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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Jesus, the... Liberal?

For the last few days, I've been reading about Jesus in the Gospels. (I got the idea from Mentanna) I've been thinking about how all followers of Jesus see Him through their own cultural lenses. All of them. And I'm struck by the idea that our different interpretations of Jesus can be so, well, different.

Reading just the Gospels has challenged my perspective on Jesus. If you read about Jesus without reading the rest of the Bible (not that we should...), you would likely get, well, a different Jesus. You might get a Jesus who is:

Pro-taxes (Render unto Caesar...) Matthew 22:21
Concerned about helping the needy (Especially widows and orphans) Matthew 25:40
Anti-violence/war (Turn the other cheek) Matthew 5:39
Anti-religion (Rebuked religious leaders) Mark 12:38-40
Concerned with Personal Health (Healed the sick) Mark 8:22
Against Unethical Capitalism (Money-changers in the Temple) Matthew 21:12
Remained in the Jewish tradition (His religion was Jewish, not Christian) Matthew 12:35
Made and Drank Alcohol (Cana Wedding) John 2:1-11
Grace instead of Judgement: Luke 6:36-38
Forgiveness over Justice: Luke 6:28-30
Told stories instead of preaching sermons: Matthew 13:34
Left the meaning unclear: Mark 10:4-11
Never planted a church...

This Jesus would be called a "Liberal" by some believers today.

Anyway, just an observation. I understand that we should look at all of Scripture, but I'm wonder how much of the "Christian religion" is based on the teachings of Christ.

10 comments:

CharlieMac said...

Stepchild,
It does my heart good to know that we have thinking people like you on the mission field. Keep on "keeping on". We will keep on praying for God's guidance and blessings on you.
One question. Could your classification of 'anti-religion' also be subtitled 'anti-fundie'?

Publius said...

So much of what we "know" about Jesus is the result of a long history of Christian tradition and theology. Not that that's a bad thing, it's just the truth. I daresay if we read just the Gospels, we would certainly see Christ, but we might misunderstand Him as badly as the religious leaders of His time, or maybe even as badly as the disciples themselves.

Nobody "gets" Jesus. He is inexplicable. He chooses people we pass by, He says things we would never, He breaks all our rules. He is that He is. He is, indeed, as Paul described Him in Romans 9, "a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame."

This is a good exercise, one I wish we Baptists engaged more often - tackling head-on the parts of Scripture that just don't make sense.

Anonymous said...

Good post, Ernie. Keep moving forward. BTW, did Jesus ever start a CPM? He wouldn't have been welcome in the IMB, would he? Private prayer language, not a church baptism, and he was single, too. Why do you even bother with the IMB? I know...the salary and benefits.

mr. t said...

The most challenging thing that Jesus says to me (here lately) is: "Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat - I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?" (Luke 9:23 and following from Peterson's "The Message").

I struggle with this. I don't want to suffer, I don't want to sacrifice, I don't want to do a lot of things the Lord is calling me to do. I find myself putting a spin on things that Jesus is telling me.

I respond in this way: "Well Lord, I will obey, but in this way or that, after all, doing the extreme thing you ask Lord, that does not fit my personality, gifting or context. Doing this thing you ask can be done without going to the extreme."

I know better, but I still put a spin on what Jesus says to me. I prefer to point to others and say, "look at those hypocrites, those legalists, etc. Thank God I am not like them. If they would just change that policy, stop telling us what to do, etc. Surely that will free us to finally do what God is telling us to do."

I doubt it, we would probably find other excuses. I agree it would make our life easier. But is that what we need to do His will? If we really want to obey Christ, we will find a way to do it. If we really want to know Him, we will embrace the bad with the good.

Thanks for the provocative post.

Publius said...

Mr. T,

I love your honesty. But here's the grace of God - you are doing His will, as best you can right now. If we are obedient we are constantly and every day dying a little bit more to the world, and coming alive a little bit more to Christ in us. By His grace He doesn't wait until we're "finished," whatever that means. He uses us, imperfect us, right now. And He uses us not because He needs us, but to bless us and let us be a part of His work.

Of course, maybe all this is easy to say when I haven't faced any real suffering yet. Hmm...

PHicks said...

I am amused that everybody seems to know what the conservatives would say about this and that. I think though, when it comes to Jesus, the liberals want the conservatives to call Him liberal and the conservatives want the liberals to call Him conservative. It is just another way for each side to claim that Jesus is really on their side.

Rather than say this side would "call" Jesus this or that why are we not saying they would "describe" Jesus as this way or that.

Anyway, it seems to me that Jesus would not be described as liberal because He knew that His mother was a virgin until His birth. He knew that the miracles were unexplainable to display the power of God to an unbelieving world, and that His death would be real and His resurrection would be the turning point of humanity. He knew that God says what He means, means what He says, and cannot be limited in conveying that message by human error.

He is liberal in His giving, Loving in His living, and Just in His dealings.

stepchild said...

PHicks,

Thanks for your comment. You make a good point about one side making claims about what the other side might think in order to prove that their side is right. That's why I said Jesus would be "called" a liberal rather than "described" as one. It's silly, really, and I do it all the time.

I guess when I used the word "Liberal" in this post, I was thinking more in political terms than the "Liberal Chrsitianity" you refer to in your comment.

It seems funny to me that Christians who call themselves "Conservatives" tend also to be politically conservative as well. Of course, the Liberal Christians would tend toward political liberalism in the same fashion.

I got into this a little bit in my post, "A Package Deal." Why are so many of the issues that Jesus concerned himself with (the ones I mention in the original post) considered politically liberal issues today?

Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

PHicks said...

I feel a little bit like Abraham when he was speaking to the Lord about not destroying Sodom for the sake of the righteous, but… let me speak once more.

There was really just one issue that concerned Jesus. That was the issue of the condition of the human heart. He came to seek and to save that which was lost.

He was not an advocate of higher taxes, He simply acknowledged that we should pay our taxes.

He instructed us to meet the needs of those we see in need, but He did not set up a food kitchen.
(Don’t misunderstand me, I am no more opposed to Food Kitchens than you are of starting new churches)

He told us not seek vengeance for ourselves by turning the other cheek but He used the threat of violence to run the “unethical capitalist” out of the temple.

Jesus did remain a Jew. Surely your not implying that all Jews are liberals.

He did teach by the use of stories. He also preached, “Repent for the kingdom is at hand.”
He did show us grace instead of judgement. But included in that grace was the admonition to “go and sin no more.”

I’ll grant you the use of alcohol is an “issue” that is difficult for some Conservatives to accept. You got me on that. Liberals don’t stumble over the use of alcohol….not unless they are drunk. (Just kidding)

I agree with your observation that conservative Baptist, Methods, whatever tend to be conservative voters. Conservative voters believe that individuals are responsible for their own actions and the consequences of their actions. They also believe there is a standard for right and wrong that is unchangeable, the Scriptures for our faith, the Constitution for our government.

Let me say that at this point I have been saddened by our exchange. I should be asking you if there is any way in which I may help or encourage you in your work on the “mission field”. I should be encouraging you to do all things to the glory of God. I should be urging you to not look for reason why you can’t be the “missionary” you thought you would be but to look for ways to be a faithful missionary, working diligently for our Lord.

Please know that we may not pray for you by name, but our desire is to support your efforts to share the gospel to the glory of God.

Be encouraged. Jesus is Lord… whether I always act like it or not.

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