It’s interesting to me how much we love Jesus but don’t really want to do what He taught. Oh, we try to obey our favorite verses, but truth be told, some of Jesus’ teachings are so subversive that they’re embarrassing to us.
These teachings don’t fit our culture, our national pride, or our insecurities and need for self-preservation, so we pretty much ignore them.
What teachings of Jesus am I talking about? Well, here’s a short list from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount…
Don’t be angry with anyone; don’t call anyone stupid or an idiot (Matt.5:21-22).
Personally seek to resolve any issues anyone might have with you (Matt.5:23-26).
Don’t retaliate against an evil person (Matt.5:38-39).
Give whatever anyone asks of you…actually, give them more than what they asked for (Matt. 5:38-41).
Don’t expect anything in return when you give (Matt.5:42)
Love all your enemies and even those who hate you. Bless those who curse you, pray for those who spitefully use you (Matt.5:43-45)
Forgive everyone who has hurt you, whether they’ve asked for forgiveness or not (Matt.6:12, 14-15).
Don’t worry about anything. Trust God for everything you need (Matt.6:26-34).
Judge others exactly the way you want to be judged by God (Matt.7:1-2).
Treat everyone exactly the way you would want to be treated (Matt.7:12).
Jesus said that if our love is conditional, based on other people’s behavior, we’re no better than the most despicable people in our culture. In Jesus’ day it was the tax collectors…
46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? (Matt.5:46 NIV)
What do we do with these teachings? Reinterpret them? Ignore them? Add our own conditions to protect ourselves from being taken advantage of?
I’ve found this out about myself. I have no trouble agreeing that this is God’s Word, and that it’s good; but I will find slippery loopholes in my theology so I don’t have to pay much attention to them.
But the price of our theological cognitive dissonance is that we end up being no different than our culture while professing to follow Jesus. We treat people we don’t like (or who don’t like us) pretty much the same way everyone else does…we hate people pretty much the same way, too. Our ideas of judgment, punishment, and retribution are exactly like those of the worst reprobates.
So…just how far are we willing to follow Jesus?
This is the absolute brilliance of Jesus’ teachings. I think they penetrate far more deeply than any other teachings in the Bible. They locate us, showing us what’s inside of us.
That is, if we’re willing to see it.
But, rather than embrace this wonderful unraveling of our souls, we tend to ignore them.
Here’s the problem. God wants to look under our hood (or bonnet for you Brits), but we would rather that He looks under everybody else’s hood. And we’re more than willing to help Him do that!
But when He begins to put the searchlight on the motives and intents of our hearts, we put up our walls of reason and create our own personal theology to compartmentalize Him out of those areas.
You see, Jesus actually reveals these inconsistencies in us to help us grow as human beings. This is how He continues to “save” us and make us whole.
The internal conflict exists because we don’t live out our faith in a vacuum. Not only did we grow up in a culture that’s totally antagonistic and dismissive of these subversive teachings of Jesus, we’re so immersed in it everyday of our lives that it seems normal to us.
This matrix, this world pulled over our eyes, is not driven by God’s love; it’s driven by fear and competition and greed. And it uses coercion, manipulation, and violence to accomplish its purposes. This goes all the way back to Adam and his progeny. A legacy of fear-based blame-shifting, envy, hatred, and murder when we don’t get what we want. After all, we’re not our brother’s keeper.
And when we, as Jesus’ followers, follow this course instead of His kingdom, something must give, so we reshape our theology, reinterpreting Jesus through the Adamic lens.
In this dualist world of “us against them,” God is on our side and everything we do is for the glory of God. People who aren’t like us are simply wrong. And if they’re wrong, don’t they deserve to be punished or marginalized? Doesn’t the Bible give us eminent domain to subjugate others to our will, justifying violence, if necessary?
Of course, we have plenty of ignominious examples of this in church history: the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, pogroms, burning heretics at the stake…or the trail of tears and the subjugation of an entire race of people into slavery while declaring them as “less than human”…just to name a few.
These “justifiable” acts of violent inhumanities don’t come from the Kingdom of God; they come from Satan’s construct, empowered by Adam’s fear-driven mindset; the Babylonian world system we are told not to love. It’s the worst form of imprisonment and what actually is “less than human.”
Here’s what historian and theologian, René Girard, said about this deceptive mindset:
Violence is the enslavement of a pervasive lie; it imposes upon men a falsified vision not only of God but also of everything else. And that is indeed why it is a closed kingdom. Escaping from violence is escaping from this kingdom into another kingdom, whose existence the majority of people do not even suspect. This is the Kingdom of love, which is also the domain of the true God, the Father of Jesus, of whom the prisoners of violence cannot even conceive. (René Girard, “Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World,” p.197)
Can we conceive of this Kingdom of love?
You might not like me bringing these things up. You may even vehemently object. That’s quite alright. You see, your issue isn’t with me. And that’s the brilliance of Jesus’ teachings.