October 23, 2017

Reconsider Jesus – What was Jesus Like?

Michael-on-beach-wideOn Fridays we are taking a journey with Michael Spencer through the Gospel of Mark. We have found many of his writings and sermons on Mark and are editing and compiling them into a book: Reconsider Jesus – A fresh look at Jesus from the Gospel of Mark. The following is a blog post written by Michael Spencer in May of 2008. It is one of nearly 200 source documents that will shape the commentary. The book is still quite a ways from completion, but if you would like to be contacted when it is available for purchase, drop us a note at michaelspencersnewbook@gmail.com. As usual your thoughts and comments are welcome.

Mark 3:20 Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. 21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”….Mark 3:31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers* are outside, seeking you.” 33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said,”Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

Most Christians aren’t like Jesus.

Should we even try to be? Isn’t that impossible?

None of us can be like Jesus perfectly, but the Gospel of the Kingdom calls Jesus’ disciples to hear his call and set the goal and direction of their lives to be like him. For a follower of Jesus, Paul’s words of “follow me as I follow Christ,” are translated simply, “follow Christ in every way possible.”

Ghandi said “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.” He’s far from the only one to have made that observation, and those critics aren’t holding anyone to a standard of perfection. They are simply looking for enough congruence that the claim to be a follower of Jesus makes sense.

Christians have gotten very good at explaining why they really shouldn’t be expected to be like Christ. At various points, these explanations are true. At other points, they start sounding like winners in a competition for absurdist doublespeak.

Perhaps many Christians don’t resemble Jesus because they don’t really know what Jesus was like. Or- more likely- they assume Jesus was very much like themselves, only a bit more religious.

Getting our bearings on being like Jesus will start with something very important: discarding our assumption that our personal and collective picture of Jesus is accurate.

One of the constants in the Gospels is the misunderstanding of Jesus. The list of mistaken parties is long.

Herod the Great mistook Jesus for a political revolutionary.

The religious leaders mistook Jesus for another false Messiah.

Jesus’ family mistook him for a person who was “out of his mind.”

Nicodemus mistook Jesus for a wise teacher.

The rich young ruler mistook Jesus for a dispenser of tickets to heaven.

The woman at the well mistook Jesus for a Jewish partisan.

Herod Antipas mistook Jesus for John the Baptist back from the grave.

The people said that Jesus was a political messiah, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.

The disciples….oh my. The disciples were certain Jesus was a political messiah/king who would bring the Kingdom through miracles, but just at the moment they were most certain of who and what Jesus was, he turned everything upside down. Only after the horror of the cross was past and the Spirit opened their minds and hearts to the truth did the disciples begin to see Jesus clearly.

Thomas mistook Jesus for a dead man.

Like the blind man in Mark 8, the disciples had partial, unclear sight that required a second touch for clarity.

I believe Judas misjudged Jesus. Saul the persecutor certainly did, as did Pilate and the Romans.

If you got all the people who misjudged Jesus into a room, you’d need a bigger room.

When our children were small, my son was a big fan of wrestling. Every wrestler has a “signature move” to end a match; a move that no one does exactly like they do.

When I read Mark 11 and the story of Jesus turning over the tables of the merchants and moneychangers, I believe Jesus’ “signature move” is turning over the tables of expectations about who he is and what it means to follow him.

Read back through the Biblical examples I’ve cited. In almost every instance, it’s Jesus who overturns the tables of expectations and preconceived notions. It’s not just a discovery by a seeker. Jesus is the initiator of the big surprises. Part of what it means to be a Jesus-follower is to have your notions of religion, life and God turned upside down by the rabbi from Nazareth.

So is Jesus like today’s Christians who so easily assume they now what Jesus is all about? I’d like to suggest that the answer is “No.” Jesus isn’t like today’s Christians at all, and a large portion of our failure of Christlikeness comes down to a failure to know what Jesus was like.

Do you like grape Kool-Aid? I’ve always loved the taste of grape Kool-Aid on a hot day.

Have you ever tasted grapes? Do grapes taste grape Kool-Aid?

No, they don’t. But you could easily imagine a child who loves grape Kool-Aid eating a grape and saying “Yuck!! This doesn’t taste like grapes at all!”

The real thing has been replaced by the advertised replacement so long that there’s genuine confusion and disappointment at the taste of a real grape.

So it is with Jesus. The version of Jesus that dominates so much contemporary Christianity is the grape Kool-Aid version of a real grape. And many, many Christians have no “taste” for Jesus as we find him in scripture, especially the Gospels.

Where would the real Jesus perform his “signature” move of turning over our popular misconception of him?

Here’s just a few tentative and preliminary suggestions.

Jesus wasn’t building an institution or an organization, but an efficient, flexible movement with the Gospel at the center and grace as the fuel.

The church Jesus left in history was a “band of brothers (and sisters)” than an organization of programs and buildings.

The message at the heart of all Jesus said and did was the Kingdom of God, which implicitly included himself as King and the status of all the world as rebels in need of forgiveness and surrender.

The movement Jesus left behind was made up of the last, the lost, the least, the losers and the recently dead. The world would never recognize this Jesus shaped collection of nobodies as successful.

Jesus treated women, sexual sinners and notoriously scandalous sinners with inexplicable acceptance.

Jesus taught the message, power and presence of the Kingdom. He did not teach how to be rich, how to improve yourself, how to be a good person or how to be successful.

Jesus didn’t teach principles. He taught the presence of a whole new world where God reigns and all things are made right.

Jesus rejected the claims of organized religion to have an exclusive franchise on God, and embodied the proof that God was in the world by his Son and through his Spirit to whomever has faith in Jesus.

Jesus practiced radical acceptance in a way that was dangerous, upsetting and world-changing.

Jesus calls all persons to follow him as disciples in the Kingdom of God. This invitation doesn’t look identical to the experiences of the apostles, but the claims and commands of Jesus to his apostles extend to all Jesus-followers anywhere.

God is revealed in Jesus in a unique way. What God has to show us and to say to us is there in Jesus of Nazareth. All the fullness of God lives in him, and to be united to Jesus by faith is to have the fullness of all God’s promises and blessings.

Jesus didn’t talk much about how to get to heaven, and certainly never gave a “gospel presentation” like today’s evangelicals. Nor did he teach that any organization of earth controlled who goes to heaven.

Jesus never fought the culture war.

Jesus was political because the Kingdom of God is here now, but he was the opposite of the political mindset of his time as expressed in various parties and sects.

Jesus was radically simple in his spirituality.

Jesus was radically simple in his worship.

Jesus wasn’t an advocate of family values as much as he was a cause of family division.

Jesus fulfills the old testament scriptures completely, and they can not be rightly understood without him as their ultimate focus.

The only people Jesus was ever angry at was the clergy. He called out clergy corruption and demanded honesty and integrity from those who claimed to speak for God and lead his people.

Jesus embraced slavery and servanthood as the primary identifiers of the leaders of his movement.

Jesus didn’t waste his time with religious and doctrinal debates. He always move to the heart of the matter. Love God, Love Neighbor, Live the Kingdom.

Jesus expected his disciples to get it, and was frustrated when they didn’t.

Jesus died for being a true revolutionary, proclaiming a Kingdom whose foundations are the City of God.

Does this sound like Jesus as you’ve encountered him in evangelicalism?

That’s the sound of tables turning over.

That’s the taste of a real grape, not the Kool-Aid.

That’s why so many Christians aren’t like Jesus.

They have no idea what he was really all about.

Comments

  1. The more we understand what Jesus was all about…the more we realize that we are nothing like him and that we will not to be anything like him.

    “Love your enemies.” “If you hate your brother (anyone) then you are a murderer.” “If you do not divest yourself of all your possessions you cannot be my disciple.”

    He was the perfect human being…as well as the Living God.

    You think you can be even somewhat like Jesus? Good luck.

    But He knows us. He knows all about us. He told us that ALL of us are liars. And what he said lies within all our hearts isn’t a flattering picture.

    But He loves us and forgives us, anyway. For His sake. Not even our own sakes.

    I find it tough enough to just be what I was made to be…a creature of His…and now His child.

    Thanks, Mike.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Dude, I’ve noticed your comments sound like short sermons, like a string of Biblical platitude after Biblical platitude. This makes you sound like you’re off on your Fluffy Cloud somewhere talking Spiritualese while the rest of us slog through the mud below.

      • There’s nothing wrong with short sermons, HUG. Steve didn’t sound like he was “off on [his] Fluffy Cloud somewhere talking Spiritualese” to me. Do you two have a history of antagonism here at iMonk?

        One man’s truth is another man’s Biblical platitudes. Maybe it’s in the eye (and heart) of the beholder.

        Check your own attitude, brother. iMonk is all about agreeing to disagree without attacking one another.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Slick passive-aggressive blame shift, BTDT.
          “It’s All Your Fault, You’re The One With The Problem!”

          There’s a 50/50 chance I’m going to be told in Four Days “You Have Cancer — Have A Nice Day!” And “Patient Empowerment” means I get to Research Prostate Cancer, I get to Review and Evaluate All My Doctors and Treatment Options, I get to Monitor All My Treatments, I get to be a Prostate Oncologist bucking the Medical Establishment Conspiracy. Each of these a full-time job in and of itself on top of a full-time job where I’m doing the work of three people (“Mutlitasking! Multitasking! Multitasking!”) plus a full sheaf of It’s All Your Responsibility at home. (And my wake-up radio is running Prostate Cancer Institute and Pre-Paid Cemetery Plots and Funerals ads on heavy rotation.)

          I warn you in advance, Christianese Proof Texts and Spiritualese Platitudes will NOT be appreciated.

          • So then you’re basically saying that a person in the midst of horrible circumstances and having the week that no one should have gets a pass and can be as rude as he or she likes. .

          • “So then you’re basically saying that a person in the midst of horrible circumstances and having the week that no one should have gets a pass and can be as rude as he or she likes.”

            Nice try, but I really doubt that is what he was saying. And where was HUG rude? He found a comment off-putting and said so. I found it off-putting as well for maybe the same reason (this year has been horrible, can’t picture things getting better, and tough circumstances can make that Christian-version-of-HAL9000 stuff can feel like salt in the wounds) but so what? That’s my problem, not Steve’s, I’m sure he meant well, and no, Mr Guy doesn’t have a history of antagonism, quite the opposite, have a good day everybody.

            PS So you quickly pounce on Mr. Guy and then say “we are to quick to pounce on each other”?
            I think I need an internet vacation.

      • HUG, I won’t tell you “Go in peace, be warm and well fed,” but please know that we’re praying for you in your slog through the mud. That’s the best we can do from here.

        My dad went down with prostate cancer, but he was into his 80s and inoperable at that age. There are a lot more options with a man your age (who is also my age, so it’s personal). But the best solution is no cancer. We’re praying.

      • Katharina von Bora says:

        I enjoy Steve’s observations. Even when I don’t completely agree with them, they give me something to consider. I don’t enjoy the obvious chip you have on your shoulder about many topics, HUG. Maybe it’s time to take a breather and engage in some non-internet self-care.

      • Most of the people here sound like that. It’s just Christianese (as you say). The iMonk people are as full of it as any other evangelicals.

    • kerokline says:

      I know HUG beat me to it, but how can you believe that in good faith? I won’t challenge that you do, but when I was more evangelically orthodox than I am now, the weight and drama of such thoughts made me endlessly depressed. Call me weak, but “perfection” and “impossible” are extremes that I cannot conceptualize.

      More than that, they’re simply something I have never experienced. I’ve never known a moment I felt powerless to improve or chose differently, I have never sinned in a way that I don’t believe G-d understands and forgives – not out of irrational grace, but out of love.

      I know I am young and naive, but I have never known evil in the terms you describe, in the extremities you describe. I went to school for psychology, so take this as the ignorant worldview it may be, but here is how I see it: Everyone I have ever met or read about was either trying to be a good person, or was trying to be a good person and was misled, or was broken. I have known “evil” people, who either lived through or were born into such circumstances (abuse, genetic abnormalities, wrong place & time) that their actions were both intentional and wrong. But G-d must see the same thing I see; reasons. And if He can’t find room to forgive where I can find room to forgive, something is horribly wrong.

      Jesus came to bring his Kingdom here – in us, among us. Something is qualitatively different about humanity now than before he came. Maybe it doesn’t have to be so bad. If Jesus saw the world as a place worth living and dying in, a place worth being a carpenter for 30 years in, a world full of people worth knowing and loving (in life!), maybe we should see it that way too.

      • It sounds as if you’ve set yourself up as G-d after you discovered that G-d holds the same opinions you do.

        I see nothing in your final sentence that is in conflict with what Steve said.

        We are too quick to pounce on each other.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > I know I am young and naive,

        Maybe young, but it doesn’t sound that naive to this older grump.

        > Everyone I have ever met or read about was either trying to be a good person,
        > or was trying to be a good person and was misled, or was broken.

        Everybody is “broken”. I do not know that general people are “trying to be a good person”; I often suspect a large number of people aren’t that concerned either way, they primarily want to avoid trouble [not quite the same as trying to be “good”]. But most certainly don’t want trouble, or desire to actively hurt anyone.

        I am not a psychologist [and don’t have much respect for the psychological ‘sciences’]; I don’t know how saying people are broken or misled helps dealing with the non-trivial number of people who really actually enjoy exercising power over others, and sometimes hurting them [if not physically at least emotionally/spiritually]. In the corporate world there is no shortage of these; somedays I suspect one out of every three ‘office managers’ are classically evil.

        > I have known “evil” people, who either lived through or were born into such circumstances
        > (abuse, genetic abnormalities, wrong place & time) that their actions were both intentional
        > and wrong. But G-d must see the same thing I see; reasons.

        One thing you may learn as you progress from being young and naive to being an old grump is to pay much less attention to those “reasons”. Who cares. You are here now; make choices. The reasons don’t matter concerning the consequences of what people do, and damaged people [pretty much all of us] are better of when they ditch their narrative and live in the now.

        • kerokline says:

          You sound like my step dad 🙂 He never quite understood the psychology thing. Or the “all people are generally good” thing.

          If you’ll excuse the naval gazing, maybe the psychology classes are why “reasons” mean so much to me. Psychology the science (post Freud/ Jung) sees the human body / brain not as completely mechanistic, but certainly mechanical. I would never “blame” a computer or car, in a “good / evil” sense, for being broken. It’s not “fault” worthy, but it does need fixing.

          Maybe it’s Steve’s outlook that bothers me. I love people, all people. I’m scared of aggression, because I don’t understand it and hate when I feel aggressive, but I truly love people. How can I think so poorly of them then? I can, on one hand, say that man is fallen, while on the other say that man is capable of good. Cut off the one hand, right?

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            > You sound like my step dad 🙂 He never quite understood the psychology thing.

            Possibly because there isn’t much to understand about a psuedo-science that attempts to explain away people’s choices.

            > Or the “all people are generally good” thing.

            Because it is rubbish. What is “generally good” anyway? Either a choice is selfish/charitiable, virtuous/base, cowardly/corageous, righteous/sinful, wise/foolish, etc… it is never “generally” any of the above.

            > If you’ll excuse the naval gazing, maybe the psychology classes are
            > why “reasons” mean so much to me.

            I believe that is true. I have a sibling, a decade older than me, came into adult hood in the 70s/80s – the height of the psychological childhood-reviewing recovered-memory foolishness. And profoundly preoccupied with the reasons; everyone must be psychologically deconstructed.

            I’m with Aristotle; stay out of a man’s head, you can tell exactly what kind of man he is by what he *DOES*.

            > Psychology the science (post Freud/ Jung) sees the human body

            Both of whom where just spilling out whatever idea fancied them; there is nothing “science” about either of them.

            >brain not as completely mechanistic, but certainly mechanical.

            Maybe. I do not believe it is mechanical at all; which is not to say it does not have method. Methods need not be determenistic; information theory allows for that.

            > I would never “blame” a computer or car, in a “good / evil” sense, for being broken.

            I did not say I blamed any human for being broken, doesn’t mean they aren’t.

            And I might ‘blame’ a computer, in the way I think you mean it. Depends on the computer. The computer I would blame just hasn’t been built *yet*.

            > It’s not “fault” worthy, but it does need fixing.

            Not sure what “not fault worthy” means.

            > Maybe it’s Steve’s outlook that bothers me. I love people, all people.

            I love a lot of them; cannot honestly say all. I love a whole lot more than I used to

            > I’m scared of aggression,

            Ditto.

            > because I don’t understand it

            Really? Personally, I’d challenge you to be a bit more honest with yourself. I have no problem understanding aggression, even savage aggression and acts of war and terrorism. Clearly thinking – they are terribly reasonable; *depending on what you want* [and your perception of the options available to you].

            > and hate when I feel aggressive, but I truly love people.

            Agree. Most of the things in my life I have done that I am persistently shamed by were manifestations of aggression.

            > How can I think so poorly of them then?

            Who said I thought poorly of them? Leave the Evangelical mindset behind; I can recognize the brokenness or inferiority of someone or something, and not ‘look down’ on them. One doesn’t have to be the other; despite what the circus says.

            > I can, on one hand, say that man is fallen, while on the other say that man is capable of good.

            Absolutely, this is not a boolean thing.

            > Cut off the one hand, right?

            No, having two hands is useful.

      • Katharina von Bora says:

        YOU have never felt powerless to improve or choose differently. Many, many people, on the other hand, HAVE felt that way. And the theology of grace brings great comfort to those who have felt this way. YOU cannot imagine doing something that felt unforgivable. Others, sadly, easily can.

        I would argue that your confession here betrays some degree of unexamined privilege. It sounds like you do not bear a cross of addiction, for instance. It sounds like you have not been put in a position by someone with great power where you must choose a kind of martyrdom or to betray your own values. And, importantly, it sounds like you have never dealt with someone who was cruel and sadistic just for the sake of it–truly evil, not just a sad former abused child or someone who had been dealt a difficult hand in life.

        Count your blessings, but yes, you sound naive to me.

    • kerokline says:

      ok, that was a bit rambly. I need more coffee before writing comments.

      the TL;DR is this – Being “like” Jesus is a comparison, not an equivalence, and the only thing I get from thoughts like”You think you can be even somewhat like Jesus? Good luck” is the belief that its not worth trying.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > “Love your enemies.” “If you hate your brother (anyone) then you are a murderer.”
      > “If you do not divest yourself of all your possessions you cannot be my disciple.”

      Each of the above is stated in a specific context [especially the last one]; you are just tossing them out by themselves, where they sound unbearable.

      They aren’t really that unbearable, or even that novel [unique to the Christ].

    • You think you can be even somewhat like Jesus? Good luck.

      Yes, if Jesus asks for it, and expects it, and gives everything I need to accoplish this, then heaven-yeah…… And don’t twist this to mean sinlessness or perfection: I’m talking about walking with and toward Jesus and HIS kingdom, that’s all.

    • “You think you can be even somewhat like Jesus? Good luck.”

      It happens all the time, Steve.

      There’s no implication in Scripture that we can’t be like Jesus. In fact it’s explicitly expected of his disciples in the Spirit. In fact, without this expectation being set before us, we’re MORE likely, not less, to become religious zealots, pharisees, or apes susceptible to whatever religious/cultural fadism that knocks on the door.

      If what you mean is that we can’t eradicate sin, fine. But for a disciple, the the character of Christ begins to grow in them, even amidst the sin. We’re two different people living in one body. (“It’s not me, but the sin living in me,” plus “not I, but Christ in me.”)

  2. Bill Garrett says:

    A perfect meditation to start the day. Thank you!

  3. Scooter's Mom says:

    Oh Mike, I would love to know the Jesus you described here. I never heard about Him in church. I can’t help but feel love for the Saviour you described. Thank you for the wonderful post.

  4. “The Real Grape.”

    That metaphor begs for an extended treatment. Very good.

  5. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Jesus’ favorite M.O seems to be doing the unexpected and blindsiding you.

    I am a great fan of this in writing fiction (take the reader’s expectation then flip it on its head), but it’s something else when it happens to you for real.

  6. David Cornwell says:

    Something I’ve noticed about Jesus. He would not fit very well into the modern political-social construct of “family values.”

    I do not know how to phrase this without offending someone, but will try anyway. For a few years, and especially during the last couple of years I’ve grown increasingly uneasy about the fixation many of have on “family.” One man said to me “family is everything to me and everything I do is about family.” This man is a successful person who started and developed a small business, and is now comfortably retired. So his family has expanded. At one level I applaud this. At another I worry about it. It’s almost as if here is a new idol that as worked its way into our psyche and to which we direct our worship. Or part of our worship, as our culture makes other demands also. But in view of how Jesus interacted with those around him as given account in today’s passage, this concern will not go away.

    My unease is enhanced when the same people who have such a sharp “focus on family” will turn in almost the same breath and denounce the alien who is in our midst. And even this is not the end of it if you listen closely. Family is drawn up tight around us and almost becomes a protective fortress from which we view the world. To hell with everything else.

    The thing is, I really like these people. They are appealing at many levels. So I wonder. So if we were anything like Jesus, how would we see this?

    • kerokline says:

      Did anyone else see the recent true blood? The pastor was giving a eulogy for Terry, and the line went something like, “I’ve always believed priorities go G-d, Family, Country… for Terry, it went Family, Family, Family.”

      When HBO pastors espouse something as an “everyone can agree on this” virtue, you know it’s a reach too far.

      • Terry died???!!!!

        • Family-olatry is alive and well, especially in the Evangelical Circus.

          When Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me” the only hierarchy of commitment that I can see is Jesus and The Least. In our fallen-ness family will always trump “the least of these”–and Jesus–because we consistently have a narrow concept of Family.

          The Church as True Family

          We, as church, are ready to be challenged by the other. This has to do with the fact that in the church, every adult, whether single or married, is called to be parent. All Christian adults have a parental responsibility because of baptism. Biology does not make parents in the church. Baptism does. Baptism makes all adult Christians parents and gives them the obligation to help introduce these children to the Gospel. Listen to the baptismal vows; in them the whole church promises to be parent. In this regard the church reinvents the family.

          The assumption here is that the first enemy of the family is the church. When I taught a marriage course at Notre Dame, I used to read to my students a letter. It went something like this, “Our son had done well. He had gone to good schools, had gone through the military, had gotten out, had looked like he had a very promising career ahead. Unfortunately, he has joined some eastern religious sect. Now he does not want to have anything to do with us because we are people of ‘the world.’ He is never going to marry because now his true family is this funny group of people he associates with. We are heartsick. We don’t know what to do about this.” Then I would ask the class, “Who wrote this letter?” And the students would say, improbably some family whose kid became a Moonie or a Hare Krishna.” In fact, this is the letter of a fourth century Roman senatorial family about their son’s conversion to Christianity.

          From the beginning we Christians have made singleness as valid a way of life as marriage. This is how. What it means to be the church is to be a group of people called out of the world, and back into the world, to embody the hope of the Kingdom of God. Children are not necessary for the growth of the Kingdom, because the church can call the stranger into her midst. That makes both singleness and marriage possible vocations. If everybody has to marry, then marriage is a terrible burden. But the church does not believe that everybody has to marry. Even so, those who do not marry are also parents within the church, because the church is now the true family. The church is a family into which children are brought and received. It is only within that context that it makes sense for the church to say, “We are always ready to receive children. We are always ready to receive children.” The people of God know no enemy when it comes to children.

          Stanley Hauerwas

    • I hear you David, and share the same concern.

      Having said that I think family is important, but then how does that make me any different than millions of others out there, many who have no religious affiliation of any kind? I would go as far as saying in a normal healthy human being the urge to care for family is natural. That is not particularly Christian!

      The real acid test is how do love others, strangers and those unlike me? That’s my own internal test. Sometimes I do okay. And on a bad day, not good at all.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > He would not fit very well into the modern political-social
      > construct of “family values.”

      I honestly stuggle with how to fit him in [in an actionable ‘real’ way] to an urban [increasingly hyper-urban] crowded planet of 6 billion people, especially in a western society that is profoundly and often actively *disinterested* in religious values.

      > the fixation many of have on “family.”
      > At one level I applaud this.

      I do not; I believe you have to shove pretty darn hard to fit ‘nuclear family’ into a Christian ideology. You have to shove hard enough that it is deformed into some other shape.

      > It’s almost as if here is a new idol that as worked its way into our psyche

      Nothing new [I don’t see any reason to refer to it as an ‘idol’], it is just dreary old tribalism. It is the root form of human society [one all we were were little familial bands, probably rarely more than a coupld dozen people, usually less]. It is an easy thing to center one’s existence on, the most natural pose. But we are not bound to this model, Jesus calls out to us to have a grander and higher vision.

      > But in view of how Jesus interacted with those around him as given account
      > in today’s passage, this concern will not go away.

      And Jesus’s vision is so much more expansive and open ended. It is adventurous and refreshing in contrast to the tediousness of modern western tribalism [aka “family values”]. Really, how many radio broadcasts on how to control what your children see on the Internet can one listen to?

      • David Cornwell says:

        ” [I don’t see any reason to refer to it as an ‘idol’]”

        You may be right. It just seems to me that anything that we seem to worship rather than the true God is an idol. Maybe I’ve got it wrong. However some of the phraseology I’ve heard in reference to one’s family makes me wonder. Or– maybe I’ve got a screw loose.

        “how many radio broadcasts on how to control what your children see on the Internet can one listen to?”

        Amen. When I was young I listened to and read James Dobson’s stuff and thought maybe he was right. All it left me with was guilt and failure most of the time. Now I hear preachers in church giving a series on “how to do it.” And think they have so much to learn. and experience.

        • David, my girls are all in their 20s now, and a few years ago, looking back, I realized that I had learned better parenting skills from Bill Cosby than from James Dobson.

          • David Cornwell says:

            I agree. Listening, caring, love, and humor go a long way. And nothing always works. Things can go wrong. Things can go right. And every kid is different, sometimes as much as night and day.

            Oh yeah, and praying is always a good thing.

          • “Every kid is different” is the truth, all right. And an OT professor of mine used to say that the Proverb “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” should be translated “Train up a child after his (or her) own way.”

          • Mark Kennedy says:

            Ted, there is an interesting excursus on this subject by Gordon Hugenberger in Basics of Biblical Hebrew (Pratico and Van Pelt), in which he takes the Hebrew to be saying that if you train a child ‘according to his way’, that if you stop the difficult task of discipline and love that is parenting, the child will be reinforced in his ‘sinful proclivities’. It’s pretty eye-opening stuff.

          • Mark, I don’t think the “according to his own way” translation precludes the task of discipline and love. I think it means that we shouldn’t try to mold the child into what we think they should be, or what society or market forces demand. In other words, don’t push engineering on a young person whose real talents are in music.

            The OT prof that I mentioned is Marvin Wilson (still ticking at Gordon College after all these years). He was one of the translators of the NIV. Gary Pratico, whom you mention, is at Gordon-Conwell Seminary, just a few miles from the college. A lot of good stuff coming out of those schools.

          • Just read about Gordon Hugenberger on Wikipedia. Cool. He also is a product of Gordon-Conwell and teaches there from time to time. Also senior pastor of Park St Church in Boston, Harold Ockenga’s old stomping grounds. Translation review board of the ESV. And has a very modern (yet biblical) outlook on homosexuality. There is hope for Massachusetts yet, and perhaps the world, although the news lately don’t make it look so good.

          • David Cornwell says:

            Ted, speaking of Harold Ockenga, I heard him preach in our college chapel back in the early 1960’s. He was one excellent preacher.

  7. S V Fencing says:

    I certainly don’t fully agree with the attitude in the article. I especially liked the first part about what who folks thought Jesus to be. One couldn’t think much otherwise without really knowing Him. We do know that PRIDE was the biggest obstacle in the way of a relationship with Him then as it is now.

    I believe the writer has forgotten that Jesus was crucified and rose again by the Power of God! He didn’t teach the salvation message, HE WAS SALVATION, but He had not yet atoned for the sins of the world. After He said “It is finished”, it was. He had finished God’s plan of salvation for all who would believe.

    I don’t get some of the comments from folks who refer to living a sinless life……one way or another. I didn’t even get that from the article.

    But we, who have tasted the saving grace of Jesus Christ, KNOW our sins have ALL been forgiven, past, present and future…….whether the author believes that or not.

    One more thing: Where God is concerned I do live a sinless life because God looks at me through the blood of his son, which covers ALL my sins.

    If folks who preach sinless perfection would only realize that, they wouldn’t have to consider loss of salvation and they could live a life of Joy sharing Jesus as He intended……………not worrying if they were going to commit a sin that will plunge the, into the depth of hell.

    There’s a lot of attitudes, shown by statements, in the article with which I could debate, but I wont. I can only say that God is JUST and that He will do what He promised whether we think it is JUST or not.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      I’m not quite sure what you’re arguing against. Where in the article do you even find statements that directly contradict any of the statements you just made?

    • Christiane says:

      I don’t know what your faith tells you, but I doubt that you should be considering that your sins are ‘not a problem’ with God if you are still committing them thinking you are ‘covered’ and it’s ‘okay’

  8. Jesus calls all persons to follow him as disciples in the Kingdom of God. This invitation doesn’t look identical to the experiences of the apostles, but the claims and commands of Jesus to his apostles extend to all Jesus-followers anywhere.

    Sounds a whole lot like Dallas Willard to me…… and like something Jesus would , and is still, saying.

  9. Michael was in one-liner mode the day he wrote this article. A few gems:

    The real thing has been replaced by the advertised replacement so long that there’s genuine confusion and disappointment at the taste of a real grape.

    Jesus wasn’t building an institution or an organization, but an efficient, flexible movement with the Gospel at the center and grace as the fuel.

  10. Let’s just cut to the quick;

    “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

    There you go. There’s your marching orders. Now go and make it happen.

    • Troublemaker.
      🙂

      • He was…wasn’t He!

        I mean, we had (have) this good little religious project going where we can prop ourselves up and feel good about what ‘we do’…and then Jesus has to show up and say stuff like that to us.

        Some nerve. 😀

        • You,be got your mind made up on these issues, maybe I do also. Your theology does nothing for me, but we are talking past each other. As chapluain mike has said, I’M is not life real life: have a real Saturday.

        • I meant you, Steve, not Jesus. But it’s true about him too.

    • Christiane says:

      I wonder am I the only one who ever thinks they see a ‘connection’ between:
      “Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.”
      and this:
      ” “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

      I don’t think Christ is telling us we can’t even ‘try’.
      I just think He wants us to take the blinders off of our eyes before we act in this world, with the goal of preventing our own human natures to get in the way of acts of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

      A lot of times we go to pick up a stone, and throw it (we do this in many ways) without self-examination that is humbling enough to put the stone down and walk away sadly. A lot of times our natural human impulse is to reject those who are ‘different’ from ourselves, but we are asked to treat them with the same compassionate care that we ourselves would want if we were at the mercy of strangers . . .

      There’s an old Judaic story about a young boy asking a rabbi ‘how would we know when it is light enough that the night is over and the day has begun?’ . . . at the end of the tale, the rabbi tells the child that when we can look into the eyes of other persons, and recognize that they are truly our brothers, then the darkness of night has passed and through the risen sun has risen and the light has finally come to us and we can see as we were meant to see.

      Yes, I think Christ the Risen Lord challenges us to come into His ‘light’ so that we can see one another as we were meant to. He takes the stones from our hands and replaces them with forgiveness. . .

  11. I’ve always liked Andrew Lloyd Weber’s idea from “Superstar” of Jesus as a charismatic cult leader. Reading between the lines of the gospels (which are the 1st century equivalent of religious tracts), he was a dangerous person to know–and not in a good way.