ch. 9, a long form book response to Disarming Scripture by Derek Flood

Derek Flood has written an excellent book explaining the issues I covered in my blog series this past autumn. My series is titled "Not everything Biblical is Christian." His book is titled Disarming Scripture. Cherry-picking liberals, violence-loving conservatives, and why we all need to learn to read the Bible like Jesus did. It is certainly a mouthful, but his examples are better than mine and deserve a thorough treatment here. Flood's book is ten chapters long and I intend to speak about each chapter in separate blog posts. I heartily recommend this book for the thinking Christian.

Chapter 9 is titled, "Undoing judgement." Flood shows in the chapter how even in the gospels Jesus subverts his culture's contemporary violent images with his teaching. First, he starts with a section from Jesus' sermon on the mount.
Matthew  5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 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. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
To our ears today, Jesus' statement in verse 45 is a tautology, a statement that is true by necessity or by virtue of its logical form. Of course rain falls on righteous and unrighteous farmers. Yet Jesus is overriding the conditional theology of Moses from Deuteronomy 11:13 So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul— 14 then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil. For the Christian, not everything Biblical is Christian because Jesus, as the full revelation of God, gets to overwrite anything Biblical that is inconsistent with who he is. Flood writes, "Jesus in contrast, is saying that God does not repay evil for evil and good for good, but instead that God shows unconditional benevolence." p. 201 Whose vision of God is right, Jesus' or Moses'? If one follows Christ, not Moses, then I assume Christ's vision prevails.

The parable of the unmerciful servant in Matt. 18 is provoked by Peter's question regarding how often he should forgive someone. Jesus takes his suggestion of seven times and amplifies it with Lamech's threat of vengeance in Genesis 4, "seventy seven times." Just as Lamech intends his vengeance to be extravagant, but not actuarial, in the same way Jesus wants his followers to be known for their extravagant generosity in forgiveness. Then Jesus tells a story about a guy who owed his boss millions and begged for release from his debt. The boss granted it, then the guy went and shook down a fellow worker who hadn't paid him back for lunch money a few weeks ago. When the boss heard it, he went apoplectic, 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. It is completely over the top. But it's an over the top story as a whole. The weird part is the conclusion. 35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” Is this how God is? Didn't Jesus just tell Peter he needs to forgive extravagantly, over and over again? Are we supposed to be more forgiving than God, who only gives you one shot after you have been forgiven?

Early in the church's history, a practice formed and remained popular for a couple centuries of delaying baptism until one's death bed. The church fathers who did this feared of sinning after their baptism resulting in their losing their ticket to heaven. Perhaps they read this parable this way. Today, however, even in conservative evangelicalism we don't hear of threats about losing salvation for one sin. If one refusal to forgive is all it takes to get one out of heaven and to hell, then why does Jesus instruct us to pray daily, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us"? We understand that last line of Jesus' parable to be an overstatement, hyperbole, to impress on us the importance of forgiveness.

Flood discusses a couple other examples, especially from Matthew, when Jesus subverts his listeners' culture with familiar examples but couched paradoxically. This forces those who have "ears to hear," or those willing to faithfully question with Jesus, to ponder the new kingdom's culture.


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