Where the Christian right got it wrong.
Growing up I used to look forward to going to church and bible study. Looking back I think it had a lot to do with the fact that it was the one place where my insatiable curiosity paid off for me. The church we went to had a summer camp that you could only go to if you completed a series of tasks. You had to memorize the books of the bible in order. Memorize certain scriptures and be able to tell where they were, or if given the book and verse repeat the scripture back. Also you had to read the bible from cover to cover at least once in a year. My home life wasn’t great at that time so being able to get away from it for 4 weeks every summer was definitely a goal I strove for. Bible camp was great but as I was completing the tasks they introduced me to something I didn’t have a lot of, hope. I read the acts of Jesus and his teachings, I learned of the new covenant of grace and freedom. Most of all I learned of the life of a man who taught love and told us to not judge each other cause the debt of sin was already being paid by him. One of my favorite stories of all was the story of Jesus and the adulteress. It is told in John 8 but I will repeat it here.
John 8 The Adulterous Woman
8 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees *brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, 4 they *said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” 6 They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. 7 But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. 10 Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” 11 She said, “No one, [a] Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”
What I loved about this story and still love today is the example Jesus laid out for those who would be Christ Like. In this story the Pharisees had actually laid a trap for Jesus. If he pronounced judgement outside of the Law of Moses, he would be shown to be a heretic, since he would be going against the law given to Moses by the father, and Gods truth doesn’t contradict itself. However, if he passed judgement he would be going against his own teachings of forgiveness and would be shown to be a fraud. Either way he decided the Pharisees figured would benefit them and get rid of the troublesome teacher before a mob. I would have liked to have been there when the Pharisees saw how badly their plan backfired. Not only did they not get the result they wanted, but they gave Jesus a great opportunity to demonstrate compassion and love to the gathered crowd. If one believes as I do, that Jesus was without sin then he was the only person in the crowd that could cast the first stone. If the Pharisees demanded he do so, then they would admit his teachings were from the father. If they cast a stone they would be breaking a cornerstone of their teachings, original sin. So by his words they had to set her free and the crowd had a burden of judgement placed on each of their hearts. Then Christ showed the woman compassion when he let her free. The one person who could have sat in judgement instead offered mercy. The one person who could have convicted her instead walked his own teaching and left her judgement to the father. Also it should be noted that Christ was so outraged by the woman’s actions he was hardly paying attention to what was being said, instead choosing to draw pictures in the sands. Have you ever been in a meeting where you were so bored that instead of paying attention, you idly doodled on your note pad? It is a sad thing to find now that the church has adopted the teachings of the Pharisees in focusing on women having sex via birth control and also the abortion issue, and have ignored Christ’s teachings today.
In Matthew 7 Christ laid out a much clearer teaching regarding judgement of others. In it he states very clearly that by the measure we judge each other we will be judged and tells those who follow his path very explicitly not to judge. He goes on to admonish us to be wary of false prophets who sew dissension and says we will be able to judge them by their fruits. Just before closing with the parable of the man who built his house upon sand he said in chapter 7 verse 15- 23 15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ It was, in those verses memorized to go to summer camp, that I learned the verses that ultimately led me to leave the church.
In this parable Jesus laid out some very key points to the church regarding cause and effect in a language, that while meant for those who at the time lived by farming, is still very clear today. If you would plant to have a harvest of good fruit, you have to start with good seed. For as Jesus said “17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.” This means you cannot have Gods harvest by starting with the planting of sin and iniquity in the world.
At the end of each camp we would have a battle. This consisted of us spending a day wrapping flour in a sheet of toilet paper and the tying it so you had a flour ball that you could throw and would break easily. My mom used to get so mad when she washed my camp clothes because invariably some of my clothes still had some of these balls in the pockets. I digress though. If you were hit by one, you shouted medic and a counselor would come and give you a scripture. If you could cite where it appeared in the bible you were saved. Wow, writing this down, I wonder if the allegory in that was intentional or accidental. Back to the message though. One such scripture that saved me was in the letters to Galatians chapter 5 verses 19- 26 Paul explained what Jesus meant when he said we would know them by the fruits they bear. 19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. I fully expect to hear the statement already that sexual immorality is a fruit of the flesh and you are absolutely correct when you say this. However, so is selfish ambition, idolatry (all you who pursue cash before Christ), hatred, and factions. The difference being Christ told us very plainly that what they do is none of our business by action in the story of the Adulteress and
I can and most likely will write another entire paper on how many times the New Testament authors told us that by Christ’s crucifixion the law was no longer applicable, however for now I would refer you to this excellent teaching regarding this subject http://www.phildrysdale.com/2013/10/37-scriptures-that-prove-christians-are-not-under-the-law/. For the purposes of this one I would just like to make one point. What we the church sows is what the world will harvest. We cannot bring forth a harvest of Grace in the world by constantly focusing on the damnation of the law. In fact by doing so it multiplies sin in the world. How does this work you might ask? That is actually a great question allow me to explain.
Ask, Seek, Knock (Luke 11:5–13)
7: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. 9: Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10: Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11: So if you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! 12: In everything, then, do to others as you would have them do to you. For this is the essence of the Law and the prophets.
What this scripture tells us is that where our focus is, that is what we receive in return. Jesus reiterated this in another way in.
Matthew 25:31–46 The Sheep and the Goats
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
So in one scripture we have Christ saying that we should treat others as we would be treated, and in another he is saying we should treat others as we would treat him. You will note I am mainly staying with Christ’s words or direct actions for this. The reason for this is simple, In order to be Christ-like we should emulate what Christ would do. We find that example in his words and actions. We also can see by comparing Christs actions and words to the actions of the Pharisees and Sadducees to see how each would approach a situation and whose example we are following. I would also like to say that when I said I left the church, I did not say I left my faith. Just because a bride is cheating on her husband one does not stop believing in marriage, one only stops trusting in the bride. Ok onward, we go. Imagine a world where the Church actually followed the teachings of Christ. Where instead of looking down on “sinners” we focused on following Christs examples. Where instead of its leaders having homes that they don’t live in and in some faiths their own banks while they are covering up the abuse of children, they focused on ending homelessness and protecting the innocent. The church cannot hold the moral high ground on the sanctity of life under God only when the child is in the womb. If we condemn a mother for not bringing a child into institutionalized homelessness, poverty, racism, greed, hunger and crime while the church is part of the institution that is condoning all of the above, the Church bears the responsibility for that, Christ has already paid the debt for her actions. If the church is more focused on the proliferation of sin under the law when Christ said he fulfilled the law whose teachings are the church teaching? When the body condemns those in poverty as not worthy of their blessing and extols the virtues of greed that is the root cause of the poverty, it is not Christs!