Saturday, November 10, 2018

"NEVER ASSUME!"

"For whosoever has, to him will be given, and he shall have more abundance:  but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath."  (Matthew 13:12)

Recently, some of my Facebook friends shared on Facebook a short piece stating that Jesus would have heartily welcomed the "Caravan" of impoverished and troubled people that is currently slowly moving through Mexico toward the United States border.  I briefly read the piece.  I got the sense that it was meant as an "in your face" piece to hurt and discredit conservative white evangelicals, many of which support President Trump's position of seeing these people as "an invasion" to be kept out of the country.

Wow.

I'm reminded of a short phrase of my father's that often comes to my mind.  That phrase is "Never assume".  In my experience, the behavior of assuming we know exactly what Jesus Christ would or would not do about someone or something, and of knowing (to use a line from a Bob Dylan song) that "God's on our side" is very arrogant, and frankly usually quite flawed.

Honestly, I can't say for sure how Jesus in His first century ministry would have responded to the "Caravan", nor do I even want to posture an opinion as to right now how the Lord Jesus Christ in all His Heavenly Glory would respond to the "Caravan".   Stating exactly what the Lord Jesus Christ would think, say, or do is the height of arrogance whether it comes from the political left or from the political right.  Frankly, I can't imagine Jesus would endorse little children being taken away from their parents and detained in a holding facility, nor do I think He would endorse the idea of a far right-wing caller whom I heard on a radio program stating that the members of the "Caravan" should all be "shot down with machine guns".  On the other hand, the Bible (admittedly the Apostle Paul and not literally Jesus Christ) in the thirteenth chapter of the epistle of Romans strongly endorses a society characterized by "law and order"- and mind you, that chapter was essentially saying that the dictatorial regime of Ancient Rome, in keeping law and order, was perfectly O.K. in doing so!

Yes, this stuff gets very tough ethically and morally.  I know most of my friends on the left and on the right, and I have many friends of each political persuasion, will say that my piece here is very wishy washy and foolish, and that it's obvious what Jesus would say about the "Caravan" and it's obvious what America's response to it should be.  Well, remember the famous phrase of the late Eugene A. Baril, "Never assume!".

It's scary to truly speak for Jesus.

There is an idea that the first-century Jesus was a total pacifist; excessively loving and sweet, who would never raise His voice, and would never behave in any way other than totally friendly, loving, and completely passive.  Listen, that is just not true at all!  Jesus was nothing like that!  Nothing!

In Matthew 10:34, Jesus said, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth:  I came not to send peace, but a sword."

I don't think you'll find that verse printed on too many Christmas cards!

And there are some passages in the Gospels that are quite troubling, even to many evangelicals!  I know that for years I avoided teaching or preaching from Luke 16:1-13, for instance.  That is what's known as "The Parable of the Unjust Steward".  In that story, a guy who is essentially an accountant and manager, working for a wealthy businessman, is dishonest, crooked, manipulative, selfish, shrewd, and worse.  The guy ends up getting fired, yet he still "finagles" things so that he comes out smelling like a rose to a number of people, and guarantees a secure future for himself.  And, the passage, spoken by Jesus Himself, praises the guy!

Another troubling passage is found in Mark 7:24-30 where Jesus and his disciples are visiting in Gentile territory northwest of Galilee.  There, a Gentile woman comes to Jesus asking Him to cast a demon out of her daughter.  He tells her He really came to minister to the Jews, and that He's not going to "take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs";  in other words, he makes a disparaging remark to her regarding her ethnicity and gives the impression He's not going to help her.

Still another is one my son Jon showed me when he was in elementary school.  He was pointing out that adults often tell children that they should have, "a Christlike attitude".  Yet, in John chapter 2, Jesus makes a whip, and pretty violently goes after the moneychangers in the Temple and throws them out.  Jon pointed out that most grown-ups would say Jesus did not "have a Christlike attitude" there!

Now, in all fairness, there are explanations for each of those passages.  Jesus really wasn't saying we should literally behave like the unjust steward.  He was pointing out that ironically people in the world often know how to use all sorts of things in their lives to their advantage, whereas many times God's children are naive and clueless and miss many wonderful opportunities that God hands to them, essentially on a silver platter.  Regarding the Gentile woman in Mark 7, Jesus did give her what she wanted- the demon was cast out of her daughter.  Some have said He may have been speaking to her sort of in a "tongue-in-cheek" manner.  And, regarding the John 2 "Cleansing of the Temple", I once heard someone say, "Jesus went into the Temple and acted like He owned the place!"  Well, considering (as Christian doctrine says) Jesus is God - He did "own the place"!

My point here is to say, whether on the political right or on the political left, maybe we should drop a lot of this "speaking for Jesus" stuff!  And, maybe we should all spend time reading the Gospels and asking the Holy Spirit to "open up" the meaning of what we're reading to us!  The final passage I will leave you to think about is Matthew 7:21-23.  In that passage, very religious and zealous people stand before Jesus in the afterlife boasting of all their great service to Him.  Jesus tells them to depart from Him, and says, "I never knew you".

I have a strange feeling that experience of being embarrassed before the Lord may be in the future for a number of zealous people on the political right and for a number of zealous people on the political left. 

Do you disagree?  Well remember, "Never assume!".

3 comments:

George said...

Hi Bob,

Very insightful. One of your best yet! Rather than "What would Jesus do?" I like to ask
"Lord, what would you have us do?"

George

MaryA said...

Great piece and so true. We can't assume that Jesus would act they way we would.

Solomon Babajide said...

Bob

This is quite an interesting write-up.

First and foremost, I am not sufficiently knowledgeable of immigration laws as it relates to consideration under the US Constitution for consideration of "group" or "national" immigration amnesty, where the government could grant asylum. If there is none, then the purpose of coming in a caravan and in subtle protest and defiance would have negated any rationale for consideration. Granted that the situation in their country of origin may be unpleasant, I wonder if it would have been different if they had approached the border individually or as families, with their peculiar reason[s] for seeking help? And INDEPENDENT of any political undertones or sponsorship.

Bob, you are right. We would not do well to assume. As believers, we should not even try to form any opinion by boxing Jesus into a certain do-good mold. But the case of the [John 4] Samaritan woman - in the southern Israel kingdom and Jesus from Jerusalem - in the northern kingdom and her bias of Samaritans having nothing to do with the Jews begins to throw some light on how Jesus might address the immigrant issue.
Even though a weak regional divide, and of lesser immigration consequence, Jesus' response to the Samaritan woman was quite thought-provoking: "...it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem..." In which case, the REAL need comes to the fore: "Worship God in the Spirit and Truth."
Needs could be met in Mexico, in Guetamala, and the bordering countries as men and women worship the TRUE God and when the need arises, make the plea, like the woman: "...give me this water." Or perhaps their [immigrants] governments could make the plea to the US.

Complicated matter quite alright, but one that the Lord knows how best to solve, again without the political undertones or sponsorship.

Thanks for sharing anyway.