Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Heard It Said

The anti-Christian, the person who cannot simply stand on the foundations of the Christian faith but always has to set them in opposition to themselves, will be quick to tell you that he's really not that different from Jesus. 

After all, when the Lord was teaching in Galilee and Jerusalem, we know that He said quite plainly, "You have heard it said, but I say to you...." In other words, Christ Himself was an anti-Christian. (Or anti-Jew, as the case may be.) Jesus, they say, had to tell you you were wrong before He could tell you what was right. 

But that's not an authentic reading of the Gospels, nor is it true to the heart of who Jesus was. (is.) 

It's true that Jesus said those words. It's true that He said them more than once. It's true that a chunk of His most famous sermon records those words for us over and over again. But it's not true that they mean what these anti-Christians, trying to defend themselves in self-righteousness, claim that they mean. They can only be interpreted as anti-establishment words when taken out of context.

The real context in which Jesus said these words, every time, was not one in which He set out to demolish or diminish some former teaching. It was never one in which He said that the word that you've heard is wrong. He never used these words to indicate that there was a bad or error-ridden teaching among you. 

Rather, what Jesus said every time He said these words was: what you have heard is right, but it doesn't go far enough. 

You have heard it said not to commit adultery, but I tell you - don't even lust. 

You have heard it said not to murder, but I tell you - don't even hate. 

You have heard it said not to enact the thoughts, but I tell you - don't even entertain them. 

When Jesus used these words, He used them to indicate that what you've heard is good and right, but it's the bare minimum; the standard of God is higher even than that. 

On the other hand, when He was calling out bad teaching, Jesus very plainly said, You snakes. You hypocrites. You brood. He held nothing back.  

And there are two things at work here, just as there were yesterday. 

First, Jesus isn't making a power play. He's not trying to set Himself up in opposition to anything. That wasn't His style, and it wasn't His mission. Jesus came to save the world, not to correct it. He came to love us, not to condemn us. He came to show us the heart of God, not to expose our every failure. 

Second, Jesus knows that the message He is preaching doesn't have to stand against anything; it stands on its own. The people will embrace it because of what it contains, not because of what it contends against. The people are hungry for what He is offering, thirsty for living water, more than they are hurt by whatever this world has done to them. 

So no, this anti-Christian message is not the way of Jesus. No matter how many of His words they take out of context. You may have heard it said, but I tell you - it's not even close. 

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