Here’s one for you.
How does “church discipline” work among “nones”?
There’s been a certain amount of discussion in the blogsphere over the years about “church discipline” (the phrase does not appear in scripture, but the general idea does). Typically, that discussion centres on one of two things.
1) Incidents in which a particular leader, with more power and less real accountability than is good for him, forcing people out of “the church” (i.e. his congregation) over some matter of “sin”. The sin in question, in such cases, is normally some variation on the theme of questioning the leader’s absolute right to rule.
2) The necessity for church discipline and the fact that it (so the theory goes) cannot work unless one is part of “a church”. In particular, “nones” are insulated from church discipline and just hang out with “their buddies who agree with them”. We’ll come back to that phrase in a moment.
OK… how does church discipline work among local denominational groups?
Church disciplinary process can be, and sometimes is, abused by the strong to defend and/or consolidate their ecclesiastical power. But not all unruly, sinful, divisive or factional Christians are in leadership, by any means. There are also genuine instances of church discipline where individuals are rightly expelled from a congregation to protect others from them. I know personally of a couple, for instance, who ingratiated themselves to a small congregation near where I live and proceeded to defraud several members of considerable sums of money.
You may be wondering what happened to them. I’m going to tell you, anyway, because it pertains to our discussion topic. Well, they were duly and formally expelled from membership of the congregation. Not that they cared, because it appears they only joined to find victims, not fellowship. They simply started “grooming” another church. Their (ex-) pastor, on learning of this, did his level best to warn the pastor of their next chosen hunting ground, but without success; they were welcomed in. To begin with, anyway – I don’t know how things went after that.
This, of course, is a weakness in the traditional church model. Needful and appropriate church discipline stopped at the boundary of that one particular congregation, and did not operate to protect the local church generally. It stands to reason that true local church discipline can only be as strong as the relational network between separated local leaders or elderships. On the other hand, that network can be too strong. If an over-strong and under-accountable leader threw someone out simply for questioning his authority (you know, the κατεξουσιά kind of authority that Jesus explicitly banned in His Church), he might be able to pull enough strings to get them shunned and rejected by other churches too. This does happen; indeed, someone once tried to do it to us, though neither we nor our new congregation – with whom we were open about our church history – took it seriously.
And among nones?
It may be that traditional church structures are far from infallible when it comes to protecting believers from wolves or rogue sheep. But how about outwith traditional structures? That phrase above, about nones hanging out with their buddies who agree with them, was quoted verbatim from a self-proclaimed gigachurch pastor who threw two elders out of his church for disagreeing with him. So, there’s at least one celebrity preacher who despises church discipline and cynically uses it to serve himself – but that’s no excuse for us to sink to the same level.
To be submitted in God’s kingdom is not about knowing your place in a hierarchy anyway; the Church is not in any sense a hierarchy. Submission is an attitude of heart. Consider Jesus – top of the supposed “hierarchy”, but doing the least pleasant task (and remember that, in the days of open sandals, foot-washing was no symbolic ritual but a necessary job, like taking off your dirty and manure-covered outdoor shoes when you enter someone’s house).
In a previous post, I addressed the myth that nones do not relate to other believers. (Some don’t, but they should.) Actually, we won’t immerse ourselves in isolated sub-groups of local believers. I’ve hinted indirectly that these sub-groups are not the only way that church discipline can happen. We’ve recently experienced a instance of church discipline happening in orderly and effective fashion without being supervised by a single traditional church. But since this post is getting rather long, I’ll describe it in Part 2…
Just a quick post today, but I wanted to put something out partly because it’s getting on for a week since I last posted anything. I was also spurred on by learning that I have a new follower – a very warm welcome to you. I won’t give your subtly-flavoured name away (that’s your prerogative, not mine), but you know who you are!
I’ve come across a couple of online disputes between Christians in the last couple of days in which, just occasionally, the odd insulting comment has crept in. And in a similar context, I’ve noted some reference to the Doctrine of Grace™. And it’s made me ponder. The doctrine of grace, remember, is a flagship doctrine of just about all Protestant groups. It is, of course, the one about how God is kind to us even though we don’t deserve it. Both halves of that doctrine are essential, by the way. If I don’t deserve God’s kindness, and he isn’t kind, then he’s of no more than academic interest to me. The only thing I can do is make the best of the life I’ve got, and benefit as many people as I can, before The Bomb drops. But if God actually is kind, that changes everything.
Anyway, back to Doctrine, and Grace.
I’ve thought for some time now that you can only tell a person’s theology by their unguarded behaviour, and especially towards those from whom they have nothing to gain. In other words, what I really believe about God – who has every reason to look down on me – is shown by how I treat those people I’m most tempted to look down on. (I can’t remember who first said, “you only love God as much as you love your worst enemy” – but they were onto something.) As in,
Insofar as you did it for the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for Me.
So someone who really believes in “justification by grace” will prove it by being gracious to others.
This from Matthew 18 (it’s a well-known parable, but I’ll copy it here to save you looking it up):
Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go.
But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.
When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.
I’m not a fan of expository preaching, so I won’t. (Expositorily preach, that is.) But I submit the above passage as evidence that the answer to the question I posed in the title of this post is:
In my last post, I looked at a handful of the myths about nones I commonly encounter. Specifically, they are myths that I often read either in the blogsphere or in the wider Christian literary landscape; or else they’re things other Christians often say to me (erroneously) when I mention that I don’t attend “a church” in the traditional sense.
In this post, I want to think aloud about some of the challenges of being a none. Some are internal/character challenges, others are external/logistical challenges. And I haven’t thought of the complete list, so this isn’t any kind of attempt at one.
Pride, self-righteousness and judgement
I’ve started with this one because it’s the most obvious. Consider the opening salvo of Proverbs 18:
He who separates himself seeks his own desire; he quarrels against all sound wisdom.
So, then, I’d better not separate myself. (Incidentally, verse 2 provides a sobering warning to bloggers everywhere as well.) My goal – the proper goal, if I may say so – in being a none is not to separate myself and start a private church, but to be a part of the wider church in a way that I can’t be if I’m confined within one congregation. But if I’m less than diligent in my involvement with the wider church, there is a trap ready and waiting. It is important to recognise the historical place that traditional church congregations have. It’s also important to recognise all of the good that they do. But, you may say, some of them do bad things, and others don’t do anything. Yeah, whatever. It’s not my business to judge them; I have enough to do addressing my own character. And that’s the issue here; the temptation is always there to look down on “ordinary” or “lesser” Christians who are “stuck in churches”.
A good preventative measure, I’ve found, is to get to know one or two local pastors. Then recognise how faithfully they’re doing a demanding job, and honour them before God, acknowledging that their grace and patience are worthy of emulating.
As I pointed out last time, most nones I know of have not abandoned fellowship; in fact they actively seek the company of fellow-believers. Likewise, most of us do gather together regularly and intentionally with believers; it’s just that those gatherings don’t “qualify” as “churches” by the traditional definition. It’s precisely that definition of “a church” that we reject, of course. In some ways, nones have an advantage here, because our self-imposed circumstances compel us to seek meaningful fellowship.
I don’t believe any old coming together of Christians necessarily supplies much in the way of fellowship. “Meaningful” fellowship is a sharing of life together. That does take time; you can’t just go over to someone and “offer them fellowship” (a phrase I’ve actually heard), nor can you pick out any visitors so that you can go over and “fellowship them” (another phrase I’ve actually heard). I’m not even entirely sure you can “meet for fellowship” – at least, not on a one-off occasion. I suppose it depends on your definition of terms. For us, the Christian friends we meet with frequently, and with whom we are really able to share life, certainly aren’t just spending time with us because we were attending the same meeting anyway. But the challenge remains: not to let those gatherings slip, and neglect to assemble together.
We’re nones because we cannot go along with splitting the local church up into isolated, self-contained groups. At the same time, we strongly support the practice of pursuing one’s Christian calling with the whole of one’s life – which means, outwith a Sunday morning or other church gathering (which occupy a small proportion of your week). After all, if every Christian has a ministry, it can’t be that some people only get to outwork their ministry for a few minutes a week. If you are to do your daily work to the glory of God, then it stands to reason that the fellowship you draw on as a believer should support that daily work, at least in some way.
The work dimension is especially important for us, but that’s another post!
As a final note for today:
A “lack of good teaching” isn’t among them…
Almost all believers, to some extent, pick their teachers. After all, most Christians would refuse to join a congregation whose pastor taught things they didn’t agree with. It’s easy to find teaching today, and of course it is easier still to read the Bible oneself. In New Testament times, a significant fraction of the church may have been illiterate; hence Paul’s urging Timothy to commit to the public reading of scripture as well as to preaching and teaching (1 Tim 4). On top of which, physical copies of scripture were likely fragile and in short supply. But most of us don’t have those problems today; scripture itself is freely available, in many different translations and in the original languages. And information technology helps enormously in with nearly all approaches to searching the scriptures. There is no reason to assume that, because someone is a none, they don’t listen to teaching.
What are “nones”?
Most of my readers (and, at the time of writing, I don’t have many!) will be familiar with the word “nones”. “Nones” is the plural of “none”. Though it can refer to people of no religious affiliation, in Christian circles it more often refers to those who positively identify themselves as Christians but who have no denominational affiliation and do not attend “a church”.
Since we’re not nuns, we pronounce “nones” the word to rhyme with “dons” (or “cons”, if you wanted to be snarky – but you don’t, do you? ).
In this post, I want to address a few myths about nones.
Myth no. 1: Nones are rebellious
We’re not. We are seeking something that we have not found in traditional expressions of church. Some nones can be found in, or at least serving alongside, “para-church organisations”. Others are simply doing what they can. Most would love to serve alongside fellow-believers, but cannot content themselves with Pastor So-And-So’s great vision (as though Pastor So-And-So were an adequate replacement for Jesus) or with the sheer lack of purpose in the church groups they’ve encountered.
OK, it’s true that some are rebellious. Some people won’t give preference in honour to anyone else, or put themselves in any context where they’d have to submit to anyone over anything. Some are looking for the comforts of religion without the responsibility. But rebellious people are rarely content with not being under authority; they usually want to usurp existing authority because it gives them a ready-made platform to draw attention to themselves. I’ve met very few truly rebellious “christians” over the years. When you do meet them, it’s usually in churches and other groups of believers, gossiping about everyone, monopolising conversations, disrupting gatherings and undermining the leaders.
Myth no. 2: Nones are avoiding fellowship
Depends on what you mean by “fellowship”, of course. To me, “fellowship” is the company of fellows; fellowship encourages you, sharpens you and spurs you on to good deeds. Now, it’s true that some people have bodies to bury and issues to hide, and will shun anyone who tries to rebuke them, however graciously. (Equally, some mega-church pastors are fellowship-dodgers hiding in the open: they’ll surround themselves with yes-men and attack, or even excommunicate, fellow-elders who question their decisions. It has happened.)
The last “church” my wife and I were members of didn’t like Lesley’s story of how God led her away from needing asthma medication. We didn’t feel that we could simply impose our theology and experience on everyone else in the congregation; we understand that some people have bad experiences with counterfeit “healings”. But at the same time we could not simply leave a large part of our walk with God at the door of the building when we came in to worship. The thing that really cemented our resigning membership was the statement of one of the leaders to us: “Yes, but you want the Kingdom to be at the centre of all your decisions; and that’s very rare.” Where the Kingdom isn’t at the centre, the King isn’t reigning. We left, not to avoid fellowship, but to find it.
Myth no. 3: Nones are running away from “hurt”
Most Christians are aware that bad things sometimes happen in church, and that Christians can be hurt, offended or even attacked by other Christians. So, the reasoning goes, that must be it: Nones have been hurt somehow, and have reacted against that hurt by running away. They’re determined never to be hurt again, poor things, so they’ve closed their hearts as a defence mechanism and decided (irrationally, wrongly, but understandably) to shun all forms of church because one form has hurt them.
Some people seem desperate to pin this label on us. One young lady even responded to the story I mentioned under Myth no. 2 with the comment, “well, I suppose if you’ve been hurt it’s understandable that you’d avoid church”. To this day I have no idea how she managed the mental gymnastics needed to equate what I told her with being hurt and running away.
In most cases, this is extremely patronising. (Why do some of my fellow-Christians believe that, if they only insult and belittle me enough, they’ll convert me back to their theology? I wouldn’t expect it to work on them.) The reality is that anyone who spends long enough in church circles will have a lot of experiences, good, bad and indifferent. We’re the same. But we have no wish to flee from the bad ones any more than we want to keep the good ones as security blankets. Our bad experiences have taught us, but they have not enslaved us.
This brings me to the final myth I want to address.
Myth no. 4: Nones despise truth
We don’t. We don’t even despise tradition. It’s simply that we don’t give tradition undue deference. That means traditional music, traditional liturgies – and traditional structures. Tradition is not truth.
A changing truth?
Most (though not all) Christians today believe very strongly that homosexuality is intrinsically wrong and that homosexual desire is always, by definition, sinful and offensive to God. They believe this on the grounds that it is biblical truth. Now suppose that, over the next few years, there were a revolution of ideas and homosexuality becomes widely accepted among the churches. How long would it take for the biblical truth about homosexuality to change? How long until the relevant, operative scriptures on homosexuality cease to be the ones attacking it, and instead become the ones justifying it; say, for instance, about Christ being the end of the law, about bearing with one another and not judging one another? How long, in short, before God Himself accepts homosexuality and it can safely be regarded as a sin, and unbiblical, to reject it?
I suppose most bible-believing Christians, on reading the above paragraph, would think the idea ridiculous: how can biblical truth ever change? Very well, then. In new testament times, the idea of dividing the local church into independent and self-contained factions was not only absurd, it was denounced when it so much as threatened to happen. Separate congregations, having little or nothing to do with one another and each following its own history, doctrines and traditions (I follow Apollos; I follow Paul; I follow Cephas; I follow Christ… – see 1 Corinthians) is a concept totally at odds with the new testament notion of the local church. I put this question: when did this biblical truth change? When did it become, not only acceptable, but necessary, to follow a denominational (or non-denominational) sub-group?
More on this “changing truth” next post…
I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!
Sooner or later, every believer faces what Phillip Yancey (and many others!) called disappointment with God. There comes a point when your experience of life with God does not meet your expectations – and not in a good way.
I submit that each of these experiences is an important crossroads in your life.
It’s all to easy for us to live a diminished spiritual life by snatching at simplistic answers to the wrong questions. In my experience, one of the most important things you can ask as a Christian is…
… why isn’t this working?
And then keep asking, until you get an answer you can live with, confidently, for as long as you need to.
This is a point that is often missed. Someone else’s answers are not always good enough for you. As I said in a previous post, the real freedom from the truth in Christ comes when you hear it, not from flesh and blood, but from the Father. (God is not constrained only to speak to you when you’re praying in secret, of course; he can equally well draw your attention to something someone else has said, or speak to you out of the blue while you’re doing something else. Hearing God’s voice is a completely different post, and a lifetime of experience. But you know it when you hear it.)
Breaking the rules
There are several characters in Biblical history who, you might say, broke the rules in their desire to get closer to God. Moses wanted to see God’s face; David danced before the ark; the un-named woman with the haemorrhage pushed through a crowd she wasn’t even supposed to be part of; the (also un-named) Syro-Phoenician woman persisted in asking Jesus to set her daughter free even after he effectively told her that it was not God’s will to heal her. I think there’s something significant about all these examples.
Now, of course, people who casually break God’s rules, like Nadab and Abihu, don’t fare so well. But those who’ll risk everything – even including God’s anger – to find who God really is, more often that not are rewarded with exactly what they seek.
… but isn’t that just an excuse to sin?
Simple answer. No! How could it be? Why would I want an excuse to sin? If all I want to do is sin, then God’s life isn’t in me, I’m not right with him, and following your religious rules or mine won’t save me. In fact it’ll do more harm than good, because it’ll create the illusion of religious uprightness to hide a life that is actually at enmity with God.
But – and here’s the Good News – if I’m actually seeking Jesus, and/or the Father through him, then he will never drive me away, and no rule or lack of it will change his mind.
When Jesus died, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom – i.e., from God’s end. My dear fellow-believer – please, please, don’t ever let men sew it back together in front of you.
In Part 1 of this topic, I looked at good and bad ways to start one’s Christian life.
I think it’s fairly obvious that if you start wrong – if flesh and blood reveal to you who Jesus is, but you don’t wait for the Father to do it – you’ll struggle. I originally said that, in Part 2, I’d continue this by looking at what happens when we’re discipled by flesh and blood and not by the Father. But the more I’ve thought about this, and the more I’ve interacted with other believers here in the area, the more I’ve realised I actually need to take a lot more time over this.
Among professing Christian believers in the western world, there is a large and growing sub-group who have become known as “nones”. That is, they don’t attend a specific denomination or church congregation (and therefore they tend to tick the box labelled “none” on forms asking them what church they attend… you see?). We are nones. And incidentally, we’re not nuns, so we pronounce it to rhyme with “dons”.
So for the next wee while, this blog is going to be about the development of a theology/architecture of local church that fully embraces and employs nones. Should be interesting…
During 2013 we’re going to be building God’s Jobcentre Stirling in earnest.
Here in the UK (and we are privileged to host some overseas visitors!), the local Job Centre is the physical building in which the state interacts with people who are unemployed. In a similar way, God’s Jobcentre Stirling is for followers of Jesus who find themselves unemployed by the Kingdom of God as they’ve experienced it up to now.
We’re interested in what kind of difference Jesus makes: to our own lives, to the believing community, and to the wider community. We want to find out what happens when you set out on an adventure with the Holy Spirit for company, and cultivate that company, and see where it leads you.
That’s an important point. We’re not pretending we’re the only people ever to live the Christian life – I really hope that’s obvious! But we can’t live someone else’s adventure; we have to respond to Jesus’ “Follow Me” for ourselves.
The unusual thing about our approach is what we’re asking about the bible. Not:
- “What does the bible say we must and must not do?”
- What does the bible allow us to do?
Much has been written, in books and blogs, about “extra-biblical rules”. We want to push aside as many of these as we possibly can. Believers in our position are sometimes criticised as though we were seeking the comforts of faith without the responsibilities of church. But this is not the case. Quite the converse; we’ve often found the Christian life to be a hard struggle, and one in which we have shouldered many burdens and responsibilities without seeming to experience the support, resources or fellowship of the God who is with us. This journey is about facing up to every situation in which the Christian life has disappointed us, and seeking answers that make sense to us. We’ve already learned that some of the answers for which many Christians settle, simply don’t cut it for us. We don’t judge anyone else for this, but we do need to be ourselves. So we’re willing to tread this road in the face of whatever criticism we get.
Jesus called those who were weary and heavy-laden to come to him, so that he could give us rest. Elsewhere, God instructs us to make every effort to enter his rest. There’s a better way of living, breathing and experiencing the Christian life than we’ve yet discovered. We’re determined to find it. That’s what God’s Jobcentre Stirling is about.
You must’ve wondered why so many people, from so many different walks of life, and in so many different ways, become Christians (or get Saved ™) but don’t behave much like the Jesus of the gospels, even after many years of being Saved ™. I’ve certainly wondered that. On occasion, I’ve looked at my own life and wondered it about me.
I can’t give the single definitive answer; I’m sure there are many, but here’s one, and it’s uppermost in my own mind at the moment because I think it’s the one in particular that applies to me.
The wrong person told you about Jesus
Here’s a well-known excerpt from Matthew 16:
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
Lest we be tempted to suppose that this was only ever for Peter alone, consider this from John 6:
Jesus answered. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
And one more from Mark 1:
Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are — the Holy One of God!” “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek…
That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.
You can find other, similar examples of unclean spirits having accurate doctrine. The devil quotes a Bible Scripture™ in Matthew 4; the demons, James tell us, believe in one God. But Jesus would not allow them to speak because – as I understand it – if it is not the Father who reveals to you that Jesus is His Son, you will never truly know him.
Many of us became Christians – or got Saved™ – in response to an altar call of some kind, where we prayed the sinner’s prayer. Some kind of prayer along the lines of, Jesus, I’m a sinner, but I thank you that you died on the cross for my sins, etc, may be what the Holy Spirit leads you to say as your first ever prayer. We’re all different, and the Holy Spirit treats us accordingly. But, as a formula for becoming a Christian, this is found nowhere in the bible.
In any case, if it wasn’t the Father who drew us to His Son, but a convincing or inspiring gospel presentation, then we won’t have taken up his offer to become his sons or daughters. We’ll only have become committed to a cause. We may have sound doctrine, but our spirit is no cleaner than that of the person who sold us the heavenly insurance policy.
I think it’s fairly obvious that if you start wrong – if flesh and blood reveal to you who Jesus is, but you don’t wait for the Father to do it – you’ll struggle. In Part 2, I’ll continue this by looking at what happens when, having started to follow Jesus, we’re discipled by flesh and blood and not by the Father.
Here’s why I think doctrinal disagreements are important. And why I think God gave us a bible whose fine print (and not so fine print) is so open to multiple conflicting interpretations. Why, in fact, I even believe the Holy Spirit himself actually leads people to interpret and understand the same passage differently. It’s all to do with what’s important.
Your first clue…
This from Romans 13:
… for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.
Not “whoever deduces the correct interpretation of certain BiblicalTM instructions”, but “whoever loves others”. In other words, by loving others who interpret scripture differently from you, you fulfill the purpose of scripture.
Next, a few more wee scripture quotes (or “scrippies” as I like to call them) to set the scene.
This from Luke 6:
But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
And again, from Matthew 5 this time:
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 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. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Same idea. Note that, to Jesus’ 1st-century Jewish audience, “tax-gatherers” were scum. Think a mixture of paedophiles and terrorists.
Next one, from Matthew 22:
…the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
Permit me to draw your attention to this expository teaching by the Author of scripture. (The Author is more important than the book, by the way – am I right in assuming you knew that?) All of the other commandments – all BiblicalTM doctrines – hang on these two.
Then, of course, there’s a new commandment, specifically named as such by Jesus in John 13: Love one another. I’m going to stick my neck out here and say that this new commandment does not represent a radical departure from the previous two.
And one more from 1 John 4:
We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
I could go on, of course. These quotes are not isolated, obscure, fringe passages taken out of context in order to make something out of nothing. They, among many others, describe the very heart of who Jesus (and therefore the Father) is:
“It’s love, stupid…”
If you, dear reader, are a Christian, then I urge you at some point to go and find some other Christians whose interpretation of the Bible doesn’t agree with yours (if you haven’t already – it’s not difficult). And love them. If you can do that, then and only then do you truly get the Bible.