Early in the first letter of John, we read,
By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. (1 John 2: 3-6)
Isn’t that interesting? John, whoever he was, says that Christians can know they’re saved because they keep Jesus’ commands and ‘walk’ as he walked. Likewise, others should be able to see these traits too because, as Jesus is (later) made to say, cult members can be recognised by their ‘fruits’ (Matthew 7:16).
Just what are Jesus’ commands that converts can’t help but demonstrate? Here’s a few:
- Cutting themselves off from family – hating their parents, in fact – just to follow him (Luke 14.26);
- Deny everything about themselves (Matthew 16.24-27);
- Forsaking home, job, wealth, status, credibility and comfort to help bring about God’s Kingdom on Earth (Mark 10.29-31 etc);
- Slaving tirelessly in the service of others (Mark 10.43-44; Matthew 23.11 etc);
- Selling their possessions so that they can give the proceeds to the poor (Matthew 19.21; Luke 14.33);
- Turning the other cheek, repeatedly going the extra mile and giving away the shirt and coat from off their backs– if they’ve still got them after giving everything away – (Matthew 5.38-40);
- Welcoming the stranger, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and visiting those in prison (Matthew 25.35-40);
- Forgiving again and again and again (Matthew 18.21-22);
- Avoiding judging others so that they won’t be judged in turn (Matthew 7.1-3);
- Loving their enemies (Matthew 5.44);
- Regarding persecution and injustices as blessings (Matthew 5.11);
- Doing miracles even more impressive than Jesus’ own (Mark 16.17-18; John 14.12);
- Healing the sick, raising the dead and casting out demons (Matthew 10.7-8);
- Asking for anything in prayer, which will be given to them (Mark 11.24; Matthew 21.22);
- Telling others that the world is about to end (in the first century) and that only Jesus can save them from God’s wrath (Matthew 28.29-34; Matthew 28.16-20).
How many of these things do we see Christians doing? How many of these commandments are Christians compelled to ‘keep’, as letter writer John puts it? Some, it’s true, make attempts with the last (if only they wouldn’t) and a very limited few have a go at a couple of the others. But as far as most Christians are concerned, these commandments may as well not exist. They don’t see Jesus’ instructions as applying to them. I know from experience that they have ready made excuses for not obeying them, let alone feeling an inner compulsion to realise them in their own lives.
Their excuses necessitate them reinterpreting Jesus’ words. They’re metaphorical, they say. ‘He didn’t really mean give everything away because where would that leave us?’ – or they insist his commands have been taken out of context, or have only a spiritual meaning…
Which is to say, nothing Jesus said is to be taken literally, even though the most straight forward reading of his pronouncements is that this is how he meant them. It’s how his early followers, the people who preserved or created his words in the gospels, understood them. Why record them otherwise?
But Jesus’ moralising is inconvenient, impractical, exacting, extreme; ridiculous, in fact, and Christians know this. Still his commands must be dealt with somehow. So the Righteous™ work round them or ignore them completely, replacing his priorities with ones of their own: worshipping him; defending his reputation; striving for power; complaining about secular society; whining about the media; promoting aggression; acquiring wealth (there should be no such thing as a millionaire Christian); claiming persecution; equating faith with guns; trying to control others’ behaviour; interfering in their sex lives; suppressing LGBT people; arguing that religious rights trump those of minorities; opposing abortion.
None of these figured in Jesus’ agenda. Some are even in direct opposition to what he’s made to say in the gospels.
When we see Christians doing the things Jesus tells them they should be doing – what God’s love perfected in them compels them to do – maybe then we’ll listen to what they have to say. When they demonstrate credibility rather than hypocrisy, maybe they’ll have earned the right to be heard. But as there’s not much chance of that happening any time soon, it’s way past time we ignored them, and their superstition, in much the same way they ignore their Lord and Savior™.
This is right on point, Neil, you hit the nail on the head! I make these same points almost continuously in my arguments with Christians (I tell them they are really Paulians which they do NOT take kindly to!) However it was really Paul that made the move to preaching to gentiles knowing full well there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of converting them with circumcision and adherence to the Law prerequisites. Jesus never said anything of the kind, in fact Matthew 17-20, he seems to be quite explicit:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. ****19Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. ***** ***20For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.***
This usually put them back on their heals, especially when they try to tell me “that isn’t what he meant by that….” My favorite. I usually offer them two highlighters to say “Please highlight in yellow the passages we are to take literally and red for the ones that are figurative.” Queue the crickets.
I do like your highlighter suggestion. Christians of all stripes are unable to tell us how to distinguish between Jesus being literal and his being metaphorical. Best I’ve ever got is ‘it’s obvious’ and ‘it takes years of study’ – this from the same person!
How about Matthe 28: 19-20?
9 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
I read “all the world” as, well, all the world. How do you read it?
What do you suppose Jesus meant by “I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”? How did he fulfill them?
The issue rests on what Jesus meant by “fulfill.” The Greek word is pleroo. Som e meanings are to fulfill, make full; (pass.) to be filled, full, complete (often used with reference to the fulfillment of the OT Scriptures):– fulfilled (21), fulfill (11), complete (7), filled with (7), filled (6), fill (2), fill with (2), finished (2), full (2), make complete (2),
Which would you choose?
I rather think that Jesus meant that he would meet the requirements of the law and thus satisfy the law and that was what he implied by the word “accomplished” in verse 18. (The “law” as used in the first century Jewish context meant all the law including the ritual law and not simply the Ten Commandments.) Until that time the law was in effect. After that moment a new standard is applied. That standard, related to the moral law, is the spirit of the law and is expressed in the two great commandments (according to Jesus, and by the Old Testament btw): Love God with all you are, and love your neighbor as you love yourself. Paul concurs. He said that all the law (moral law) is 1is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” James agrees “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture [he means the OT], “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.”
But that is all a little heavy for you.
Of course it’s not too ‘heavy’ for us, Don. As we’ve discussed before, Jesus said little or none of the above. It was created for him by members of his cult and/or the gospel writers, basing it on Paul’s teaching, OT ‘prophecy’, cult rules and other myths. Let’s not debate this again.
We don’t believe Christian mythology, Don. We will argue with you when you turn up here, talking down to us and pushing your idiosyncratic interpretation of Jesus. Nobody makes you do this. You know fine well this is an atheist blog; you don’t have to read it, you don’t have to comment. That you do is your choice, but you can’t then vent your frustration, that we don’t take you seriously, by speaking to us like we’re children and belittling us.
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Still waiting for an objective way to evaluate your inane babblings, Don. Until then, your lessons are as “heavy” on us as latest superhero movie. Popcorn worthy perhaps but not something to waste much thought on.
Neil, a MAJOR factor in all that you write is that quite a LARGE number of believers do NOT read their bible but instead rely on the “holy words” of the preacher (or priest) — who quite often leave out a considerable amount of the “inconvenient” parts.
Moreover, in some churches, “the word” has been subjugated to “social” preaching; i.e., the issue of abortion (the hot topic of the day), who to vote for (to further “The Kingdom), the “sexual” issues of the day, etc., etc.
Yes, exactly. Today’s Christianity is nothing like the version depicted in the Bible. Arguably it never has been. Yet so many contemporary believers insist it is, without, as you say, ever opening their holy book.
Still, I’m sure Don will set us right, explaining as only he can how all these modern Christians aren’t real Christians. Not spirit filled, you see.
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Yes, poor souls. So deluded and unlearned. And barren of the spirit. 😢
I like it. Maybe you are finally, getting the idea.
Neil: But Jesus’ moralising is inconvenient, impractical, exacting, extreme; ridiculous, in fact, and Christians know this. Still his commands must be dealt with somehow.
They are commands that serious Christians take to heart. Just this last week I talked with a young lady my daughter’s age who with her sister are part of missional church in Salem, Oregon, USA. Their whole focus is responding to the homeless crisis in Salem. They provide food, tiny houses as shelter, showers, washing machines (the last two are portable and are taken around the city to various homeless encampments). They provide counseling and recovery groups for addicts and the mentally ill; they have at times taken immigrants into their homes for extended periods of time. And so on. They are doing what Jesus would do. And they are so successful that the city of Salem has provided help in their ministry by providing space for them to function.
This friend btw is a mentally ill lady who has gotten control of her disease by medication, so she knows the territory.
I could multiply this story by many others. My point is that serious Christians take the Lord’s commands seriously and do something about them.
The verse in 1 John has been one of the key verses in my life for over sixty years. I think that I am living by it or trying to by his help.
I do say in the post that there are some Christians who behave like this. My point is that many more don’t. You respond to this by saying they’re not true Christians or, as in this comment, not ‘serious’ ones. In other words, you agree with my point.
In any case, what’s this about trying to obey Jesus commands? He doesn’t say you should try. He says you should. John the letter writer even claims believers are inwardly compelled to obey them.
Incidentally, you asserted in a recent comment that God will grow tired of our not listening to him here on RejectingJesus, and will in consequence harden our hearts (wait, what happened to free will?), abandoning us to our already dissolute and purposeless lives. Well, I can tell you, Don, I’ve checked all the comments and I can’t find any from the Lord. Plenty from you, but none from God himself. Do you think you might just be confusing yourself with the Almighty?
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RE: hardening the heart. Maybe you have used up all the freewill you have been given.
You’re hilarious, Don. You make up this drivel as you go along and pass it off as the Word of the Lord, just like Paul.
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