20 May 2013

Jesus Fails Various Tests

In John 4, we find Jesus talking, apparently alone, with a Samaritan woman at a well. Plenty of preachers and teachers have discussed the way Jesus failed some of the common "tests of faith" of his time:
  • He spoke with a woman,
  • alone,
  • a yucky old Samaritan at that,
  • and he asked her to get him a drink.
This all adds up to a pretty serious ritual impurity. And yet he remained pure.


The thing that struck me today was how he failed a major, modern, evangelical test (and abysmally flunked the equivalent fundamentalist test). What did he do about the fact she had gone through five husbands, and was living with yet another man?

  1. Admonish her to get busy with sacrifices?
  2. Reject her?
  3. Give her a tract?
  4. Wave a sign in her face and scream that she was going to Hell?
  5. Ask what church she was a member of so he could berate her pastor for letting her stay?
  6. Stone her?
  7. Offer her living water, grace, forgiveness, eternal life?
Ha ha ha! Of course, I am just kidding with number seven.

Oh, wait, I'm not. And by the end of the story, because her testimony brought them to Jesus, "many more became believers." This suggests that she had become a believer as well.

As far as we know, he never demanded she "reconcile with" (remarry) her first husband. [1]

He didn't take her through the Roman Road (Paul had yet to write that letter, but do you really think that would stop Jesus?).

No tracts.

Especially no John T. Chick tracts. Thank God.

He didn't make her say a prayer. He didn't even talk directly about repentance, just offered her grace.

We have no record of why she had five husbands. We have no record of who did what. Was she abused? An abuser? Was she cheating on them? Was she frigid? Was she barren? Was she mean? Was she boring? Did someone more enticing come along? Someone richer? Than who, her or her husband?

We have no idea. Jesus didn't go there.

So why do we?

Yes, I know God hates divorce. Yes, we should take marriage seriously. But it's not up to us to judge people or to demand (for instance) that a woman "reconcile" with an abuser and stay with him. You can proof text this one easily, but I guarantee you I can find a proof text to put you in the same boat with a divorcee, no matter how you live. If you consider context, consider Scripture as a whole, consider how Jesus dealt with people...

It turns out Jesus didn't fail the tests. The test givers failed.

Think about that long and hard before you try to beat someone into submission with a Scripture.

And think about another Scripture while you do. "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Mt 7/1-2, NIV)

Grace. It's a good way to live.


[1] some people will argue that the words husband here means "gods" because there is a Hebrew variant of Baal that can be translated either "god' or "husband". While I am not technically a Bible scholar I have studied quite a bit and been taught by some of the best. The word that can be translated either way is limited to a very few passages in the Old Testament. It does not appear in the New testament at all. Only one word for Baal appears in the new Testament, in Romans, and it clearly refers to the false god Baal. The word used here for "husband" is a word used for a human husband (it is translated "man", not "god") throughout the NT. I have no idea where the idea came from that Jesus meant gods here; it seems at best poor scholarship.

02 May 2013

I Want to Hug the Westboro Baptist Church

I hope Westboro Baptist Church pickets my funeral.

No, really, I do.

I hope Jesus lets someone call me back, like Lazarus. I'd run over to hug the Westboro people first. They'd either get saved or run away and never picket another funeral.

But if not, I'm sure the revivalists, the community of people around me who are madly in love with the God of Love (and I don't mean Cupid), will show so much love that the Westboro folk will either get saved or flee in panic and confusion. I can hear the cops talking to them now. "No, sir, they were trying to hug you, not assault you. I know, because they hugged us all when we showed up."

Not long before going to the cross Jesus said, "Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples-when they see the love you have for each other." (Jn 13/33-35, The Message)

Or how about this? When asked earlier on which of the commandments was the greatest, Jesus said, Jesus said, "`Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.' This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: `Love others as well as you love yourself.' These two commands are pegs; everything in God's Law and the Prophets hangs from them." (Mt 22/37-40, The Message) Many versions say "your neighbor" instead of "others". Jesus made it clear in his parable of the good Samaritan that everyone is our neighbor, including those we might tend to look down on, left to ourselves.

I'm sure that twisted logic would tell the WBCites that they are acting in love, but it's pretty obvious to the rest of the world that they aren't. I hope and pray that the people at Westboro Baptist Church come to know real Love, and are set free from their fears and hatred, as I pray that for all-- from world leaders to terrorists to people in third world hell hole slums to those caught up in sex trafficking. I want to hug you all. because God does.

There's an excellent booklet I recommend on the base topic here, The Mark of the Christian by Francis Schaefer. It's a quick read, less than 10,000 words. I wish every Christian would read this. It's available online (with permission from the publisher!) at http://www.ccel.us/schaeffer.html .


Passages from The Message copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson.