We were the pear capital of the world with acres of orchards stretching over the hills, nestled beside forests and dotted with well kept homes.
People were kind and friendly here, open even to forgiving the sin of a California license plate.
We took good care of our neighbors and took great pride in the land God gave us.
It was a good place to live and to live in until you died.
Those days are gone.
The pear orchards have been ripped out and replaced by grapes, the grapes were ripped out and replaced with hemp and marijuana.
They couldn’t find enough labor to harvest the pears anymore and the profit margin on pot is better…or it was before everyone here grew their own.
Now there’s a glut of dope and there’s nothing else left to grow…I’ll probably live to see the land lay fallow someday.
I never wanted to live that long.
The authorities say we have a suicide epidemic, particularly among our youth and veterans.
We don’t report such things on the news…so it’s a silent reaper we refuse to acknowledge.
The drug related crime rate is through the roof…meth addicts will steal whatever isn’t nailed down…you dare not leave your house or car unlocked.
Fewer people are friendly and kind, more are fearful and angry.
A pastor told me yesterday that the valley just needs Jesus and Jesus was the only hope for us to reclaim what we once had.
I noted that there is a church on every other corner here and Jesus didn’t seem to be making much of an impact these days.
That, he countered, was the fault of leftists and Democrats.
Everyone has their own devils to blame.
The devils appear to be winning.
Why are we so miserable that we have to self medicate ourselves to survive?
Why isn’t Jesus making more of a difference?
I contend that we have lost the Jesus of Scripture and history and replaced Him with boutique gods we call by His name but who bear slight resemblance to the real God.
What do you think?
“I contend that we have lost the Jesus of Scripture and history and replaced Him with boutique gods we call by His name but who bear slight resemblance to the real God.”
Give examples, please.
“I contend that we have lost the Jesus of Scripture and history and replaced Him with boutique gods we call by His name but who bear slight resemblance to the real God.”
This is truth. One hundred times: yes.
“I noted that there is a church on every other corner here and Jesus didn’t seem to be making much of an impact these days.
That, he countered, was the fault of leftists and Democrats.”
Jesus must have gotten a whole lot weaker since the ante-Nicene period of Rome, or at least your pastor friend believes in a very weak Jesus.
Maybe it’s something else…
Well…we have the Jesus of the religious right and the Jesus of the religious left. Those Jesus’s disagree on some big stuff.
We have the flag draped Jesus and the Jesus who scorns flags.
We have all loving Jesus and Jesus who is very angry and getting ready to burn a bunch of people.
We have Jesus who demands that we love in sacrificial love and Jesus who wants us to have our best life now.
Those are a few…
even to forgiving the sin of a California license plate.<<<
I love California. It is my home.
Why isn’t Jesus making more of a difference?<<
What kind of difference did you have in mind? Did Jesus come to restore the pear orchards?
So tell me when and where we had the right Jesus? Allow me to answer – nowhere and never.
Michael, your comments are those of an old man who has selective memory of the past and thinks this younger generation is going to hell in a hand basket.
I guess we could go back to the good old Puritan days to find the Jesus who would drown people to get the devil out of them. 🙂
The fight has always been the same since Pentecost.
Oregonians historically have big issues with California…though not nearly as much as we used to.
We sold out to them.
My really controversial thought for the day…we only encounter the “real” Jesus in the Eucharist…
We’ve always had problems, but the numbers (crime rate, suicides, drug addictions) are at an all time high.
Except I am not willing to say that non-sacramentalists, like Em and Josh, have never encountered the Real Jesus. Nope, not willing to say that at all.
I’m not saying that either.
I am saying that Jesus gave us a way to receive Him without our biases and prejudices…I’m sure in His grace He comes to the non sacramentalists as well…
“What kind of difference did you have in mind?”
What kind of difference would you expect in a place where there are so many Christians? Shouldn’t that have an impact on all the issues I’ve noted?
I forgot to mention the political divide that smells like civil war at times…
“My really controversial thought for the day…we only encounter the “real” Jesus in the Eucharist…”
I would change the last portion to: “we only encounter the ‘real’ Jesus in the Church…” That is, in the Body of Christ as an extension of the Incarnation, of which the Eucharist is a sacramental sign and a sacramental reality. The next problem, however, is how we define “Church”…
The city this morning declared addiction here a public health crisis…
Well said…I sit corrected. 🙂
In terms of examples:
“A pastor told me yesterday that the valley just needs Jesus and Jesus was the only hope for us to reclaim what we once had.
I noted that there is a church on every other corner here and Jesus didn’t seem to be making much of an impact these days.
That, he countered, was the fault of leftists and Democrats.”
Implicit in the pastor’s answer is that more Jesus would cure people of being leftists and Democrats, or at least cure people of the influence of leftists and Democrats. That is, what leftists and Democrats value are antithetical to the teachings of Jesus. So, then, Jesus is on the side of rightists and Republicans.
That conversation is an example of Michael’s conclusion: “I contend that we have lost the Jesus of Scripture and history and replaced Him with boutique gods”
On the other hand there is the Jesus of Scripture that talks about planks in one’s eye, bearing one’s cross, and “renouncing all that he has”. Boutique gods allow us to remain alive; they keep us from experiencing the birth from above.
Here’s my controversial statement for the day: I think democracy is doomed to fail.
It *appeared* to work well in the early days of the republic, but at that time only land-owning white men were allowed to vote.
Here’s the fatal flaw: The Declaration of Independence makes the claim that we have the unalienable right to pursue happiness. And that’s what voters do, they pursue the things that make them happy. There’s not much interest in the greater good, there’s mostly self-interest. Not everyone of course but when the majority of voters want to legalize their pet sins: abortion (to accommodate the fruit of
licentiousness), recreational drugs, sexual perversion, gambling, etc. society will sink to the level of those who want to please themselves. People will vote to legalize abortion, marijuana, homosexual “marriage,” etc., in the pursuit of happiness. Even the insistence by many that their personal hobby of assault rifle ownership is their pursuit of happiness and they will always vote to preserve their hobby, no matter how harmful it is to society as a whole. When these things take over the culture, the social and physical environment will suffer.
This is where Christianity could make a difference, because genuine Christianity follows the teachings of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and not Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. But we are all screaming for our rights and pursuing what makes us happy. <— This is not Christian teaching but this self-serving philosophy has entered our churches. And what we have now is the result.
What is the alternative… a king? St. Paul says to honor our rulers so we have to give it our best effort without falling into sin. For me and my husband, that means sitting out most national elections because the lesser of two evils is still evil and God does not lead us into evil.
The real American religion is the worship of "freedom," so-called.
Well said, Xenia…
Well I must admit that I am all the bad things listed above. I not only fall short but half the time I fall short knowing I am falling short.
But I do have the Jesus of scripture and he is faithful as I am not faithful. This is why he draws me to his church each week – so I can confess those sins, hear the absolution – hear his law preached to me and his gospel with equal or greater force. It is the reason that I kneel and allow the pastor to pour the Body and Blood of Jesus down my throat.
I am the problem – not society…. but I have the right Jesus.
I can (and do) tell others about the cure – but most, hell, all but a few pay no attention – hence the self medicate and kill themselves.
Is repentance a part of your daily or weekly piety?
Jean, it is although an imperfect repentance and piety.
When churches stop trying to sell Jesus and their fundamentalist (both) sides version of the Kingdom and start taking the love and compassion that they’ve received from Jesus to the world in the smallest of ways things might start to look different.
It’s pretty simple stuff. ??♂️
Just had to get my 2 cents in. ?
I love the picture above. ??
Rough crowd this morning.
Californians, particularly those who live in urban areas, have a tendency to be attracted the rhythms of small town life. I don’t blame them, as I was once among their tribe. Then they move here and the honeymoon end. They get bored and frustrated by the lack of goods and services that they were accustomed to. The complaint I have heard many time over the years is that “they” (its a form of “othering,” btw) are trying to turn this place into another California. Such is the case with demographical shifts, there is a latent cultural/economic/political colonialism always attached. It’s a dynamic all over the West. There is cultural tension between city life (who are consumers) that are dense population centers and country life (which has the natural resources) with its sparse population. These tensions are ultimately played out in economic and political arenas. It is another expression of what Tocqueville described as the “tyranny of the majority.”
It is a sad day when a food source is replaced by wine and weed.
I think pot has become the soma of our times.
“My really controversial thought for the day…we only encounter the “real” Jesus in the Eucharist…”
Well, guess that rules me out… again. I’ve been trying to tell you guys about the real Jesus for 11 years. He’s not in hiding.
I tried to make it clear that I wasn’t excluding anyone.
I don’t think Jesus is hiding…just buried under cultural and political dirt.
Not to cause a rabbit trail… but…
What is the difference between pot and my anxiety meds? I’m not a pot fan but I can understand the draw.
Jesus has not lost me. Sounds like MLD and Xenia and pretty familiar with Him as well.
For some folks, not much difference and the pot is safer.
We have a population that increasingly needs one or the other…or alcohol, my drug of choice.
We are the most anxious generation in history…
All generations have been equally anxious. In the ’30s we had refer madness – a couple of generations before that they put cocaine in the cola drinks.
In the wild west a new town would build 10 saloons and bring in the whores to take the edge off.
Like Solomon said – there is nothing new under the sun.
Here’s my controversial statement for the day: I think democracy is doomed to fail.
Xenia, I encourage you to read the book ” a single tear” about the personal story growing up during the cultural revolution in communist China. Yeah, America has huge problems but the alternative I’m not sure anyone would want.
The church is strong and healthy and we not in crises.
You are swilling more than your share of communion wine…
Are there only two options? “The church is healthy and strong” or “we have lost the real Jesus”? Maybe the Real Jesus is healthy and strong, and the church is what she always is.
I’m still working on what to do with this because it initially really angered me as it should have. I’m trying to process it still because it’s just wrong. A local megachurch sent out a full-color flyer to much of the county I’m guessing. It was an invitation to a “Back To Church” service lining up with back to school on the calendar.
NOWHERE on either side of the flyer did you see the words “God” or “Jesus.” Instead, you saw a paragraph with words along the lines of “community” and “resources” and “succeed” bolded, all leading up to the promise that coming to this church/service was more or less the first step toward having “your best life possible” which is a direct quote. That was that last few words of the flyer.
Again, no Jesus, no God, no gospel really. Just a consumer-driven appeal that is, at best, a bait and switch. To me, stuff like that actually makes it more difficult to connect people with Jesus. I’m kind of disgusted.
You may see it that way.
I think Xenia nailed it…the Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount vs. the Jesus of Christian nationalism can’t co-exist.
So, we mark some as heretics, as the church has always done, and move on with the real JEsus.
Michael, the invisible church is as strong as it has always been and the visible church is in as much crisis as it has always been. However, I can never help those of you who hold to a sky is falling theology.
Corby, that is a manifestation of 2 Timothy 4:3.
We don’t mark anyone…all these different Christs are held to by otherwise orthodox believers.
I just marked the people Corby was talking about.
Ad for goodness sakes, don’t call them orthodox if they believe in different Jesus.
And yet I know loving Christians who belong to said church, as I’m sure you do too, Corby.
Things look messed up to the observers, yet Gods Kingdom quietly goes about its business….
Those people would affirm the creeds and confessions surrounding Jesus.
It’s in application that they may be heretical.
Any doctrine that excludes sacrificial love is heretical in my opinion…
It’s too easy to rubber stamp creeds and confessions.
Jesus is the picture of sacrificial love. We should certainly be putting our selfish flesh to rest daily when seeking to follow Him.
Josh, so how is that going for you- laying down your selfish flesh daily? 🙂
Not too successful. You?
But then I’ll ask you, does my failure take away from the real JEsus?
Steve, I don’t need to read about China’s cultural revolution. I know enough about it to know it was driven by a godless evil. The same is true of the 1917 Russian Revolution. The fact that there are evil regimes does not discount my opinion that when the majority of the people in a democracy vote for things that they believe will make them happy, there will be consequences. Don’t you agree?
I’m obviously an outlier…and that’s ok.
The churches are shrinking and the culture ignores or rebukes us.
The numbers don’t lie…but all is well.
This will continue to be an area of grave concern for me.
We rebuke us WAY more than the culture does.
If the attendance numbers counted for anything, yes we would be in trouble as you say – but numbers mean nothing except for bragging rights.
Opposition to the church means little to nothing. Jesus and his church were opposed at every turn. Now if we are looking to win a popularity contest, then you are right.
I think the churches are shrinking because the nominals have now found it socially acceptable not to attend church these days. The power of God to save is still operational.
When I attended my son’s megachurch in Kalamazoo last spring, I was moved to tears by the joy these hundreds of young people had in the Lord. (No one was more surprised than me [and maybe my son] that I was so happy with what I found in that megachurch.)
Christ is saving people daily. This will never change. It is supernatural.
Josh, our failure is what keeps Jesus in business.
If anyone here still hangs onto the Calvinist view that God’s grace for salvation is irresistible, and that the Elect will persevere, then I would expect Calvinistically inclined folks to stand back and watch what they believe God is doing.
Since I’ve already brought up 2 Timothy:
“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
It’s gonna be hard to fill a mega-church with that message.
“our failure is what keeps Jesus in business.”
Which Jesus are we talking about here, MLD?
In the US we are becoming an essentially post-Christian culture, but most of us really don’t want to admit this as being true. There are enough people embracing a “God, guts and guns” theology trying to make us think otherwise. Of course there are pockets of hope as Xenia, Josh and others have pointed out… but they are the exception rather than the rule. My hope is that in such a post Christian culture, we might discover once again what it means to live our faith… in private and in public, in our homes and in the Church. For myself that means daily prayers, confession, absolution and participating in the Eucharist and then trying to live out what I’ve learned in the world. As for “the sky is falling theology”… the sky has been falling for the last 2000 years. True Christian theology takes place in the midst of the sky falling…
I’m all for removing the false sheen of Christianity from American society. Bring on post-Christian America! Lets be salt and light!
Since culture is not the church, who cares that we are in a post Christian culture?
My concern is for those who sit happily in their post Christian church.
Now for my own piety, I am at Hobby Lobby with my wife. No post Christian culture here – I saw mugs, cross stitching and posters with Bible verses AND a Tim Tebow book! 🙂
If someone said the sun rose in the east, you would insist that it rose in the west… it used to be amusing, now it’s just…
“Since culture is not the church, who cares that we are in a post Christian culture?”
That’s a strange thing for a Lutheran to think. Civil society is a first article gift. Christians are a holy priesthood, on behalf of God, for the benefit of God’s creation.
It is a different group who says: Let it burn.
Jean, you have that one wrong. God’s civil kingdom can function just as effectively in a non Christian environment.
God is still in control – check out the 1st 3 centuries under godless Rome and in more modern day godless societies the church not only existed but thrived.
Duane, all I can say is that Truth has always been tough for you to handle.
Also, I say nothing for your amusement. I speak to those who have ears to hear.
Time for you nap.
“the church not only existed but thrived.”
YOU’RE STILL IN THE WRONG ARTICLE.
No, I have the Christians doing their thing in a godless 1st article world.
You are saying it must be a Christian culture and I say no.
God is still in control of both realms whether run by a Turk or a bastard Pope trying to run both kingdoms.
Duane, for the record, the sun does not rise or set. The earth spins.
Now that was for you amusement. 🙂
YOUR particular “Truth” is not tough to handle in the least, its just the same tune sung over, and over, and over… And, I said it “used to be amusing”, now its just an elderly gent repeating himself…
Whether one calls them Christians or nominal Christians, and whether one calls it the law of Moses (as interpreted by Jesus) or natural law, historically in the US there was a consensus for a societal morality (engraved in its laws), which more or less tracked God’s law. That consensus was beneficial to our country and its citizens.
That has consensus has broken down. It is attacked from many sides, including libertarianism, liberalism, and post-modernism. Conservatism (as in to conserve) has been the victim.
We are deceiving ourselves that by more rights we achieve more freedom or happiness. This is because there is no ethic behind the quest for rights. There is no moral order by which to evaluate a right.
Oh my, we have a Copernican among us… Is that permitted by the Book of Concord?
“You are saying it must be a Christian culture and I say no.”
I never said that. I do say that the best culture is a Christian culture. But more to the point, Jesus said his disciples are the salt of the earth, not the salt of the church. Society is benefited (both Christians and non-Christians) when Christian values are normative.
Sorry, I was replying to the elderly gent…
Quite alright Duane. By the way, I’m a Copernican too. 🙂
I am getting the impression that the temperature is very hot today in the Southwest. I hope our seniors have air conditioning.
We do worry about them…
Xenia, I agree a democracy has big problems. However nothing compared to it’s alternatives. If you disagree I would like to know what you think would work better? If democracy is doomed we are in big trouble. But maybe that is God’s plan speaking from my Calvinism understanding.
A culture strongly influenced by Christianity (which I think works better than the phrase “Christian culture”) is a cleaner, less perverse society. Your children won’t be taught how to change genders in kindergarten, your grandchildren are less likely to be aborted, TV would not be beaming pornography into your living room each evening, etc.
Duane, there is no my truth and your truth as you seem to cling to. There is only Truth and it seems to agitate you greatly.
But I do like your elder discrimination. In the great words of Mel Brooks, “we mock what we are to become.”
Steve, democracy has not reached its nadir yet. It remains to be seen if it’s ultimately better than the alternatives.
Compare the Declaration of Independence with the Sermon on the Mount. You might be surprised to discover that in many cases, what Jefferson said and what Jesus said are exact opposites.
Regarding Xenia’s idea of “worship of freedom” — there is an issue with the definition of freedom.
One side sees it as personal freedom — I can do whatever I want, without the burdens of responsibility orduty to society or obligations to anyone, no consequences for my behavior, and definitely free from the onerous idea of having to serve or sacrifice for anyone or anything else.
Another side sees it as a societal freedom — I am free to travel, to find a job, to earn a living, to buy a home, to raise a family and care for them, to worship my God, and live my life in peace and prosperity — without someone else prohibiting my free movement, stealing my property, and forcing me and my family to serve some other interest/authority/government against my will.
Worshipping either version isn’t good, but the first definitely clashes badly with Christianity.
“…we mock what we are to become.”
Oh my, there’s a frightening thought ?… By the way, truth doesn’t agitate me at all, sectarian dogmatism does…
Duane, well also Jean, in your efforts to prove the old man wrong, you missed my point @ 12:28 that I was more concerned for those who sit happily in their post Christian churches than I am of maintaining a Christian culture.
Obviously that wasn’t a concern among the theological elite among us.
No effort at all. You make a lot of points, some more cogent than others.
Xenia @ 2:12 “A culture strongly influenced by Christianity (which I think works better than the phrase “Christian culture”) is a cleaner, less perverse society. Your children won’t be taught how to change genders in kindergarten, your grandchildren are less likely to be aborted, TV would not be beaming pornography into your living room each evening, etc.”
THAT is pretty close to what we had mid 20th Century… I can remember hearing adults in my family talking about the migration into So. Calif. after WW2 – folks from the mid-west were quickly casting off their “Judeo-Christian” roots and mores… the first flotsam of the tide….?
Speaking of Paradise…
Headlines say Benny Hinn is renouncing Prosperty Doctrine.
People, Joshua Harris is off the hook. It seems even the Holy Ghost is throwing in the towel. You just know Harris just had a huge sigh of relief.
I thought you were kidding until I saw it on an online Christian rag. We will see how that pans out (see Jim Bakker’s “I Was Wrong” book vs. Jim Bakker now). I hope he (Benny) really is seeing the light for his and other’s sake.
Listening to the late J Vernon McGee as i drove today… He was observing how that his congregation would shrink and folks would complain to him when he gave a sermon series on accountability and the obligations of a Believer…
And ya think ya know a guy.
In other news, I made a vow of silence, Sunday. No more online comments, I said.
Just stay offline, and contemplative, of my many sins, I promised.
There are just do many, many sins, I reminded myself.
I just can’t. I got to Wednesday and couldn’t handle a good Hinn story. I feel do cheap and shallow.
The prosperity gospel is the least of things that make Benny Hinn a heretic.
Michael, have you been to the Hood River Valley? There are beautiful rolling hills of apple orchards in the shadow of Mount Hood. It looks a lot like the picture above. There’s still pockets of paradise left here and there.
Interesting that Benny Hinn used to be married to Paula white who Was Trump’s spiritual advisor. Can’t help but connect these dots to see if any correlation to his new found beliefs.
I almost used a photo from up there…gorgeous country…
Great article Michael!
“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone…”
I live in what was once the lemon capital of the world.
It’s been gentrified, paved, and parking-lotted.
We’ve even got a mega-biggie-swayin’ to the Jesus muzik church founded by the Australians.
The cognitive dissonance has gotten to the point where I don’t know whether to laugh, cry, fart, or cuss. Probably all four, although I wouldn’t wanna’ predict in what order.
Again, thanks Michael for an article that is both illuminating and painful…
the tree shaded beautiful street i grew up on is now parking garages and condos – the whole old neighborhood is… the beautiful residential area where i walked the 7 + blocks to grammar school is decimated… we used to drive past Burbank to pick up some sort of grape that my grandmother used to make jelly – the whole of the San Fernando Valley was vineyards, avacados, almonds, oranges and walnuts all the way to the ocean…. not anymore
in January and February to fog would roll in from the smudge pots in the orange groves – no problem
i don’t even like the town that was my childhood home now and, i suspect neither would my grandparents
the pears are ripening now in the Entiat River valley, cherries are gone and soon there will be apples… but the vitners are moving in… cherries and grapes are the money makers today… dtill all the choicest fruit goes overseas – both directions
Eve, why DID you eat that forbidden fruit? 🙂 … must have been a beautiful garden, Eden
In my world, I try my best to be courteous to people and not be an a-hole. Part of this involves doing my best (not always successful) at not being said a-hole on the freeways here in the Atlanta area. Also biting my tongue online helps (again not always successful). If that makes me the “nice guy”, then so be it. The world has enough jerks already and I can be a jerk easily if I so choose, but I feel better when I am not in jerk mode, and I am sure other people are all the better for it.
So I am also aware that, despite what Chuck Swindoll always postulated, no one is asking me about Christ because of my kindness and generosity. Well, it actually has happened once or twice. But whatever. I am not pounding the pavement for a particular expression of faith. Just pounding the pavement for what God has shown me and his kindness.
/stream of thought
And speaking of nature’s beauty…if anyone ever gets the chance to explore Minnesota’s North Shore (along the western shoreline of Lake Superior), please do so. Two to three hours of natural north-woods beauty on one side and the deep blue-green waters of Lake Superior on the other side. Take the Scenic highway from Duluth to Two Harbors (doesn’t that sound idyllic?) for an especially relaxing view. More than a few folks have called this part of Minnesota the “Scandinavian Riviera”! If you make it Grand Marais, check out the scenic Gunflint Trail drive from Grand Marais to the Canadian border. You may be lucky enough to view a wild moose cow and her calf crossing the road just down a ways (I’ve seen this myself). In the summer a light jacket is required as the waters of Lake Superior can be bone-chilling cold even in August!
/Chamber of Commerce advertisement
I just want to see US Bank stadium. 🙂
Micheal, I hear that it’s really awesome!
Xenia is correct in that democracies are doomed to fail. She is incorrect in thinking that so called assault rifles are harmful it is to society as a whole. 400 murders a year by rifles of all kinds in a country of over 320 million is less than zero percent. Less than the 1600 knife murders and less than 700 murders by hands and feet. Such is the failure of democracy, as the mob votes with their feelings, because facts are so hard to find.
Your in my prayers tonight. Please stay safe!
And…. at a time when there are over 1 million more guns in the US than there are humans, our homicide rate per year per 100,000 inhabitants is remarkably low. It was said yesterday in regards to guns that times have changed in the last 50 years. What was not revealed was how much they have changed for the better.
This thread reminds me of an author, who has been scorned here, who wrote a book entitled “The Velvet Elvis.” Published over 14 years ago, almost an eternity.
So, what was the question the author posed?
And what was the message so many actually heard?
Two really different ideas.
Yep “Jesus saves.”
BTW I too never found Him in the Eucharist, but I did get to know a bit better when I read, processed and fed on the what the people there that night remembered about Him.
Thanks Jean. Should be fine here. East of us will probably deal with serious flooding.
Thanks for the stats. I saved them for when the conversation rises, but I’m sure they won’t change most perceptions.
Along that line…
When I was a young man I discovered an interesting thing, it seems what we perceive to be true is far more important than what is true.
Yes the cold hard truths of death and taxes are always with us, but the further I move away from the basic needs of food, shelter, clothing and companionship, the more the Twilight Zone grows as a reality.
I’m in the Zone.
Jim thank again.
MM, facts regarding guns and violence rarely, if ever, change minds. People are funny in that way.
Steve…Paula White was never married to Benny Hinn!
I think Jesus hides in plain sight. Here’s one of my life verses: Proverbs 25:2. Give it a read and tell me what you think.
Afluke, I was wrong about Benny Hinn and Paula White. My bad.
“Why isn’t Jesus making more of a difference”
More of my take. I think Jesus does make a difference in my life and the lives of others, but it may not be in ways that are apparent. Or maybe we can’t accept the way the Lord is working in the life of another person.
Someone may love the Lord and have faith in Him, but still be lacking in some areas of their lives…character deficiencies for one. Or how about how they vote…..maybe they came to faith and don’t vote like you, or perhaps they didn’t toss our their rock ‘n’ roll albums/CDs/whathaveyou. You get the drift.
But on the other hand maybe they became charitable, patient, forgiving, sober, etc.
A while back I came to the realization that I no longer want to pray for someone to “get saved”, so-to-speak, in order for them to stop being a jerk or become a better person. I think I actually prayed that way a few times a ways back.
When I moved to Gresham (contiguous to Portland), I picked a road east and rode it on ,y motorcycle. Into farmlands, then forest. I used to do The Loop around Mt. Hood and was amazed how quickly the climate changed due to the Columbia Gorge making its own weather. I issed to ride my bike into random fire roads into the forest above Sandy, and up to Crown Point to relax on the grass with a novel for an hour, while overlooking The Columbia River. Or up to Larch Mountain. Sometimes I wish I’d never moved back to California…
“Why isn’t Jesus making more of a difference”
Because people are selfish and many think getting/being “saved” is all about them.
“Jesus” can’t do a thing if no one will “step up to the plate” and listen to Him.
I guess I’m a bit tired of the “get right with God through Jesus and you’ll escape Hell” message and then never hear the message God told His creation from the beginning, “take care of My garden.”
Love God with all your… and then love your neighbor.
And yet it gets diluted to a catchy catch phrase, “Love God, Love others.”
So, “Why isn’t Jesus making more of a difference?”
“Hey I drank His blood and ate His flesh today, isn’t that enough?”
Yep I’m being cynical, sorry if I offended anyone.
There is also the “Doing Life Together” that many churches espouse.
You would probably lose count how many churches have “Love God, Love Others” as their mission statement, or sole purpose.
MM, I am really disappointed that you came out of church worshipping an impotent Jesus.
If you had attended a church that not only preaches the law and gospel, but properly distinguishes between the two, you would have heard that we are woefully sinful and incapable of fully loving God or obeying him.
You also would have heard that Jesus has made “the difference” – the entire difference on the cross on that Friday we call Good. Not only did he do it, but you would have heard that he did it for you!
Now is eating the body and drinking the blood enough? You better believe it – this is for your benefit, forgiving you sins and delivering to you the benefits of the new covenant.
I received all of that this morning at my church. I am glad that “the difference” Jesus makes does not depend on me.
Like you, I will apologize in advance if my comments cause offense.
MLD makes our life in Christ sound like an algebra equation.
I prefer MM’s version, except I don’t agree with his cynical take on the Eucharist but I understand why he (she?) said it.
Thank you Xenia, while I may have a different understanding and opinion on the practice of the Eucharist than others, the point is not limited to the actual practice at all. I could have written the same about the churches with a rock band, theater smoking and the dancing lights.
Jesus only changes things (makes a difference) though His disciples; there’s no magic potions, incantations or Harry Potter moments. People who really Love him take what He taught outside of their assemblies and live it.
He performs miracles through His people.
They don’t hide the light.
MLD do what you want with my words.
The Jesus I understand is far from “impotent” and I quite frankly find your statement a bit condescending and insulting.
The topic was, “Why isn’t Jesus making a difference,” and my answer is, why aren’t people who claim to be His making a difference.
Xenia – imagine my shock to see that the theology of the failing / impotent Jesus has now invaded Orthodox thinking.
The question before us, presented at least three times is “Why isn’t Jesus making more of a difference?”
As you seem to agree with MM, can you tell me what you would have Jesus change so he will make a bigger difference?
I realize that the Lutheran view of the preached word is quite unique (and I guess may seem like an algebraic formula) but we do believe the preach word will do exactly what it was purposed to do – condemn or convert and works 100% effectively with both believers and unbelievers.
Through the believers, his church, Jesus works all of his good works – all of them.
So where is Jesus coming up short? Do we really want to blame Jesus for not being effective? Not making more of a difference in this world?
You folks can entertain the idea – I can’t.
Such a bummer after we sang “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ name” this morning.
Xenia – imagine my shock to see that the theology of the failing / impotent Jesus has now invaded Orthodox thinking.<<<
You have no idea what you are talking about.
MM, clarify something for me please. Is the message ‘you don’t do enough for Jesus and you are not making a difference’ the message you did hear in church today, or the message you wish your pastor had preached?
I typed out a long piece but deleted it.
It’s like hollering down a well.
Those with ears to hear have already heard.
MM rightly said:
“The topic was, “Why isn’t Jesus making a difference,” and my answer is, why aren’t people who claim to be His making a difference.”
I agree with this.
Maybe we need a thicker Jesus. Found this recently. I think the author may be a Southern Baptist
who taught at Fuller.
thanks for reference.
I guess the fundamental difference is I believe Jesus converts AND changes people who then carry out his good works – bear good fruits.
Some here seem to think Jesus converts only and then it is up to the individual to change himself, to align himself to Jesus’ commands.
But differences are OK… right? 🙂
The question: “Why isn’t Jesus making more of a difference?”
Recently, I read a couple articles about Benny Hinn’s change of theology. He said that he now feels that teaching the prosperity gospel gave people false hope.
Perhaps Benny’s Hinn’s admission is relevant to the question at the top. clearly, Jesus didn’t come into the world to make his followers financially rich. Similarly, what do we expect Jesus to be doing, that he may not be doing with respect to other issues?
Many people are unhappy with the state of the world, whether economic justice, the environment, racial or ethnic justice, law and order, the national debt, religious liberty, you name it. But, ask yourself, is Jesus of the New Testament focused on reforming political or national institutions or civil justice, or alleviating economic or racial structural inequality. Isn’t that the program of liberal mainstream churches who having given up on faith in the resurrection of the dead were left only with the hear and now?
Jesus of the NT appears to me to be wholly focused on redeeming and sanctifying sinners, on populating the kingdom of God, and on building His Church (with its Matthew 28 mission statement). In other words, planting and watering good trees.
Those trees that Jesus builds will bear good fruit, but it seems all too often that we want to skip the tree planting and nurturing part, and jump straight to the bearing fruit part. This demonstrates a lack of patience and trust in the promises of Scripture. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus says of the good soil: “As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.” The key word is “patience.”
The body of Christ (here MM makes a good point) will make a difference in the world, but not with the use of power, but by service, sacrifice and love. However, the body of Christ is a relatively small flock, so its influence politically is never going to be impressive against the backdrop of the world. On the other hand, in our families and smaller communities, the body of Christ can and is making a good deal of difference in the lives of many.
“Jesus converts AND changes people”
Then why haven’t you changed?
Josh, thanks for bringing that up. This is a watershed divide between Lutherans and Baptists (along with many others in American Evangelical circles.
Lutherans do not change but ARE changed, where you work at changing yourself.
How have I been changed by God’s conversion? My works before conversion were no more than dirty rags to God. Now by his work, my works are done in faith in Jesus Christ, are now counted as Good, and to God’s glory.
Jean makes a lot of good points there.
“Lutherans do not change but ARE changed”
So it’s sort of an illusion? You still look like the same same filthy sinner,but if you close your eyes and imagine..you are holy. Do you really think that’s what Jesus meant by “be ye holy”?
Some where, it has to affect your actions. The magic just isn’t working.
Reading Jeans post, regarding patience, it would seem Jean would say : “Lutherans are being changed”. MLD says, “Lutherans ARE changed”.
I can subscribe to Jeans view, if I am understanding correctly. MLD’s just isn’t reality.
Josh, I am like Paul, declared 100% holy, yet I too live 100% in the sin of the Romans 7 man – but I am seen by God only through Christ and his righteousness.
Hebrews puts it this way:
“For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”
Christ’s blood has perfected us insofar as we stand before the Father by faith in Jesus, yet, Jesus sanctifies us for our life here on earth. Does this help?
That verse, in itself, is difficult on this question. It says ” He has perfected”, followed by “who are being sanctified.” So that doesn’t really clear up whether it is DONE or a process.
“but I am seen by God only through Christ and his righteousness.”
That’s not really the question. Why doesn’t that affect your actions?
Regarding the Hebrews verse, it is an ongoing process, because whenever we sin, we defile our holiness and through confession and absolution per First John One, He cleanses us from all unrighteousness.
Jean, I think you and I are in agreement about how this process goes. (With the exception that you insert a human intermediary in the confession / absolution part, but that to me would be secondary.)
Josh, why do you assume I had bad actions or behaviors before conversion.
I’ve heard you say here that you still break all 10 commandments every day. I just assume that didn’t begin at conversion. If it did…what in the world did you convert too?
Josh first let me point out that I did not convert – I was converted. Second, I was converted into Jesus Christ, the savior of the world — not into Jesus the life coach. Third, I still stand by my claim that I break all of the 10 commandments daily. The one thing that was revealed to me upon being converted and going forth was that each day I realize that I am a worse sinner than I thought I was the day before. Each day I realize how much more I am dependent on the love and forgiveness of Jesus.
Unlike many in today’s American Evangelical world, I cannot claim that in the past I was 50% sinner, but today I am only 30% and heading towards 20%.
So Josh, you don’t break the 10 commandments daily? How are you at keeping the big two Jesus gave?
The only way this makes sense is to recognize that I am positionally in Christ and already seen as glorified, while practically, I’m in the process of being sanctified and transformed into the image of God.
The concept that because I follow a given theological, formula thus my behavior doesn’t matter is found nowhere in Scripture.
This whole thread is a great example of missing the point, so I obviously wrote poorly.
We live in a culture where you have to try to avoid the Gospel.
The airwaves are full of it and there are churches on every corner.
Some would believe that our current politicians in power are sent by God to save us.
Despite that, our culture grows meaner and more divided daily.
I see little that tells me that the Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount has much influence on Christians, let alone the culture.
The idea that God doesn’t care about cultural transformation, but only individual “salvation” requires biblical editing with a blunt object…
Michael – where did you get from my conversation that behavior does not matter? But I will toss it back to you – if behavior matters and you have been empowered or gifted to create good behavior in your life, why do you (I am assuming here) still cling to some of your bad behavior?
Do you still break the 10 commandments? If so, why? You have been a Christian for 40 plus years, hasn’t that been enough to change?
Perhaps you all have too much Wesley in you. 🙂
“The idea that God doesn’t care about cultural transformation, but only individual “salvation” requires biblical editing with a blunt object…”
It would be very helpful to the conversation if you could cite where in the NT cultural transformation is discussed. And my culture, I assume you are looking outside the specific culture of the body of Christ.
I thought Jesus was teaching his church how WE should live in a hostile culture – not how to change the culture.
At best we can pick off individuals and save them out of that hostile culture and bring them into the church culture – but the hostile culture is still out there.
Hey, in the medieval church, the culture was christian – by force and it too was a corrupt culture.
What is comical is when groups like Focus on the Family, the Moral Majority or whoever the current group is, tries to work to change culture, many here become critical of them.
So, you can’t win. —- because it is not our calling.
” But I will toss it back to you – if behavior matters and you have been empowered or gifted to create good behavior in your life, why do you (I am assuming here) still cling to some of your bad behavior?”
I am empowered by the Holy Spirit…but I also have the “old man” to deal with.
I’m in the process of transformation…and that process won’t be finished here, though it will continue until I’m home.
o it’s sort of an illusion? You still look like the same same filthy sinner,but if you close your eyes and imagine..you are holy. Do you really think that’s what Jesus meant by “be ye holy”?<<<
This is the "positional" Christianity that I was taught at my old CC. If Steve W, of fond memory, was here he'd point out that I misunderstood what was being taught and I will grant that he could be wright. But I don't think so. It was this very teaching that caused me, out of desperation, to jump ship.
“It would be very helpful to the conversation if you could cite where in the NT cultural transformation is discussed.”
I actually use the whole Bible narrative to form my opinions.
I would suggest reading the prophets of the OT to see what sort of society the Lord wants…and demands, when He’s in charge.
Just as an observation, it’s not “either or”… it’s “both and”…
… because I was becoming a worse sinner with every passing year. And it seemed the people around me were in the same situation. If God didn’t care what I did, why should I care? And no, no one ever stated that “God doesn’t care what you do so do what you want” but that was the end result of this teaching, and the sad consequences I saw in my own life and those around me.
I left Protestantism because I was falling into desperation and there was nothing being taught at my church that offered any hope.
The early church and Apostles changed the world they lived in through the love they demonstrated to each other and even to those who persecuted them.
They didn’t set out to create morality laws…they lived according to the teachings of Jesus.
The basis of it all was love…and we jumped that ship a long time ago.
Xenia – “I left Protestantism because I was falling into desperation and there was nothing being taught at my church that offered any hope.”
Sorry to hear that you did not hear “Christ died FOR YOU.”
The lack of hope in your previous situation is because you probably continually heard STOP SINNING – follow these 10 steps.
10 steps to a better marriage
10 steps to financial freedom
10 steps to be a David etc.
I’ve been in the Assemblies of God, Calvary Chapel, Reformed, and Anglican churches…and I’ve heard Christ died for me in every one of them…
Michael – “The basis of it all was love…and we jumped that ship a long time ago.” Have you jumped that ship?
You have lived in your town all your life and have been a Christian most of your life – you seem to see these things clearly — so, what are you doing to change the culture in your town? Surely you can find and persuade a 1,000 Christians in town to help in your effort.
“I actually use the whole Bible narrative to form my opinions.
I would suggest reading the prophets of the OT to see what sort of society the Lord wants…and demands, when He’s in charge.”
LOL! That’s a nice way to have a conversation.
Last time I checked in the OT, Israel was a congregation that God promised to set aside as a holy nation, a priestly people, in exchange for their promise to abide by His commandments.
To which nation today has God made a similar promise?
But, let’s go back to Israel. Did God tell Israel to reform Philistine or Jebusite or Ammorite culture? No. He was working with His people, sanctifying them.
The church today is the reconstituted people of God in Christ (Jews and Gentiles). According to 1 Peter, we have generally the same vocation: a holy nation, a priestly people, fulfilling in Christ the promise made to Abraham that through his Seed all that nations of the world will be blessed.
My town is possessed with the notion that to be truly Christian is to be fully Republican and to be truly Christian is to support conservative politics.
In the meantime we’re overrun with homeless people, crime, and pot farms.
I jumped the love ship for a while because I came to despise those people for making a caricature out of the faith once delivered.
I’ve learned to repent of that and I try to be an example outside the camp of what I believe Jesus demands of me.
You couldn’t get 1000 people here to rally around the Sermon on the Mount if I gave you ten years to do it…
Perhaps where I live is unique. We have 50 churches in town and we all seem to mingle and work together where we can. In addition, I will guess there are 100 benevolent operations in town that are co ops of city, private and church functions that work together to better the community, work with the homeless, poor, hungry, the large senior population and just anyone in need. Through community we fund hospitals, animal shelters you name it we work together – at the present we have a wonderful culture here. We don’t have any strip club, but we do have plenty of bars and gun shops – so you can see we are also a fun loving but orderly community.
I kind of like our culture – I don’t need to hide in church all day to avoid “culture”.
Anyone else who like their community and culture? Is it all bad?
“Last time I checked in the OT, Israel was a congregation that God promised to set aside as a holy nation, a priestly people, in exchange for their promise to abide by His commandments.”
The last time I checked, the NT calls us the same thing…did God change His mind about His people seeking justice and righteousness in society between testaments?
Michael – “and I’ve heard Christ died for me in every one of them…” then you should be abundantly full of hope.
I wonder what Xenia was hearing that gave her no hope.
MLD said “Sorry to hear that you did not hear “Christ died FOR YOU.”
I just hate this snark.
I never said that and you well know it.
“The lack of hope in your previous situation is because you probably continually heard STOP SINNING – follow these 10 steps.
10 steps to a better marriage
10 steps to financial freedom
10 steps to be a David etc.”
You made that up. My old pastor didn’t teach these things, in fact, he disliked this kind of teaching. In fact, he taught almost exactly what you preach here.
You deliberately misconstrue what people say.
“The last time I checked, the NT calls us the same thing…did God change His mind about His people seeking justice and righteousness in society between testaments?”
Yes, he did change his mind. Instead of telling the church to destroy the residents in the land, Jesus, who has claimed the entire world as his inheritance, has commanded the church to make disciples of all nations. Pretty cool, eh?
I wonder what Xenia was hearing that gave her no hope.<<<
I was hearing for 20 years the stuff that you peddle here.
“Michael – “and I’ve heard Christ died for me in every one of them…” then you should be abundantly full of hope.”
I have eschatological hope…but I fear the world (and the church) I leave behind for my loved ones and my community when I go to glory.
I don’t believe that the only point of my faith is personal fire insurance…it’s the people of God spreading the kingdom of God…and from where I sit it looks like we’re going in reverse.
good fun – she returned the snark!
“Yes, he did change his mind. Instead of telling the church to destroy the residents in the land, Jesus, who has claimed the entire world as his inheritance, has commanded the church to make disciples of all nations. Pretty cool, eh?”
What a bs response.
“and from where I sit it looks like we’re going in reverse.”
You need to change where you are sitting.
This conversation goes back to why Jesus does not make a difference.
The opinion of some is that people have body checked Jesus and put him out of play.
an impotent Jesus – he is now on the injured reserved list. LOL.
The spiritual situation between the Church and culture is spoken of in John’s prologue:
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome [or comprehended] it.”
A Christian is a little light bulb. This Light can, God willing, convert a sinner to the light, but otherwise, it shines in darkness and the darkness cannot grasp it. This is why I say that the Church cannot transform culture through social justice programs.
There are many other countries that morally are arguably more righteous than the US, with a much smaller proportion of Christians. The law is to some extent written on the hearts of all mankind.
Michael’s and Xenia’s comments are of great value. I wish you’d reconsider bowing out. I think we were getting to the crux of the matter.
It’s Monday and I’ve had all I can take of the mockery already.
There are other places where you can mock and distort things…wear them out for a while.
I hope I’m not guilty of mocking or distorting. My apologies if I came off that way.
I’m going to be blunt.
Between the two of you I have come to find Lutheranism odious.
Christian theologically, but practically, just mean and dogmatic..
I’m not the only one.
I’m getting really tired of defending why I let it continue here…
This is so one sided and unfair. This conversation this morning began with Josh claiming I was unchanged.
Yet there is no charge that is odious and mean.
This does show the total sinfulness of even the Christian.
You have spent another thread mocking and distorting other peoples views.
I have spent another morning dealing with the pushback from our readers.
You and Jean are free to continue…but it’s not making a great impression on non Lutheran lurkers.
“I have come to find Lutheranism odious.”
The Vatican and the Holy Roman Empire had the same thought.
Trent was their commentary on that statement.
I am going to be blunt as well.
I don’t mind when people explain their denomination/faith. I enjoy reading about Josh and Em’s kind-hearted and thoughtful evangelicalism, Michael’s joy in finding the freedom of Anglicanism, and Duane’s theology, which comes *so close* to matching my own. I talk about Orthodoxy all the time.
What I find objectionable is when MLD DELIBERATELY misconstrues what others say about their own faith. Today is but one example.
When a person here explains their faith and the answer is always a sarcastic “I am sorry you were not taught [insert pet Lutheran doctrine] at your church…” that’s the end of the conversation as far as I am concerned. I am not interested in engaging mockers.
Michael – the only thing we have lobbied for is that Jesus has called us out of the culture – not to reform the culture.
But I will try to look at it through your lens.
MLD – I was just quoting you on saying you are unchanged. I wouldn’t know other than what you tell us here.
I don’t find Lutheranism theologically odious.
I find the attitude toward the rest of the Body of Christ and the way Lutherans engage with us to be odious.
Xenia – I don’t consider “Jesus Christ died for you” to be a Lutheran doctrine. I find it to be across the board Christian doctrine.
So if people aren’t hearing that in their church and they are left with no hope, they have every right to leave that church. That was my point.
Jesus died for you is the message of hope – nothing else.
but I will withdraw from this conversation.
Xenia represents my email this morning…
“When a person here explains their faith and the answer is always a sarcastic “I am sorry you were not taught [insert pet Lutheran doctrine] at your church…” that’s the end of the conversation as far as I am concerned. I am not interested in engaging mockers.”
We’re going to disagree, but we don’t have to be jerks while doing so.
“I don’t consider “Jesus Christ died for you” to be a Lutheran doctrine. I find it to be across the board Christian doctrine.”
I think you just did it again.
“Jesus Christ died for you” is taught in EVERY Christian church.
You know that.
They may not preach it the way you like to hear it, but it’s taught in EVERY Christian church.
“Christ died for you” is not synonymous with Lutheranism. We all believe Christ died for us.
This is yet another example…
One last comment – the comment to Xenia “I am sorry you were not taught…” was in her response that she was left without hope in her Protestant church.
I assumed if she had no hope was because she was not hearing the message of hope.
What else would leave one without hope coming out of a church?
Now over and out.
MLD, I was left without hope because all I heard was the same things you teach here, minus the sacramentalism.
You have, on numerous occasions, accused my old CC pastor, a man you have never met, of teaching sermons of the Ten Things You Need to Do ilk and I have always responded that nope, he hated that kind of thing and taught your brand of positional theology, which I found devastating.
Rather than making stuff up about my old CC, why not rejoice that I have now found hope?
MLD believes in a strawman evangelicalism, while he actually promotes the main thrust of real evangelicalism.
“Rather than making stuff up about my old CC, why not rejoice that I have now found hope?”
This is the crux of the matter to me.
Xenia found a home and (I’ve known her longer than anyone here)the result has been joyous for her and for all of us who watched the transition.
I’m an Anglican and feel the same way about where I am.
Those who find their place in the kingdom flourish…and I rejoice at the finding of those homes…even for Lutherans…
Michael at 10:36 am today:
Exactly why I didn’t want to post on this particular topic anymore. Didn’t find it safe anymore to say anything (and I mean anything) here without it being filtered thru someones particular brand of faith.
And just for the record, my multiple use if the word “jerk” was absolutely not directed at anyone here. I was just venting.
I apologize for not dealing with this sooner.
If the site is going to thrive we need people to feel safe to speak…knowing that we may debate what’s been said, but in a charitable spirit.
You’re valued here, my friend.
This is the sentence I commented on – “I left Protestantism because I was falling into desperation and there was nothing being taught at my church that offered any hope.”
Note the ‘nothing was being taught… that offered any hope.’ My assumption was that the message of hope “Jesus died for you” wasn’t being taught to the church. (I don’t know of any other message of hope that could be taught – but what do I know.)
Thank you Michael.
MLD – When you were CC and SBC did you ever hear that JEsus died for you?
MLD, then I should not have used the word “nothing.” I was taught enough about Christ (who died for me) that the positional theology that was also being taught was killing me.
I was taught enough about Christ (who died for me) that the positional theology that was also being taught was killing me.<<<
I should clarify: I was taught enough about Christ *to come to the realization* that…. etc.
I entered the thread this morning and struck up a respectful, mutually gratifying, conversation with Josh, which resulted in our general agreement on the topic. I think the tone and content of our discussion was edifying to us and may have been informative for others. I hope this can continue.
Jean – I did appreciate the conversation.
Josh, actually I did not. What I always heard was a general Christ died for the world. Never did a CC or SBC pastor preach that me as a Christian was a sinner worthy of God’s wrath, but because of Jesus, he died for MY sins.
I hesitate to say it so as to not offend, but there is a difference.
Wow. Never took you down the Romans road, huh? Maybe SBC is different in the south, but I’ve heard it nearly every week for my whole life.
Never did a CC or SBC pastor preach that me as a Christian was a sinner worthy of God’s wrath, but because of Jesus, he died for MY sins.<<<
I heard this every Sunday, both at Calvary Chapel and at the Baptist churches I attended for decades.
This is basic Protestant/ evangelical theology.
Now you guys are going to tell me what I heard and know?
I am telling you what I heard for 40 years of evangelical church attendance.
I’m not telling you anything that you heard. I’m telling you what I heard.
But honestly, not even the Romans Road? That’s an SBC classic.
I heard that message in every church I’ve been a part of.
Evangelicalism is based on the need for being born again.
I’m no fan of CC…but reality is that more people come to Christ in CC and other baptistic churches in a month than in our established traditions in a year… put together.
I may consider them “starter churches” because then I don’t have to ask why they’re not starting in mine…
Half the Baptists I knew had their Bibles marked up so could efficiently lead a sinner to conversion.
Oh, I heard the message but it was not directed to me – that was always the tag line spoken to the visiting unsaved in the crowd at the end of the service. You know, the “would you like to know this same Jesus you sinner? Jesus died for you.”
But never did a pastor preach that to me as a Christian – the evangelical does not think that a message of Christ dying for the Christian is appropriate – it’s for the unsaved in the crowd.
Again Josh, as a Christian no SBC pastor took me through the Romans Road.
He is redefining “Christ died for you” in Lutheran terms.
That explains why he didn’t hear Lutheran sermons among the Baptists and CC.
I guess I believe you. It’s just completely opposite of my experience. In that case, I don’t blame you for leaving.
Xenia – I am not a post modernist, so explain to me how Christ died for you carries different meaning to different groups? Very interested.
It’s beyond me how anyone could think transformation isn’t a part of the
Christian journey — call it sanctification if you wish.
Otherwise…seems to me our God has some sort of constipation if He
doesn’t care about anything other than one’s conversion.
How can you read the Sermon on the Mount and not see how God
in Christ wants to transform us? That’s just one example from the NT.
Keep in mind, I just moved churches as well. One SBC that I was at for ten years to a new, hip, SBC church with an 83 year old pastor. Been there two weeks. I’d estimate that I have heard Jesus died for me 20 times in those two weeks.
And by new and hip, I mean it was planted in 1896. My old church was planted in the 1830’s.
bob1 – allow me to take you back to a comment I made a 6:47 am –
“Josh, thanks for bringing that up. This is a watershed divide between Lutherans and Baptists (along with many others in American Evangelical circles.)
Lutherans do not change but ARE changed, where you work at changing yourself.
How have I been changed by God’s conversion? My works before conversion were no more than dirty rags to God. Now by his work, my works are done in faith in Jesus Christ, are now counted as Good, and to God’s glory.”
So I do think tramsformation happen – Jesus transforms me – I do not transform me.
But as I asked Josh earlier about living out the 10 commandments, let me ask you, if you started out at 50% living the Sermon on the Mount successfully, where are you today, all these years later – 60, 70, 80%?
Knowing what I know now about God’s law and my sin, if I started at 50%, now these almost 40 yrs later I may be at 10% – and if it is that high it is purely by accident. Not that I don’t try, not that I don’t strive but that is some hard rock mining to live out that Sermon.
So tell me how you are doing on that.
Who cares how much one lives (what percentage? LOL) out Jesus’s commands? What has that got to do with anything?
I do agree that one can, if one’s conscience is especially tender, get on
a works treadmill. Sure. But what you Lutherans don’t seem to get is
that God is a God Who commands! You only seem to have 2 categories
for everything — Law and Gospel. The Reformed at least understand
that Scripture is more complex than that.
BTW, there are more than 50 different terms for “law” in the OT.
But that’s for another discussion.
“if I started at 50%, now these almost 40 yrs later I may be at 10% ”
So Christianity has actually hurt your morality?!?
Now I see why Xenia left evangelicalism. (And by that, I mean stuff like SBC and LCMS)
Not only is it not working in your life, its actually making you worse (By your own accounting.)
“But what you Lutherans don’t seem to get is that God is a God Who commands!”
We understand that fully. In the sermon Jesus says we are to be perfect (law) – so now where do we turn? To Jesus and his saving work (gospel)
I fail to understand why you have an issue with that, but if you do – then OK.
You can find out what we mean by law in the law / gospel conversation here in the book of concord.
Josh – no, when I became a Christian I thought I was A-OK – but after all these years of understanding God’s law and my sinfulness, I realize I was not fulfilling 50% of the Sermon on the Mount – not at all.
So how are you doing. Do you live it out every day? No anger, you are constantly the salt of the earth and the light of the world? That’s only 3 of them – how are you doing on those three?
Me? perhaps 10% of the time am I there with no flaws.
As I said earlier, Wesley thought it could be pulled off.
Oops! Wrong thread, didn’t intend to drop in on the Lutheran catechism class ?…
Jesus: Be perfect.
Everyman: Nope, I can’t attain to 100% so I am going to come up with a theology to explain away most of Your words so I don’t even have to make the attempt.
Jesus: I never said anything about percentages, I said pick up your cross and follow Me.
Everyman: You can’t be serious, it’s not possible.
Jesus: We Me, all things are possible.
Xenia – That’s how I hear it, too.
Xenia – so now who is fibbing about the conversation to make her point? I clearly said “Not that I don’t try, not that I don’t strive but that is some hard rock mining to live out that Sermon.”
but your charge does not offend me.
But I hope you and Josh know that “give it your best and God will make up the rest” is Mormon theology.
“give it your best and God will make up the rest”
Is…the definition of grace.
“Not that I don’t try, not that I don’t strive but that is some hard rock mining to live out that Sermon.”<<<
Yes, you said this. My apologies.
“You therefore must be perfect”
The verb is future, indicative, middle voice. Why can’t we read that as a performative utterance or promise given to all followers of Jesus?
“Is…the definition of grace.”
It may be the Mormon definition of grace and it may be the RCC definition of grace – heck it may be the EO definition of grace (I will let Xenia chime in) – but it sure as heck is not the Apostle Paul’s definition of grace and I and sure it is not the SBC definition of grace.
Romans 4:4-5 = “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,”
Grace is the very energies of God himself. The Orthodox Church believes that through the Trinitarian ministry of the Holy Spirit these energies are mediated to mankind. That is, how God acts in forgiving and spiritual healing. Grace is the working of God himself, not a created substance of any kind that can be treated like a commodity.
Grace certainly fills the gap where I fall short. If the Mormons believe that, then they got one right. Did you know they also believe there was a guy named Jesus. Lutherans probably agree with that one. I know that Mormon is your favorite insult, but you were reaching on that one.
Jean, that would seem to undermine the thrust of the passage.
Josh, a couple of points – if you as a Baptist you agree with the Mormon claim that your works count as a share in the salvation process, go for it. Lutherans do not agree with that.
Yes, the Mormons do believe there was a guy named Jesus – he just is not the Jesus of the Bible – he is some other guy. So Lutherans do not agree with the Mormons on that one either.
Josh, doesn’t the grammar inform us of the thrust?
What I find interesting is how some confuse the work of salvation and grace with living under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Understanding or receiving God’s forgiveness, mercy and grace is the beginning of life and not the end. Like little children we are expected to grow up and live it out amongst our world. When we vote we vote our conscience as we are taught by His example, when we wake, eat, dress, communicate, work, meet others, raise our families and whatever else you can think of under the sun, we do all under His Lordship.
Why do some so quickly drag things back to our new birth and forget about how He makes a difference through His people? He draws people through you and you lead them to Him. That is how Jesus makes a difference in our culture. It is a work of His Spirit.
MM, go up and read my comment at 9:39 this morning. This is how I see the church interacting with the community to show the love of Christ.
I did say in comments earlier that the best we can hope for is to snatch some from the culture but we cannot really change the culture.
What I find interesting is how some confuse the work of salvation and grace with living under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
That’s what Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace.” Why the German church
under Nazism barely (far less than 1%) rescued the Jews and other groups who were being persecuted and murdered.
who were being persecuted.
Mormons?!? Tedious in the extreme…
“if you as a Baptist you agree with the Mormon claim that your works count as a share in the salvation process, ”
That’s what Xenia was complaining about earlier. Find a place where I said anything like this. We were clearly not talking about works towards salvation, but works after salvation. Don’t even know why I bother.
Jean – yes, of course the grammar is important, but doesn’t negate the context. “Therefore” ties back to passage that came before. The promise reading would only make sense if the “Love your neighbor” was also a promise. (Indicative is just the common mood. The only difference would be future verse present. An accurate translation would read “You will be Holy” rather than “You be holy”. )
So he goes though and tells the imperfect ways of man : “Love your neighbor, hate your enemy”
Then he gives the perfect way of God: “Love your enemy”.
Finally verse 48 points back to all that and says: You are to do the perfect one.
IF it is a promise, that would nullify the teaching from the previous 26 verses.
What I just said about accurate translations is confusing. I was laying out Jeans argument for those that didn’t get it, pointing out that “You will be holy” would be an accurate translation based on the tense of the verb. I did NOT mean to imply that translations that choose different wording there are inaccurate. They have very educated teams of scholars who make those translations, and they choose their wordings carefully for good reason. I only have a few years of greek under my belt. Not trying to correct the scholars.
Let’s be clear: I am almost certainly the only person in this conversation that believes works “count as a share in the salvation process.” Is is disingenuous to make this claim about anyone else here.
NASB usually refelcts the Greek better than any other translation (in my opinion). Here is how they handle the present tense:
Therefore *you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
*They add the footnote here “you shall be”.
Good question Jean. I enjoyed thinking that through.
sorry – should have been how they handle the future tense. Man, I’m done spamming y’all for the night 🙂
The indicative mood is a statement of fact or an actual occurrence from the writer’s or speaker’s perspective.”
Jesus is telling his disciples that in the future they will be teleioi (i.e., perfect or complete, or have reached His end-goal for them).
I think you are getting a little ahead basing your exegesis on the indicative mood. A lot of preachers will do that type of thing, but most often, it is an overreach. It doesn’t seem that the major translations share your interpretation. You may be able to find some backing in a scholarly commentary (not one that I’ve seen, but I don’t doubt that it is there)
But seriously, indicative is sort of the standard verb type. Don’t read too much into the “statement of fact”.
There is nothing wrong with the ESV or NASB. The both have “be perfect.” But we have to be able to distinguish between an imperative (which this is not) and an indicative.
Oh sure. I’ve already given that. But we can’t go too far with that either. Most of the verbs are indicative. “Love your neighbor” is also indicative. It’s not as easy as looking at the mood and drawing a conclusion.
Look at this list of translations. Which one seems to be the promise? They all look like commands. You don’t want to go against every translation.
Josh, I already said I’m not going against the major translations. I’m disagreeing with the way you read the verb rendered “shall be.” But, we don’t have to argue. You can continue to read the indicative verb as an imperative if that suits your theology.
I know in Hebrews, it says that on account of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins He has perfected His Christians. I will gratefully add my thanksgiving and amen.
Jean, I don’t know how long you’ve been studying greek. You may have more experience than I do. I wouldn’t doubt it. I would tell you that in seminary we were warned explicitly against doing exegesis the way you just did. I’m sure the same would be true in a Lutheran seminary. Look. I know what the moods mean, and that imperative should mean command. It’s just not that easy. Again, “Love your enemy” from verse 44 is also indicative. IS that also a promise? Did all the translations and all the scholarly commentaries get it wrong?
Look, you may have found a little exegetical nugget. If so, good for you. I’m just saying I wouldn’t go on that island alone. Find some scholarly backing. By scholarly, I mean those who interact with the Greek in a technical manner. You may be able to find some that agree with you. I’d just be careful about making that leap based on a Greek mood alone. Unless you are a Greek scholar, which you may be.
I read your post and only agree with part.
“MM, go up and read my comment at 9:39 this morning. This is how I see the church interacting with the community to show the love of Christ.”
Regardless of the belief system of the culture around us, I believe those in Him are bound by that relationship to be and progress throughout our lives to grow up as an example of His Kingdom. That includes how we handle ourselves when we are either wronged or wrong others, our judicial system (yes there is a personal version of a judicial system), and basically just about everything we do that has been entrusted to us in this life is subject to His rule (yes, even when I drive my car and want to give the middle finger to the others around me).
Hopefully I clearly stated faith in the finished work of Jesus (call it salvation if one must) is only a beginning and not the end. His Kingdom reigns now and will forever reign into the next age. (No I’m not writing about the schism of the Kingdom doctrine).
But as in all things, you have a choice of doctrines, practices and dogmas just as I do. After over 5 decades of following Him my passion for His ways has not diminished.
“He has perfected His Christians.”
Of course He has, but what does that meaning a practical day to day sense, perfected in what way?
So what are you going to do now, argue about how one is saved or go and live like one who has been forgiven.
All these comments about dogmas reminds me of the allegory in Les Miserables. Which one of the characters are you (ok I) most like?
Very long day tomorrow. Have a blessed day!
Let’s be clear: I am almost certainly the only person in this conversation that believes works “count as a share in the salvation process.
Xenia. Not so. I believe works count as a share in the salvation process. However I say it with caviats that the old man in us cannot produce good works and the good works we do in the new man are actually the fruit of what Christ has done in us and is doing in us. Ephesians 2:10. In other words the sanctification process when we boast in the Lord.
“I know what the moods mean, and that imperative should mean command. It’s just not that easy. Again, ‘Love your enemy’ from verse 44 is also indicative. IS that also a promise?”
The verb “love” is set in present tense, imperative mood, active voice, 2nd person plural. Verse 44 is a good contrast to verse 48.
The literary basis for weighting verse 48 as a promise, rather than command, is what verse 48 summarizes: it summarizing the higher righteousness required of a disciple to enter the kingdom of heaven (v. 20). When you hear of that higher righteousness now summarized as perfection “as your heavenly father is perfect” you are invited to see two things: (1) you have absolutely no shot of attaining these by your own power or will (God is a pretty high bar, don’t you think?), and (2) [and this is the key] “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.” (v. 17)
Jesus is the one who came from God and is “the exact imprint of his nature.” Jesus is the way to the Father. Jesus lived the perfect life. We come to the Father in and through Jesus. He supplies the perfection that God requires of us in order to come into the presence of this most holy God. (I’m not importing Pauline theology into Matthew; it’s right in Matthew for our reading.)
Have you noticed that at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, the disciples and crowd did not abandon Jesus. They didn’t say: ” Wow, that guys program is impossible or too tough. I thought the pharisees were tough, but this Jesus is out of control.” That’s what one would expect if Jesus was giving a command.
No the crowd marveled: “the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. ”
Sinners, the unclean, the sick and the lame came to Jesus because he offered them the teleiosity and access to God that neither the law nor the temple could (or would) offer them. Why else did they come to Jesus?
“The verb “love” is set in present tense, imperative mood, active voice, 2nd person plural. Verse 44 is a good contrast to verse 48.”
What source do you have that shows that as imperative?
My bad, “love” is imperative. I was reading it wrong.
But that doesn’t mean I’m finding any scholarly backing for your reading of verse 48. The fact that the previous commands are there almost makes the point more obvious. What do we do with those commands? Does verse 48 get us off the hook?
Broadus: -“Be ye perfect. Ye shall be (so Tyndale, Great Bible, Geneva, and Rev. Ver.), is a literal translation of the Greek Future, which is in such a case substantially equivalent to an imperative. ”
Zodhiates: – “The verb translated “Be ye” ( ésesthe, the future indicative of eimí , to be) carries the imperative emphasis”
Again – there is more to the language than looking up the mood in Strong’s. But you may be right.
I appreciate that you are looking for scholarly backing. I do the same. However, we run in very different theological circles. The Reformed and Baptist readings and translations dominate in commentary publishing. Therefore, I will not be able to convince anyone by drawing on a majority. I can only provide to the best of my ability with the grammar and literary context of a text and invite you to consider them with an open ear.
By the way, when I say the weight is on the promise, I do not dismiss two other senses in which I understand that Jesus listeners would have heard him: (i) He was bestowing a gift on believers; and (ii) He was also encouraging them to begin living out this gift. His gifts are not subject to our postponement (until we’ve had our fun or grown old):
“And a scribe came up and said to him, ‘Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ Another of the disciples said to him, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.’ ”
Jesus’ utterance “You shall be perfect” is a claim on your life, which bestows the promise of communion with God as well as renewal into the image of the Son.
Paul is ever so careful to not negate the grace of God:
“How can we who died to sin still live in it?”
I would have expected Paul to say something like: “No, God has given you grace; now stop sinning. Look what Jesus has done for you. Now honor him by keeping the Decalogue.”
However, Paul doesn’t do that, because the grace of God in Christ supplies all that is required of us. It has accomplished everything for us. Now, according to Paul, there is no longer any “me” in relation to sin; I have died to it.
So Paul invites and encourages us to begin and continue living by the new reality created by Jesus for us: “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
Does this help?
Can you not find a Lutheran commentary that agrees with you?
Do you have credentials to argue from the Greek? (I’m not implying that you don’t. I just don’t know.) I’ve had a few years of serious study, and I am not qualified to make exegetical arguments like that apart from scholarly backing.
In the past few weeks, you have made statements, such as: No creed but the Bible. But now, the Bible is not enough for you and you want the affirmation of commentaries. Do you seen the inconsistency? Look, the biggest thing that causes discord on the blog is when we direct our arguments at each other, which typically gets personal. However, if we stick with the text, the odds favor a meaningful discussion.
However, it could be that we’re at the end of the discussion, being that we’ve both given our views. Maybe there are some other views among the readership who would like to weigh in.
Today is a new beginning and God’s love and mercy has and continues with us as we wake.
After reading your posts I began to see something and its’s highlighted here in this excerpt:
“The verb “love” is set in present tense, imperative mood, active voice, 2nd person plural. Verse 44 is a good contrast to verse 48.”
It doesn’t really matter if I disagree or agree with your statement, but what I read and hear is a need for precision. Yes the Greek is more precise of a language than the Hebrew of our texts and the” Greek mind” is a bit more analytical than the Bedouin mind, but both are filled with the mysteries of what is not seen.
My point is this I can know something with surgical precision, but where does the rubber hit the road? This morning I’m sitting at a Peets Coffee having my morning wake-up and I’m wondering who, what where and when my life will take me today. How will His finished work effect life today and will I show the same grace and love to the rest of His creation of which I’m a part.
We can argue the precision of Jesus’ crucifixion, the processes, how the Romans were involved, was it really three days and so on. Good stuff to help confirm the truth for our minds, but now I have to walk the road, maybe it’s the “road to Emmaus” or some other similar metaphor.
I need a renewed mind to shed light on where my old man body has to go each moment of day. That is how I see Jesus bringing change to the world in which He created and made me a part of.
Unlike MLD I believe we can make a change, but just beware that I too can slide down the slippery slope and become the very thing I sought to change.
Have a blessed day.
Thank you for your passion.
I enjoy your comments and wish I was at Peet’s sharing a cup of coffee (black) with you. I suspect we share far more in common on these topics than one might suspect, though our vocabulary is probably different.
“Do you have credentials to argue from the Greek? (I’m not implying that you don’t. I just don’t know.) I’ve had a few years of serious study, and I am not qualified to make exegetical arguments like that apart from scholarly backing.”
Whether or not Jean has the “credentials” to make an argument of the Greek translation really isn’t important, because he has the right to do his best to understand the text. Personally I have found knowing the details of the language, while important, does not give one the knowledge of the intent of the author.
What is difficult is understanding the context (and I mean beyond the written context) of the text. I have also discovered even the best commentators and translators are limited in their ability to fully understand the meaning of the words.
So to be fair I’m okay with and actually encourage people’s attempts to try and figure out such things and not just accept what they are told is true.
And keep struggling with the text.
Jean – when we are arguing technical aspects of the Greek language, I admit that I am not educated enough, and in those cases, I must rely on experts. If you just want to argue your case from the English translations, well, you don’t have an argument. They all lean the way that I read it.
I didn’t see myself getting personal or insulting at all. If it was taken that way, I do apologize.
MM- IF I or, or anyone, is going to make a translation choice that goes against all of the major translations, I think we should have a good reason why. I am all for everyone doing their best to understand the scripture, the language, etc. But their is always a humility needed to keep us on track. To this point, Jean has not given compelling evidence for going against the major translations and I am trying to allow him to do so.
That’s twice now that you’ve falsely accused me. I have twice affirmed the translation choices made by the major translations. What more can I say?
Falsely accused and getting personal?!?
I’m sorry Jean, I feel like I’m in a different conversation than you. Do you see a translation that translates vs 48 in a way other than a command?
I’m quite satisfied with the NASB:
“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
I just don’t read it primarily as a command. There is a different conjugation one could use to state this as a command; “you are to be” is hardly one of them.
Also doesn’t sound at all like a promise.
■ 48* After the catchword “more” (v. 47*) has already clearly referred back to v. 20*, v. 48* brings the entire series of antitheses to a close.
The saying in Q 6:36 serves as the basis. This verse is one of the earliest formulations on Palestinian soil53 of the Jewish imitatio Dei principle based on Lev 19:2*.54 It was perhaps formed with Hellenistic influence. Matthew has completely reworded it. Statements about God’s perfection are found especially in the Greek area.55 However, Matthew is also able to link up with OT statements.56
The key to understanding the verse is the word “perfect” (τέλειος), which, in addition to this passage, also appears in 19:21*. Some have correctly emphasized that the concept must be interpreted not on the basis of the Greek doctrine of virtues but on the basis of its Jewish background. In Jewish texts individual pious persons (e.g., Noah or Abraham) can be described as perfect because of their piety and their obedience.57 The Hebrew equivalent תָמִים appears with special frequency in the Qumran texts; it is a self-designation of this group that goes “the perfect way,” that is, that keeps the more rigorously interpreted Torah.58
There are two elements in this perfection: the unity of heart and totality of obedience as a subjective element and fulfilling all the law’s demands as an objective element. The quantitative element in the Matthean idea of righteousness, suggested already in v. 20* and repeated in v. 47* with the word “more,” along with 19:20–21*, which speaks of keeping a commandment still lacking for perfection, makes it probable that the qualitative element also should not be ignored in our passage. Whoever obeys God’s commandments without any omissions is “perfect.”59 The Didache, standing in the Matthean tradition, understands it this way also. Perfection means: “bearing the whole yoke of the Lord” (Did. 6.2). Specifically Matthew is probably thinking above all of the love of enemies, while in the case of God’s perfection he is, based on v. 45*, thinking of the goodness of God, who has his sun rise on the evil and the good. The emphasis is on the “you”: by means of its perfection the community is to distinguish itself from the Gentiles (v. 47*).
Why did Matthew change the Q tradition at all if he too was concerned about mercy? With “perfect” he emphasizes the fundamental significance of the love of enemies. It is not one demand among others but the center and apex of all the commandments that lead to perfection. Thus perfection is not a special status of a few “exceptional” Christians. At this point in particular on the surface there appears to be a tension between our passage and 19:20–21*, where renouncing possessions is emphasized and one is closer to a two-level ethic.60 The tension is resolved if one recognizes that for Matthew perfection is a task confronting all Christians and activating all. The righteousness that is greater (περισσεύσῃ … πλεῖον, 5:20*) than that of the Pharisees and scribes also includes in its quantifying element the idea that different Christians can make different degrees of progress on the way. However, all have the same goal; Matthew has marked it out with the antitheses. In this sense he too is thoroughly perfectionistic. The Didache’s “do what you can” is already valid for him but without its overtone of resignation.
With v. 48* Matthew finally returns the parenesis of the antitheses to God himself. He is perfect who bestows gifts on “righteous and unrighteous” (v. 45*). For this reason Matthew calls him “your heavenly Father.” This term for God is much more than popular embellishment here. It appears at the beginning of the central part of the Sermon on the Mount where the evangelist speaks of the prayer to the Father and thus states the inner dimension and the point of reference of the Christian struggle for the better righteousness. In so doing the evangelist points to the fundamental reality that makes the entire Sermon on the Mount possible. It is a reality that he had expressed in a different way by putting the ethical demand of this chapter into the story of the way God has gone with his Son.
History of Interpretation
The first thing one notices is that it was simply taken for granted in the ancient church that this “basic law”62 of faith is practicable63 and is practiced.64 A good example is 2 Clement 13–14, where it is clearly stated that whoever does not love the one who hates him is not a Christian and stands under God’s judgment. From an early date, however, there are already indications that the actual practice did not always conform to the demand. One can see the tendency to temper the command throughout the entire history of interpretation.
a. 2 Clement 13–14 is instructive. The community must be admonished not only because it does not love those who hate it but also because it does not even love those who love it (13.4). The harmony within the community was not what it should be! The author reminds the community: whoever does not do the Father’s will does not belong to the church (14.1). The first attempt to soften the requirement comes then from Origen: since there is no “love as you love yourself” connected with the love of one’s enemies, unlike the love of one’s neighbor it is enough that one not hate the enemies.65 Although this interpretation was energetically rejected by most people, it was nevertheless influential. One argued that, of course, loving the enemies does not mean that I must love enemies in the same way I love relatives and friends so that there is no longer any difference between them.66
b. Many have attempted to manage the problem by means of a two-level ethic. In his doctrine of duties Ambrose already assigns the love of enemies to the “perfect duties,” which he distinguishes from the “middle” duties.67 In the Liber Graduum the love of enemies belongs to the via perfecta.68 According to Augustine the injunctions “are only for the perfect sons of God. All the faithful should indeed strive to make them their own.”69 In Scholasticism it was never made a mere “counsel” in an undifferentiated way, yet with the help of Stoic traditions a distinction is made: although the enemies are not to be excluded from the general love of humanity and from the general prayers, everyone is required to be spiritually ready to love enemies “si necessitas occurreret” (if the necessity were to occur). It is not necessary, however, for salvation to love the enemy “pertinet ad perfectionem caritas” (according to the perfection of love) “absque articulo necessitatis” (without it being necessary to do so).70 Thus loving enemies is no longer the center of Christian practice; it is simply a borderline case.
c. Restricting the command to love enemies to the personal area is ecumenically popular. The enemy in a war is explicitly exempted;71 loving enemies is developed as a matter of individual ethics. One is to overcome personal feelings of hate against “the unfriendly neighbor, the competitor at work,” “whom the simple farmer or craftsman hates with all the fervor of his heart,” not, as Tolstoy, for example, thought, to overcome national hate.72 At any rate, “hate directed against the national enemy is less intensive and develops with greater difficulty.”73 In this way the problem of war can be removed from the realm of loving one’s enemies, since one has no personal bad feelings toward the national enemy.74
Especially important then is the transformation of Jesus’ demand into an inner attitude. “Like lightning his [scil. Jesus’] words penetrate the stifling air of thinking about revenge, and they make clear that the attitude he requires is to be free of all thoughts of retaliation and revenge. What Jesus is concerned about is one’s attitude.”75 The emphasis moves from the acts of loving enemies to the individual’s feelings. The ethic of intention is continued in the area of existential interpretation. Loving the enemy means “the renunciation of one’s own claim.”76 However, for Matthew loving the enemy means a concrete deed.
Meaning for Today
All of that leads to the question whether loving enemies is not asking too much of a person. In the NT we find not only the love of enemies; we also find Paul, who was not exactly a wimp in dealing with his opponents, not to mention the author of 2 Peter and his way of dealing with enemies (2 Pet 2:12–22*). Many interpreters have admitted their difficulties here.77 However, especially illustrative of the problems is the Gospel of Matthew itself. The same author who put love for enemies at the pinnacle of his antitheses not only took over the great woes discourse against the Pharisees in Matthew 23 from the tradition as a word of Jesus; he vigorously expanded it.78 One can, of course, give many reasons for this discourse, but it is certainly not an example of loving the enemy, not even of fairness toward opponents about whom the Jewish Christian Matthew could have known better. Does the evangelist Matthew thus himself serve as a prime example of this commandment’s problematic?
I pose the question with the words of a (well-meaning) Jew, since the Jews have suffered most because of the Christian deficiency in loving enemies: “the defect in the ethical teaching of Jesus is that it is strung so high that it has failed to produce solid and practical results just where its admirers vaunt that it differs from, and is superior to the ethical codes of the Pentateuch, the Prophets and the Rabbis.”79 According to this critic, a less absolute and more realistic ethic, perhaps like that of the rabbis, would have been more useful. Joseph Klausner took this criticism farther, saying that Jesus advocated an elevated ethical doctrine; with him there is “the laying down of virtually nothing but ethical rules.” “Judaism,” on the other hand, is “not only religion and it is not only ethics: it is the sum-total of all the needs of the nation.” Therefore the rabbis were able to build bridges to the sphere of national and political life, while Jesus’ doctrine could only be realized in monasticism, an institution that characteristically does not exist in Judaism.80
Is then the love of enemies a utopian demand that is ambivalent because it contradicts basic anthropological and psychological human presuppositions? Is it a “claim offensive to nature”?81
Heinrich Heine states: “If the dear God really wants to make me happy, he will let me experience the joy of seeing six or seven of my enemies hang. With a heart filled with emotion I will forgive them every injury before they die.… Yes, one must forgive his enemies, but not before they are hanged.”82 For Friedrich Nietzsche loving enemies is weakness and dishonesty: “To be unable to avenge oneself is called to be unwilling to avenge oneself.… Also there’s some talk of loving one’s enemy—accompanied by much sweat.”83 For Sigmund Freud the command to love enemies is a successful but happiness-negating attempt on the part of the cultural superego to transform one’s aggressive needs into feelings of guilt and thus to combat them.84 Measured by the standard of human nature the command to love one’s enemies is part of “I believe, because it is absurd” (credo quia absurdum). In Christian history one can see how problematic it is. Loving one’s neighbor, of which love of enemies is an extreme example, was always able to be realized only in manageable communities. The price one pays for it is heightened aggression toward the outside world. “When once the Apostle Paul had posited universal love between men as the foundation of his Christian community, extreme intolerance on the part of Christendom towards those who remained outside it became the inevitable consequence.”85
One can see something of that in the history of interpretation. In the ancient church it is often clear that the enemy of Matt 5:44* whom one is to love is the Gentile, while 7:1–5* speaks of relationships among the members of the church.86 Thus the enemy whom one is to love is, from a missionary perspective, the potential brother.87 Then the “enemy” is loved no longer for his own sake but so that he can be won for Christ. What happens, however, when those who are loved this way do not want to be won for Christ? When they persist in their enmity? The history of the church provides many examples of how “loving enemies” then becomes aggression; the attitudes of Matthew and Luther to the Jews are only two such examples.
Luz, U. (2007). Matthew 1–7: a commentary on Matthew 1–7. (H. Koester, Ed.) (Rev. ed., pp. 289–292). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.
Notice two things: First verse 20: “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Here Jesus tells us what God requires of us to enter the kingdom of heaven. This higher righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the paragons of Jewish righteousness.
Then look closely at verse 48. Jesus says “your heavenly Father.” Disciples of Jesus have the name of the Father given to them by Jesus purely out of grace. That means they are sons of the Father and brothers of Jesus; it means they can pray the Lord’s Prayer (i.e., the Our Father) in Chapter VI.
By virtue of them being Jesus’ disciples, they must, therefore, have the higher righteousness required in verse 20, otherwise they could not call God their Father. If they have that higher righteousness because Jesus has fulfilled the law and the prophets (v. 17), then they also must have the perfection imputed to them, as a declaration, promise and way of living, because they believe in Jesus.
Does this help?
You’ve been eating your Cheerios for breakfast this morning!?
I just scanned half a dozen commentaries…from Chrysostom to the present…there is no hint that this is anything but a command.
Every tradition has “gotcha” verses that upset the systematic theology the tradition has adopted.
Calvinists have some unique interpretations of verses that talk of a universal atonement, for example.
The person in the tradition can accept the unique interpretation and preserve the system…or submit to what was actually written.
I finally had to submit and let the tension and mystery have it’s rightful place…
Just trying to be helpful… 😉
It is an interesting thought, Jean. And I’m glad to have gone down that road, but yout take stifles the punch of Jesus’ words here (In my opinion).
If it’s a gotcha verse, the Sermon on the Mount in general is a gotcha sermon. It, along with Matthew, went from being the most sought NT Scripture in the early church for over 100 years to being today one of the least understood, most divisive and often ignored. Luz is helpful with his history of interpretation. You could add to that the dispensational view (some or all?) that the Sermon doesn’t even apply to the NT church.
Luz oddly doesn’t even wrestle with the verb “shall be.” It’s almost as though he (and others) just make the assumption that its primarily a command. R. T. France, who deals with the grammar somewhat, at least includes this footnote (I don’t have Betz):
“167. The future tense echoes that in LXX Lev [cit. omitted]; here, as there, it is best understood in the context in an imperative sense, though H. D. Betz, Sermon, 321, rightly points out that a prediction or promise of their ultimate perfection cannot be ruled out.”
“dispensational view (some or all?) that the Sermon doesn’t even apply to the NT church.”
That would be a small minority take. An incorrect one at that.
Your words got garbled at 7:46 am. If you meant that my interpretation takes the punch out of Jesus’ prior imperatives, I don’t think so. Jesus is clearly preaching kingdom ethics. Those ethics unite behavior with the inner heart, which is the mark of wholeness.
What I won’t do is make grace or salvation conditional on following the commandments. That for me wouldn’t make sense of the Gospel of Matthew, Christ’s atonement, or the theology in the epistles. I love Xenia and respect her very much; on this issue Lutherans and the EO do not agree. But I still consider her a sister in Christ.
Sorry about that last one. Typing quickly while doing other stuff. You interpreted my mess correctly.
I do think think it takes the punch out of Jesus’ words. He goes through all these commands, and then (according to you) says “But it’s all good, because I promise I’m going to make you perfect”.
I agree that salvation is not dependent upon following the sermon on the mount. That’s not the question I’ve been following here.
Your 8:05 am is a caricature of my words.
Also, in a sense salvation is dependent on following the Sermon on the Mount. They are Scripture. The finale of the Sermon is a parable is about a man who builds his house on the rock. There is a definite dependence there.
“What I won’t do is make grace or salvation conditional on following the commandments. ”
“Also, in a sense salvation is dependent on following the Sermon on the Mount. ”
I was just trying to agree with you, bro.
It’s amazing how our tolerance for variant interpretations increases when our own dogma is challenged.
We all do it…
Rather than potentially misinterpret you, Michael, here is my dogma:
“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Not me, He.
“John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Not me, them.
“the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” He is the light, not me.
“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.” He fulfills them, because no one else can.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Wow, there’s a doozy! His yoke is easy? His burden is light? That’s dogma to me.
“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’ ”
Double wow!! Jesus shed his blood to procure the forgiveness of my sins? This would be better rendered “testament”, because it’s unilateral. It’s not a bargain or a deal; it’s God’s gift: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
There’s my dogma.
My comment is this: What has the Church always taught this phrase means?
I think the Church has always taught that “Be ye perfect” is a command, not a prophecy, although it may have some prophetic aspects.
Xenia. Not so. I believe works count as a share in the salvation process.<<<
Thank you for the clarification, Steve. I have never been able to definitely pin down exactly what it is that you believe about various things, other than feeling certain you are a brother in the Lord. 🙂
I love Xenia and respect her very much; on this issue Lutherans and the EO do not agree. But I still consider her a sister in Christ.<<<
Thank you, Jean. Ditto!
My take is that many of those who call themselves Christian do not intimately know God or His word. They do not know what God wants or requires, they do not follow Him, and they don’t know his voice. Jesus said that those who loved him would obey him. To obey, you have to know him, what he loves and hates and what he says we are to do or how we are to live. Jesus had many commands in the New Testament. We need to be doing those.
Here’s my experience about “being perfect” and “salvation by works:”
In former days, I believed God was quite wrathful and remote from humanity. I believed the whole penal substitution doctrine, which made God one scary Guy, someone who, even after I accepted Christ still couldn’t look upon me, He had to view me thru the lens of Christ’s righteousness. And since I always doubted my salvation (all explained over the past years here) I felt His wrath was upon me- probably- at all times. Since there was no salvation in good works and bad works couldn’t affect my standing (if I had any- never certain about that) it didn’t matter what I did, either good or evil. Frankly, I couldn’t see the point of the whole thing. If I wasn’t saved, I was the victim of God’s wrath and if I was saved, my life and its actions didn’t seem to matter much to God Who still couldn’t look straight upon me without using Christ as a filtering Agent. It seemed All Wrath, little love so of course I wouldn’t bother with attempting holiness because who (and Who) cared?
In Orthodoxy, we do not believe God is wrathful in the same way as I was previously taught. We believe He loves everyone, even non-Christians. Christ didn’t die to appease His wrath, we have a different view of the Atonement that makes Christ a super-hero instead of a sacrificial victim (although we do believe His death was a sacrifice.) Completely different way of looking at things. So when He says “Be perfect,” we take this to mean we really can work towards perfection here on earth, with His companionship and help. It’s the companionship that matters. (Cue “Baking Cookies w/ Xenia”). It’s a life of walking with Him, becoming like Him, aiming towards a perfection but not achieving it until Heaven, which is just a continuation of our Life in Christ on earth.
It’s a life about Jesus Himself. It’s His own dear Self that we cling to.
I’m sure that’s how we all feel, even if we get bogged down with doctrines.
If God was not wrathful, why did he forsake Jesus on the cross?
If we can change and be perfect, why did Jesus need to die?
Do good works and living a proper life save the faith Muslim? (I know this is the RCC position with Vatican II.) anyone else hold this to be true?
Did Jesus or the Apostles ever commend anyone for not sinning, or for making moral progress?
**I must put in a disclaimer so I don’t feel the blog wrath – these are not Lutheran questions**
You’ve actually expressed the linguistic understanding of the Greek, re: “be perfect”. It is a command, a process and an ultimate goal, all in one phrase…
Xenia, Josh, Duane, MMM, MLD, Michael and everyone else,
I invite you to meditate and comment on the following:
In Matthew V, XIII, Jesus calls His disciples “salt of the earth,” and “light of the world.” The verbs, “are,” describing them are present, indicative, active. Jesus is declaring (a performative utterance) that His disciples are salt and light. I’m not asking for an exegesis of salt and light, but I assume we can all agree that both of these metaphors signify God’s favor, as well as confer their vocation as His people.
In the same sermon (VII, XI), Jesus describes His disciples: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Notice that the disciples are both salt and light and at the same time are evil. Even so, they must have the higher righteousness required to enter the kingdom of heaven or they couldn’t be salt and light.
Now, if a sinner, outcast or the unclean heard Jesus (think for example the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with her tears) say that he or she was the salt of the earth and light of the world (blessed are the poor in spirit, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, mourn, are meek, etc.), despite their sin that renders them evil apart from God’s grace in Christ, then to hear Jesus say, “you shall be perfect,” could be heard with ears to hear as the most wonderful promise ever conferred on someone.
Jean, I agree with your outcome. I do not agree with your interpretation of vs. 48.
Although we often speak about God’s law as something that can be partially, if imperfectly, kept, and may even get the impression that the partial keeping of the law gets us somewhere with God, when you look at it from the perspective of God’s holiness, you find that any uncleanness on our part desecrates God’s holiness. Thus, you have the deaths of Nadab and Abihu in Lev X and Paul’s warning regarding participating in the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner.
In both those cases, an unclean person cannot come into God’s presence without experiencing His wrath caused by the desecration of His holiness. Partial this or that doesn’t cut it.
Therefore, as long as we are in this sinful flesh, we must come to God under the cover of Christ’s blood and righteousness. There is not process here. We cannot approach God except mediated by Christ.
It is also a standard declaratory form in the Greek… a fairly common form in koine. I’m not sure that I would give the form a great deal of exegetical weight… just saying…
Before I hit replay, I should have stated, that is of course the “positional” thing we’ve been talking about, but there certainly is a process to how that holiness is carried out in out lives.
Command, process and ultimate goal do not negate each other…
There is a similarity to the IICor. 2:15, “those who are being saved”… something that has happened, something that is currently happening and something that ultimately will happen. One does not negate the other…
Xenia,. Thank you. My beliefs are pretty much stemming from a western mindset from the reformed/Lutheran tradition heavily influenced by Augustine. But thanks to you and others I’m open to realizing the lens I have come to accept and embrace needs to be generous and try to understand the Eastern church as well as other western traditions such as Wesley and methodists. With all that said I am solidly reformed but I’m also confident you’re my sister in Christ even though symantics and theology doesn’t always sync up. One thing that has helped me about soeteriology is that it’s not so much about our understanding of salvation but rather just trusting in Christ because he is the one that saves.
I think joining Jesus in the salvation process would be more like baking cookies with Gordon Ramsey. 🙂
I view it more as we ARE the cookies being baked in the oven by the master chef.
St. Paul preached an extravagant Gospel which syncs up well with the Sermon on the Mount:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself…. ”
This new creation that you are, by God’s grace and election, is perfect! This is because you are “in Christ” and He is the perfect One who fulfilled all righteousness for you! St. Paul said “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh.”
St. Paul understood the power of the Gospel. The Word made flesh, the Word which sends forth the very breath of God. His Word that goes out is effective; it accomplishes that for which it is sent.
If we regard ourselves according to the flesh, we will either deeply despair of our utter wretchedness, or for a few of us, we will revel in hypocrisy and self-delusion. It is for those who do regard themselves according to the flesh that the Sermon on the Mount is a great diagnostic tool. For those in Christ, the Sermon on the Mount guides our living, so that we may know what is well pleasing to our Lord
But, by the mercies of God let us, like St. Paul, be found in Christ. “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
“A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.
“Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge—
no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.
“For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.” Amen.