Friday, September 10, 2010

How Jones Got It So Wrong

Pastor Jones reads the Bible wrong.

There's no news in that statement, I know. But it's important for us who follow Jesus to understand what's wrong with his behavior, above and beyond the pragmatics of danger to troops overseas and Christians in majority-Muslim lands.

After all, he is right that he is not strictly responsible for murderous deeds that might be done by others because they are offended.

What's wrong about Jones' behavior is that it doesn't pass the "What Would Jesus Do?" test.

Faced with situations in life that seem to demand a response from us, that has to be our question, even over and above "what does the Bible say?" As we have seen in the media, parts of the Bible can be cherry-picked to support or undermine almost anything; not everything written in the Bible is there for us to emulate! Instead, we who call ourselves "Christ-ians" must read the Bible through a Jesus-lens. What would Jesus do?

Some will point out that Jesus overthrew the money-changers' tables, called the Pharisees white-washed sepulchres and intentionally provoked religious authorities by healing on the Sabbath - over and over again. Jesus was not too meek and mild to be confrontational with untruth and to stage events that got attention so he could make his point! So maybe Quran-burning is possibly something he would do?

But those who say that miss the context: Jesus was provoking his co-religionists, his brothers in heritage and faith, to point out how they had missed the call of God in their own scripture and tradition. What Jesus was doing came not from hatred but love, as his grief-stricken cry on the way into Jerusalem attests. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." (Matt 23:37)

We don't see Jesus attacking Romans or Samaritans; we don't see him pulling stunts to get attention for his contempt of their ways. Emphatically not; instead we see him encountering, dialoging with, inviting and even healing those outside his religious tradition, that they might discover the love of God...and his call to follow. What Jesus demonstrates for us is a profound respect for people who had no previous access to the way of God. He is to them the epitome of Grace.

In contrast, the Florida preacher demonstrates contempt and gracelessness to a people who can only react with fear. His stunts are calculated not only to inflame radical Muslims, but to whip up reactions that will bring out the worst of American-civic-religion-called-"Christianity" which does not stop to consider what Jesus would do at all. What his actions, statements and contempt display, is that the one he seems to be most concerned with promoting is himself, no matter what his behavior does to the name and glory of God, the message of Jesus, or the safety of others.

What should followers of Jesus do? It seems most appropriate that we call out our co-religionist, our brother, in Jesus' terms: "Woe to you... You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to." (Matt 23:13) We ought not be silent (and indeed, many wise Christian voices are being heard today - see this one: What this man represents is not the gospel and there should be no mistake about it. In fact, he is doing what Jesus would NOT do.

But, neither should we indulge contempt toward the man himself:
"Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted." (Gal. 6:1)

This is hard, since our personal embarrassment may be deep! But, what did Jesus do? Jesus accepted dinner invitations from many whose public piety he publicly challenged - for their sake. May our hearts be like his.

1 comment:

  1. Apparently this is what Jesus would do because this is what your pastor says:
    “If you haven't figured it out yet, the entire GOP and their right-wing hacks are crooks, conmen, haters and anti democracy bigots. They believe in lies, cheating, voter suppression, fear mongering, hate and greed. They do not believe in the constitution or law & order.”
    Pretty much a hypocritical comment. The only real hate is coming from those that are supposed to be spreading the love of Jesus. I guess the love is only for the group of people that has the same political viewpoints as your pastor.