Ready for Paul?

Saturday, July 31, 2010

New Testament Tales - What did Jesus say?

What did Jesus say?
1. about divorce?
2. about homosexuality?
3. about murder?
4. about sex outside marriage?
5. about the unforgivable sin?
6. about forgiveness?
7. about judging?
8. about women?
9. about perfection?
10. about eternal damnation?

It’s interesting sometimes to separate what Jesus said from what is taught in church. For example, Jesus never mentioned homosexuality, even though it (or more strictly, bisexuality) was almost the norm for rich Greeks. Jewish society must have been aware of its existence, just as they were aware of eunuchs, who Jesus does mention. Jesus’ teaching on divorce (Mark 10:5; 10:10, Matt 5:31;19:4) has led to different churches defining different rules. His words were prompted by a question concerning Moses’ rules (Deut 24:1-4) made because of our hardness of heart (therefore similar to rules resolving restitution after injury). There’s no indication, in the Bible or the world, that our hearts might have softened with time. Perfect marriages are God’s design, but we still live in a fallen world.

Jesus agrees with the Old Testament that sex outside marriage is adultery if either participant is married to someone else. Otherwise it’s fornication. Then he equates lustful thoughts with adultery, and unreasoning anger with murder, making Old Testament law seem even stricter. He even tells us to be perfect as his Father is perfect (Matt 5:48). On other sexual issues, Jesus never mentions abortion, or the status of children born out of wedlock. (In the Old Testament they were forbidden from full participation in the community, just as any other non-Jew). But he extends the Fatherhood of God extends to us all (John 1:12, Luke 6:35), making non-Jews (and presumably those born out of wedlock) into God’s children as surely as Jews.

Jesus speaks to women, not something religious leaders of the day would normally do, and he includes stories about women in his lessons. Women follow him, minister to him, and presumably, bring their children to him. But he doesn’t make any great pronouncements about their status in society.

Above all, Jesus is seen through his actions as compassionate. He welcomes children, speaks to women and foreigners, stops to explain, feeds crowds, touches lepers. If “actions speak louder than words” it might be wise to ask, “What would Jesus do?” when tempted to condemn our neighbors. We’re told forgiveness is given to those who forgive. Those who set themselves up as judges will be judged. And faith can move mountains, perhaps even leading to repentance. Still, we’re also told it’s important to recognize the difference between right and wrong. Jesus is furious in the Temple. He complains at his disciples’ lack of faith. He despairs of his current generation, and describes how not all who say “Lord lord” will be spared. He condemns the “unforgivable sin” (Mark 3:29, Luke12:10, Matt 12:31) of “blaspheming the Spirit” (though churches have argued through the ages about what that means. And Jesus forgave Paul who religiously persecuted Christians, making it even harder to define).

Jesus’ teaching about hell makes it clear that there is a righteous judge, and there are consequences to sin. Interestingly, he doesn’t use the words Sheol and Hades used in the Old Testament (meaning underworld, or hidden), but rather Gehenna, which refers to a physical place condemned because of burned sacrifices once offered to Moloch there, and used a place to burn refuse. Even so, he teaches far more often about eternal life – a perspective we might be wise to emulate if we’re to avoid the temptation to judge.

1 comment:

Lloyd said...

Very wise and insightful post and study. A lot of today's taboos in the modern day church come from man's traditions, not what our Lord was teaching. God bless, Lloyd