The Moral Priorities of Jesus – They Were Not Exactly What We Might Think

Here are 9 very short “chapters” on how Jesus lived and taught. I titled it “The Moral Priorities of Jesus.” What do you think?

  1. Introduction: Jesus was Respected but also Suspected. Why?
  2. God: Jesus’ Love for God and Religion Were the Roots of His Morality
  3. Inversions: Jesus Sometimes Inverted Common Morals
  4. Religion: Jesus and Religion had a Difficult Relationship
  5. Friends: Jesus Sometimes Kept Bad Company
  6. Economics: To Jesus, Economics and Exploitation were Issues of Morality.
  7. The Invisible: For Jesus, the Invisible Always Trumps
  8. Self Image: Did Jesus Have An Ego Problem?
  9. Conclusion: An Impressive Person!

Bad Times – Bad Religion – Bad Relationships

We live in bad times – or at least the potential is there and growing. Bad religion and bad relationships do NOT prepare us for bad times, nor do they help us get through them.

The ancient prophets Isaiah and Micah, among others, have much to say about these issues. These are things the Bible deals with over and over. If we want to be Bible-honoring Christians, these are among the most important things for us to pay attention to.

This is a matter of being true to The Book … just as we hope other people will also be true to The Book.

Micah says, briefly and strongly,

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly
and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

One way Jesus summarizes it is this: Continue reading

Christ Asks Us to Choose His Way, Not Caesar’s.

. . . switch sides from Caesar’s way to Jesus’ way – before it is too late.*
– Brian McLaren

“Caesar’s way” stands for secular, temporal government or authority. The usage derives from Jesus’ saying, when asked about paying taxes:

So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s. (Mt 22:21)

Jesus does not promote treason – even against the brutal tyranny of Rome. He does not even promote the idea of protesting against the government by refusing to pay taxes.

But Jesus clearly draws a line between God’s interests and Caesar’s. It’s obvious to us that 2000 years ago Jesus’ way and Caesar’s way were quite opposed to each other.

“If it weren’t for my faith in God I would conclude that it is already too late … But despair is boring and uncreative.”

It’s funny how today some tend to assume that Jesus’ way just offers support of Caesar’s way – as long as the Caesar in question is American. Is that too blunt? It seems to me that being good Christians is often assumed to mean being good Americans first, at least as energetically as we are Christ-followers. Some folks, unfortunately, even think those are one and the same thing.

“Caesar’s” powerful way is powerfully seductive, Continue reading

Freedom – From Fear

No government can ever guarantee that you or I will have nothing to be afraid of. And as the American Founding Fathers well knew, no government, not even ours, can be trusted with freedom to do just as it wants. The Founders built “checks and balances” into the US Constitution for very good reasons.

we can live with an underlying fearlessness – not arrogance, not bullying, but a fearless, calm love of God

Political parties, political movements – your neighbors – even your friends and family – can harm you in a variety of ways. It might be accidental; sometimes it is deliberate. Most of us have experienced it at some level or other.

There is no law we can pass, no person we can elect, no agreement we can make that will guarantee that any particular person or group will never turn against us or persecute us or hurt us. So what is a Christian to do in this unpredictable and sometimes very dangerous world?

It is precisely this problem that prompted Jesus’ disciple Peter Continue reading

God Doing Improv, In OUR Towns!

(Publication Info)

He sees our Christian spiritual tradition as having the resources we need, but those resources have to be rearranged, translated, improvised to powerfully engage current social realities.
Resurrection City is substantial and consistently stimulating. Heltzel is an associate professor of theology at New York Theological Seminary, with a strong grounding in Biblical values, Christian theology, Black theology, American history, and current justice concerns in American and world life. And he has a strong interest in jazz music. Nice mix!

A white boy from Mississippi, he manages fairly well to achieve the perspective of an outsider to the American mainstream – primarily an African American perspective. This is always of value when done responsibly; the Biblical prophets to whom he appeals were often in comparable situations.


“Meanwhile, outside the prayer closet, it’s another day of extortion in the marketplace, bribery in the courts, and intentional ignorance of the orphans, widows, immigrants, and prisoners.” p126

Heltzel applies that Continue reading

Activism, with Prayer and Silence

(This is my review of Occupy Spirituality: A Radical Vision for  a New Generation, by Adam Bucko and Matthew Fox. 2013, North Atlantic Books.)

I was very pleased with this book.  It is a conversation between a young activist and an old oneAdam Bucko (late 30’s, raised a Catholic in Poland, helps run a ministry to homeless youth in New York City) and Matthew Fox (late 70’s, a thinker, educator, author, and former Dominican, was evicted from “The Church” by the Vatican – in effect for talking too much, sorta like Socrates.  He then became an Episcopal priest).

It is full of wisdom and good examples deriving from the integrity of the authors’ own spiritual searching and service.  There’s a strong Christian flavor, but don’t go here to learn conservative American Evangelical theology.  They show some preference for Christ and his teaching but are open to a wide variety of spiritual theories and practices.

“The Bhagavad Gita, for example, talks about the importance of service, but it’s more about fulfilling your role or duty … In Western traditions, there is more of a concept of individuation.  You’re literally called by name to a specific kind of task.  In this way, sensing your calling becomes a very deep connecting point with life and God.” (Bucko, p29)

They think and study carefully, they actually practice what they preach, and they do so with Continue reading

Good Comment on Christians as Republicans

Here’s a very helpful reaction to the article “Why Many Christians Do Not Vote Republican.” Thanks CT for putting things so well. I have added underlines and bolding.

This is a great article. Although I am not American, if I had to vote I would also struggle with voting Republican.

While I don’t agree with all of the policies of the Democrats, I believe they are by far the better option.

We cannot tar all Republicans with the same brush but from what I can see their policies are not consistent with the teachings of Christ nor will they bring people to Christ which is what we as disciples are called to do.

Regarding the obsession with abortion and homosexuality:

While I agree abortion is wrong, I don’t see how criminalising it will stop women from aborting babies. People need to have a personal conviction that abortion is wrong and that will not come from aggressive anti-abortion tactics or rhetoric. Instead, would it not be better to provide better sexual education so that less young women fall pregnant and provide better facilities for young mothers who may feel that they are unable to support a child alone? Would it not also be better to educate men from a young age about respecting women so that there are less cases of rape which would lead to abortion?

Would it not also be a good idea for schools to teach students about responsibility and the need to use protection. While as Christians we shouldn’t practice sex outside of marriage we can’t expect non-Christians who have neither the conviction nor the help of the Holy Spirit to do the same.

With regards to homosexuality, we are called to love our neighbour period. The bible does not tell us only to love those we look and behave like us. It breaks my heart when I hear the hate that some Christians direct towards homosexuals, as if Continue reading