The Difficult Teachings of Christ #1

Jesus Christ in the New Testament was and is gentle, loving, accepting, kind and patient.

Somehow, though, people have come to the conclusion that this is different from how he is portrayed in the Old Testament.

It’s tempting to take the view that the God of the Old Testament is different from the God of the New Testament, but, in fact, they are one and the same.

Jesus was there when God created the world (John 1:1-5), and if this is true, then he was there when Egypt was besieged with plagues from God in Moses’ time, he was there when God gave Israel the Laws of the OT, he was there when God instructed Joshua to annihilate the inhabitants of Canaan and he was the one putting words into the mouths of prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah.

It is very easy to look upon Jesus as only being gentle, meek and  mild, and always accommodating of our sins and failings without judging us, yet Jesus was the ultimate hard man of God.

He is the only man in history who successfully followed the Laws and commandments of the Old Testament without breaking any of them.

In absolute terms he was the ultimate legalistic Jew, more zealous than Saul, more esteemed than David.

If I was put in his place, I would be very smug and self-satisfied. I would be proud of my piousness. I would complain about everyone else’s weaknesses: “Why can’t people just follow God’s commands the way I do? It’s easy!” I would not have any patience or tolerance for “weak-willed” believers who stumble over the same sins again and again.

And, in fact, Jesus did show signs of frustration toward the people around him from time to time, but he always managed to center himself on God once again and renew his patience with them as he continues to do with us.

As a Christian I have read the Bible a lot. So much so that I find that I can gloss over some of the startling details of Jesus Christ’s teaching, massaging them in my heart so that they end up soft-wrapped in swaddling clothes and sweetness.

I put a layer of genteel loveliness on all that he says and in the process, I misinterpret his message.

When I purposely go back and read what he actually taught, I am nearly always surprised. Taken aback even.

Wow, is this the gentle, humble, forgiving, non-judgmental Jesus I know?

The bottom line is that, because Jesus was a perfectly moral and legally upright man, what he says is always very confronting.

From his first words of teaching in Matthew 4:17,

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

he speaks with authority, but he is also discomforting.

Plop him in a modern setting and evaluate how you would react to him. How would you react today to a normal looking guy walking around the streets of your town telling everyone to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near”?

I think a lot of us would sideline him as endearing, but eccentric. In every church I’ve ever been a part of, there are people like this, who don’t really fit in. They are usually loved by most, and tolerated by some, but still a certain social stigma is attached to them. That would be where Jesus fits in to our churches today. He wouldn’t be the celebrated, successful pastor, he would be the wierdo down the back who has no sense of propriety.

We would probably label him as having Asperger’s Syndrome: not quite knowing how to behave properly in society.

Think about it. It’s true isn’t it? Jesus was different. He is still different and he is still confronting.

This post is the first in a series I’m starting, which explores some of the difficult teachings of Christ, attempting to reveal them to us in their raw form once again.

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