What He Really Meant Was…

Posted: November 20, 2017 in Uncategorized

There are certain things about Jesus Christ that Americans get wrong. The absolute worst one, which is very nearly heretical: That he didn’t really mean what he said.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10–11) We don’t really believe this. We want to send in Seal Team Six to rescue persecuted Christians in India or the Sudan. We want to bomb countries that persecute Christians, and if we kill a few brothers and sisters in the process, it’s okay, they’re going to heaven! And God forbid you EVER “persecute” an American Christian! They won’t “rejoice”, they’ll sic a team of lawyers on your tail like a pack of pit bulls!

“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 5:31–32) Gay rights/marriage didn’t “destroy the institution of marriage” in America; the wholesale acceptance—even by the evangelical church—of “no-fault” divorce did, if anything. While there are evangelical communities where this passage is observed, it has widely been ignored elsewhere.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:38–42) This is one of the most famous of the “What Jesus really meant was…” passages, also known as “Jesus didn’t really mean…”. I am 57 years old. I have studied and pondered this passage for much of my adult life. After much prayer and examination, I finally understand what Jesus really meant when he said, “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” What he really meant was, “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” Yep. In the context of the Sermon, it’s the only possible rendering of the passage. Jesus really did mean what he said.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:43–45) I am not omniscient, so I cannot answer this question, but I wonder how often American Christians pray for those they think are persecuting them. Do Christian bakers love and pray for the people who sue them? Do Christian students love and pray for the authorities who tell them they cannot force all the other students to listen to a Christian prayer before a ball game? Just askin’…

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:5–6) Apropos of the last verse, Jesus obviously prayed in public, and before crowds. but it was before people who had come to hear him speak, not before a captive audience who had no choice but to listen. Couple this passage with one a few verses before, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven”, one could really begin to question the true motives of people who demand the “right” to force others to listen to their prayers.Image result for hippie jesus

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19–21) This one is mishandled..no, completely ignored…even by many evangelicals, especially those who preach “prosperity theology”. They preach that Jesus really wants you rich, and will take all your money to prove it! There’s a special place for these folks: spat out onto the street: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.” (emphasis mine) (Revelation 3:15–18)

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

“Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.

“Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.

“Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” (Luke 6:24–26) Again, American Christians, with the complicity of prosperity teachers, flip this on its head: “Blessed are the rich, for we deserve it. Blessed are those who are full now, for God has promised we will never be hungry. Blessed are we for laughing, for mourning and weeping are for losers.”

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:41-46) Simple: Serve the poor…or go to hell. NOT the American way!

Virtually everything Jesus taught: denying ourselves, taking up our cross, hating our lives, being completely willing to give up everything for the Kingdom of God…are diametrically opposed to the American way of life. The “American Dream” is a Christian nightmare. It’s time we wake up.

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