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. 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

When the Government – or Society – Is Against You: What Should Christians Do?

Some American Christians worry that we are being “persecuted” and that our “freedom of religion” is being infringed. That’s always true to some extent – and the idea is scary. How did Jesus deal with it? Jesus practiced non-violent non-cooperation toward evil persons. The results of his courage were both short-term and long-term, mostly good, some brutally bad. Jesus’ immediate followers – the Christians of the first century, also faced lots of suffering. They suffered government harassment, even arrest and execution. They suffered from neighbors and fellow-citizens – the insulting or aggressive behavior of others around them in society. They suffered all the normal pains and sorrows of human life, of which there are many. … Continue reading

America’s Problem & Blessing: People Who Take the Bible Seriously (with 2 Rules of Interpretation)

Frankie Schaeffer grew up in a modern, politically radical, Americanized “Christianity”. He is not pleased with what it teaches or how it operates. In a recent article he gives a fairly thorough explanation of his concerns and how they relate to current political personalities – e.g. Michelle Bachmann. I have to agree with much of what Schaeffer says. Here’s an example: America has a problem: It’s filled with people who take the Bible seriously. America has a blessing: It’s filled with people who take the Bible seriously. … Continue reading

1)  INTRODUCTION:  Jesus was Respected but Also Suspected. Why?  (from “The Moral Priorities of Jesus”)

Early in his career Jesus was often invited to speak in synagogue (comparable to church today). But it was not long before a person could be expelled from synagogue for being loyal to that same Jesus. What happened? He obviously offended or frightened powerful people in both politics and religion. They, after all, are the ones who teamed up to get him first excluded, then executed. The Bible indicates that his positions on good versus evil (what is moral and what is immoral) were a large part of the problem. It makes you wonder. What did he teach that was so threatening to the powers that be? Why did he persist in such a dangerous direction? Would he get in trouble today with our political and religious leaders if he came with the same sort of teaching? After all, now as then, religion, politics, and economics are very big parts of life. Seven themes in the morals of Jesus are discussed in these short chapters. What were the moral priorities of Jesus? What does Christian morality look like? Perhaps these short chapters can help answer these questions. CHAPTERS Introduction: Jesus was Respected but also Suspected. Why? God: Jesus’ Love for … Continue reading

3)  INVERSIONS:  Jesus Sometimes Inverted Common Morals  (from “The Moral Priorities of Jesus”)

There was a problem. Jesus’ moral doctrines seemed to many people to be way out of line – to the point of being dangerous. A. In the Gospels Jesus does not mention homosexuality, and that was a time when it was more common in society than at many other times in history. There is a strong tradition associating the city name of Sodom with homosexual behavior, holding that their homosexuality was so offensive to God that he destroyed that city. Imagine how the good citizens of Capernaum felt when Jesus placed them below Sodom on the scale of moral goodness! “And you, Capernaum . . . it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.” There is no mention of homosexual behavior in Capernaum, nor does Jesus mention sexual behavior of any sort in this complaint. The problem is, they will not deal with the plain fact that God is now active in their midst in very unusual ways. (Mt11:23,24) Their self-satisfied, impervious religion, Jesus indicated, was much more deeply damaging and evil than whatever it was that caused Sodom’s destruction. This is a major inversion of their system of moral evaluation, and a … Continue reading

4)  RELIGION:  Jesus and Religion Often Had a Difficult Relationship  (from “The Moral Priorities of Jesus”)

The Pharisees were very serious about their faith. Although they were pompous about it, they were also good at it. Their religion — the Law of God — was their life. They were devoted, well educated and highly disciplined. And that is how they were seen by others. They set a very strict standard for religious holiness and had a reputation in general for practicing what they preached. And they were visible — recognizable in the streets by their distinctive attire and behavior. Because of their religious education, discipline and visibility, they often had prominent positions in the weekly synagogue meetings, sitting up front, reciting the many prayers or reading or commenting on Scripture. But this teacher Jesus — who was also highly respected for his goodness and for being serious about God and Scripture — this Jesus often spoke of them in public with contempt, withering scorn and condemnation. For example, in the famous “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus speaks of his nation’s holy writings (“the Law and the Prophets”), and of how important they are. Then he mentions the Pharisees. You might expect him to say “We need to listen to them. They are completely devoted to the … Continue reading

5)  COMPANY:  Jesus Sometimes Kept Bad Company  (from “The Moral Priorities of Jesus”)

Jesus was regularly seen at synagogue, and sometimes in the houses of the most important and respected people. But he was also regularly in the company of the “sinners” (the “bad” people of his day) fairly often in their houses or at their parties. Jesus seemed to have a special attraction for the tax-gatherers who took the people’s money for the hated Roman occupation. Those whose lives were sexually immoral – sometimes by their employment – gravitated to him. Jesus was quite comfortable at some parties and celebrations that were way out of line by the holy standards of the synagogues or the Pharisees. When he was called to account for these facts he was not apologetic, but defended himself with no hint of regret or confusion. And for all these people – in all their different categories of significance or insignificance, power or powerlessness, holiness or unholiness – he felt an obvious tenderness and concern, and a certain level of identification. He truly saw the crowds that followed him. He was “moved with compassion,” and saw them as “harassed and helpless”. They were! Signs of the Roman military occupation were all around. There was always reason to fear the … Continue reading