Not everything biblical is Christian part 24: great, greater, greatest

Today's gospel reading in the lectionary got me thinking about this problem I used to have with the Bible.
Mark 12:28 One of the religion scholars came up. Hearing the lively exchanges of question and answer and seeing how sharp Jesus was in his answers, he put in his question: “Which is most important of all the commandments?”
 29-31 Jesus said, “The first in importance is, ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment that ranks with these.”
 32-33 The religion scholar said, “A wonderful answer, Teacher! So lucid and accurate—that God is one and there is no other. And loving him with all passion and intelligence and energy, and loving others as well as you love yourself. Why, that’s better than all offerings and sacrifices put together!”
34 When Jesus realized how insightful he was, he said, “You’re almost there, right on the border of God’s kingdom.” After that, no one else dared ask a question.
The problem I used to have with the Bible was trying to make all of it Christian. I was raised in a poor model of the Bible's relationship to Jesus. I was given an infallible, inspired-by-God, Bible which had to excuse God genocidal commandments and forced marriages of women captured in battles. This model could have fallen under it's own weight earlier if I looked at how Jesus approached the scriptures.

First of all, Jesus ranked the scriptures. Not all verses are equal. Not all commandments are equal. In fact not all commandments are from God. If Jesus thinks these are the greatest commandments, then there are lesser commandments. Moses may have permitted divorce but that wasn't God's idea. Moses may have commanded retributive justice, "eye for and eye, tooth for a tooth," but Jesus doesn't.

On another occasion, Jesus and Satan had a memory verse competition. Satan encourage Jesus to jump off the top of the temple and see if God would keep his promise in  Psalm 91 about not letting even his toe to get stubbed. But Jesus replied with another verse about not testing God. This is ironic because the prophet Malachi encourages people to test God's generosity in response to their generosity. Sometimes testing God is ok, sometimes it's not. The point is, when Satan pulls out rock, Jesus pulls out paper and won that round.

On another occasion, some religious men ask Jesus to judge a woman they caught in adultery. It was obviously her fault a friend of theirs had succumbed to her and needed to be rescued from her, so they kept him safe, but were ready to stone her to death in obedience to Moses' iron age commandment. But Jesus adds an entirely new condition before enacting the judgment, they have to be without sin, God-like. Only one person is God-like in that story, Jesus, so he is the one who can enact the Mosaic punishment. However, he reveals God is merciful and frees the woman.

I hear of fundamentalists who want to stone gay people, because that's what Moses says. But Jesus has mercy. Jesus loves his neighbor. I read fundamentalists who write columns for right wing publications who say "if everyone is my neighbor then no one is" (Rod Dreher) in opposition to helping migrants seeking asylum in our country. But Jesus says, those in need are the neighbors we must help, and if we don't then we are not serving Christ himself.
Matthew 25:41-43 “Then he will turn to the ‘goats,’ the ones on his left, and say, ‘Get out, worthless goats! You’re good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because— I was hungry and you gave me no meal, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was homeless and you gave me no bed, I was shivering and you gave me no clothes, Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’
 44 “Then those ‘goats’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?’
 45 “He will answer them, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.’
If I read the Bible correctly, I would have appreciated the Apostle Paul saying of faith, hope, and love, the greatest one is love. 1 Corinthians 13

If I read the Bible correctly, I would have learned from James 2:13 "For if you refuse to act kindly, you can hardly expect to be treated kindly. Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time."

Mercy wins, not judgment. Where the Bible does not show mercy, it's not at it's greatest. It is greatest, it is most God-like is when it is at its most merciful.

Yes, Jesus told the woman who was almost stoned to go and sin no more. But we do not know what sin he was referring to. We have to let Jesus speak to every individual. If she aborts her baby, let her work that out with God. Please listen to this story called Loving Grace to appreciate abortion in all its moral complexity before judging those women who choose it.

God is love and not everything biblical is loving. Not everything biblical is Christian.


Popular posts from this blog

Why did Peter put his coat on before jumping in the water? John 21:7

bike review:men's Simple 3 by Giant

Review: A Weekend to Remember by Family Life