIS: There were two difficulties. The first isn’t a big one – it was the difficulty of developing the habit of the daily posting. Probably 2/3 of the material I posted in the moment. I smartened up eventually and began to schedule posts in advance so I wouldn’t forget. Advanced scheduling, though, was part of the second difficulty: how to break up the material. Microblogging sites are geared towards snippets of material, and some of Jesus’s longer teachings are too long for social media. So I played editor a little bit in determining what the blocks of text would be and what would have to wait for another day. I also took some liberties to shorten the text, using & for “and” and sometimes omitting punctuation, indefinite articles, etc.

Were there any surprises from the experience?

ERIC: Yes. When I posted Matthew 5:31-32. While I was expecting some discussions to erupt over topics such as enemy love, loving your neighbor, or even the “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter into the kingdom of Heaven….” I was NOT expecting these two verses to stir any turds! People were leaving comments like, “So, what you’re saying is I’m a sinner because I got divorced?” No! I didn’t say that! I was just merely quoting Jesus, what He said in scripture! I actually had some family members REALLY upset with me over that! They were divorced. Even after I explained the project to them they was like, “Well, you still could have just skipped over that one!” Which really goes back to some of the conversations that Todd & I had: The Sermon on the Mount touches everyone and will offend you!

CHRIS: The biggest surprise was how passionate some people got over the message of Jesus. And it wasn’t always positive passion. One person asked me angrily (at least it felt that way reading the words on Facebook) why I was doing this. Others seemed to chafe at particular points of Jesus’s words that had direct correlation to their life’s circumstances. One minor surprise was a friend who took issue with me putting out the words of Jesus but NOT including the biblical address. My simple answer was that the Bible originally had no chapter and verse divisions – those were a later addition. The key is the content, which had been passed down from Christian to Christian for hundreds and hundreds of years before the addition of chapter and verse markings.

What did you learn?

ERIC: A couple of things: Scripture is challenging enough. You don’t always need to add your commentary to challenge others. The other was not everyone is going to agree with Jesus. Some will boldly oppose Him on issues because they want to be comfortable in their sin.

CHRIS: The biggest thing I learned is that the words of Christ are as relevant today as they EVER were thousands of years ago. They are literally timeless, reaching into the heart of some touchy subjects 21st century Christians wrestle with. To quote the Bible (and not give you the address), “There is nothing new under the sun.” We can preach Jesus until the end of time, because his words will always touch us at the core of our humanity.

What do you hope others learned?

ERIC: The first is enemy love. I’m looking at the Church, watching it’s agape growing cold, growing more hostile. Of course we see that the clearest in the political field. The ones on the right who are the most vocal about their Christianity are also militantly hostile towards those on the left. If you are a TRUE Christian then the left isn’t your enemy. It’s your mission field.

Which leads me to the 2nd thing I hope people took away: Matthew 7. This chapter plays a central role in my personal worldview & ministry. Matthew 7:13-23 Jesus is speaking of Christians. I was REALLY hoping that people would pay close attention to how Jesus uses the words “many” and “few” in those 10 verses! Because if you read that carefully, pay close attention, that should cause you as a Christian to gut check yourself. Not everyone who calls him “Lord” will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. The past to destruction is wide and many are on it. Many will say unto Him in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not _____ in your name?” I don’t know about you, but I want to be a part of the few who find that narrow way, and I want to point others towards it so that they may enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

CHRIS: I hope other people were able to see the broken down teachings and really let them sink in without the noise of contextual sermonizing or other texts. The words of Christ stand alone, and they have power…if we heed them. Otherwise we’re like the foolish man who built his house upon the sand.

There you have it, folks. Have you ever read the Sermon on the Mount? What do you think? How did it hit you?

 

I Wish the Pope Would Start Behaving Like a Christian

Pope FrancisThis guy.

Who does he think he is? I mean, he’s supposed to be the spiritual leader of millions of Catholics but his behavior doesn’t line up very well with American Christianity.

Surely you’ve heard about it.

He talks about climate change and being caretakers of God’s creation.

He talks about caring for the poor and the neglected.

He has even washed the feet of prisoners.

Clearly he needs to work on his Christian behavior, because American Christians just won’t tolerate this kind of Communist, liberal, Jesus-esque behavior. Give us good ol’ boy Christians who go for the photo op with persecuted county clerks. Give us Christians who know what it’s like to work your way up from nothing – to pull yourself up by the bootstraps. This is the kind of faith we can get behind.

And yet…

  • The earth is the Lords and all it holds, the world and those who dwell in it. For he founded it on the seas, established it over the rivers. (Psalm 24:1-2)
  • While Jesus was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and asked, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.” (Matthew 9:10-12)
  • Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for the orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1:27)
  • If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? (James 2:15-16)

Perhaps the Pope is doing something right after all.

Stay Away From Politics, Christian!

So I was recently involved in a friendly disagreement on Facebook.

WHAT?!? People have disagreements on social media?

Yes, my friend, I’m afraid it’s true. But I digress.

I say friendly argument because a friend and I were disagreeing in a friendly way (there was no name calling or rude behavior – just differing opinions).

Here was his opening:

Christians in Politics

His basic premise was that Christians should not attempt to change the political climate to reflect Christian values and virtues and be content to remain at the mercy of the government. That’s what I have issue with. I’ve had atheists, humanists, and others throw in my face their old line about how we cannot legislate morality.

That’s bunk.

We DO legislate morality. The only question is: WHOSE morality are we going to legislate? While we don’t force our religion on people, being citizens in a democratic republic ALLOWS us to vote our hearts and minds. If other people out-vote us, so be it, but we have a seat at the table that ancient Christians did not have. Yes, the Bible DOES talk about Christians being subject to the state. Paul writes in Romans 13:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. Mayor Quimby For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

In his first letter, Peter writes:

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

In the biblical call to submit, however, the writers are talking to people who are subjects under tyranny. There is no seat at the table for expressing opposing ideas. There is no Christian option to voice dissent and to vote conscience. Quite simply, the Bible calls Christians to be subject to governing authorities and institutions.

The institutions have changed.

In a democratic republic like America, the individual citizen has a right (some might even argue an obligation) to participate in the process – at the very least through the power of the vote. The Bible never says not to vote. The Bible says that Christians need to be submissive to the authorities. If Christians can influence the institutions of authority in a legal way, we SHOULD do so.

As I said, someone’s morality is going to win the day. All legislation is based on a worldview and morality. If Christians are passive in government, then the morality of the day will be set by atheists, humanists, and every religious non-Christian who isn’t afraid to vote.

We can still be submissive to the authorities AND loyal first to Jesus while all the while being engaged in a democratic republic. Jesus First To tell Christians not to promote their distinctive values reduces public Christianity to mere humanism. Our style of government allows for us to engage and to bring our beliefs with us.

It is possible to be respectful towards other people while still seeking to influence government with Christian ideals and values.

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