Jesus Christ

A New Litmus Test: Do What He Taught

Barb writes:

As a general rule, I do not advocate a tit-for-tat response to the Christian right and their dogma. I oppose the very idea of drawing a line in the sand on abortion or any other issue. I have already said this in other comments, but I believe that so much focus on any single issue, taken out of context with the totality of Christianity, fosters the tempting but dangerous belief that there are only a few real sins, and that anyone not participating in these sins is somehow not a sinner.

As dangerous as this is to the people they condemn, it is much more precarious to the people espousing this doctrine. They may start to see themselves as superior to other sinners, and this loss of humility leads to dehumanizing others. As all believers know, someone who does not love God”s people and creatures does not truly love God. It follows then that once they start to feel superior, they may have stopped loving God.

I am a huge fan of the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7), and the litmus test I am suggesting when evaluating ourselves or what we are told by others should be “Is this what Jesus asked us to do in the sermon on the mount?”. It’s not as catchy as WWJD (what would Jesus do), and we won’t be able to fit it on a bracelet and sell it on the internet. However, Lamentations 3:40-41 says “Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord.” We should constantly be searching and trying our ways, and Jesus has provided us with the way to do just that in the sermon on the mount.

Jesus didn’t teach us to scorn someone who strikes us on the cheek, so we should reconsider whether a Christian is following Jesus by listening to the mean-spirited sarcasm of Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh and the many others who pollute the airwaves with such ridicule. In Matthew 5:33-37, Jesus implores us to be so truthful that oaths are not needed. So if we are not truthful, or follow others who are not truthful, we should be questioning whether we are still following Jesus.

Jesus didn’t ask us to seek political power or to do the work He gave us through politicians, and we should reconsider whether that is following Jesus. We should seek to apply these principles consistently and not incorporate human discretion and prejudice into their application. Accordingly, seeking to use politicians to do the opposite of the work He gave us is also not following Jesus. If a Christian believes it is not the government’s job to help the poor and sick, something Jesus asked us to do, they are not following Jesus by supporting government policies that are harmful to the poor and sick. And if a Christian believes it is not the government’s job to help the poor and sick, then it is also not the government’s job to handle other issues important to Christians. As soon as we start to incorporate our agenda, we may have stopped surrendering to God’s will.

That is not to say that politics is wrong per se, but it is our work, if we choose, not God’s work. If we deceive ourselves or are deceived by others into thinking that is God’s work, then we are less likely to do the work Jesus did ask us to do. If you were Satan, could you think of a better way to keep people from doing the work Jesus asked of us than to convince them they already were?

The same principles apply for loving your enemies, and all of the lessons of the sermon on the mount. If we are truly followers of Jesus, we need to DO what he taught us to do. This is how we differentiate ourselves as Christians from the Pharisees who obeyed the laws but did not “walk the walk”. It is the least we can do, because when we do, we walk with the Lord.

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  • If you’re out to lunch, I wish a lot of people would find that restaurant. Seems pretty nourishing …

  • ps I meant in particular “disputes, dissensions, factions…” as resembling partisan politics.

  • Thank you again for this website and this “politically dangerous” sermon.

    Listening to the mass media is a bad exercise in understanding the broader body of Christ, but it mirrors the kind of stuff I’ve seen on Christian blog sites, etc. Does anyone even teach the Beatitudes anymore?

    I’ve always been a little nervous of politics because of this in GAL 5:19-21:

    “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

    Sounds like a political party convention to me.

    I’ve heard most believers interpret it as causing factions within the church, and even a lot of the study helps on CrossWalk seem to take that stance. But as with about everything else, a walk with Jesus goes contrary to about everything the world loves, such as cherished manifestations of democracy and TV. Am I out to lunch here?