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Mithrae
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2018 10:11 am  The most hated teaching of Jesus Reply with quote

    "I've never really had much faith. I gave my life to Christ when I was twelve, repenting of my sins and begging forgiveness with absolute conviction and fervour, and I was baptised when I was fifteen, but I've never heard God speak to me. Perhaps the only occasion when I could really say that I had faith – real faith which was manifest in my actions as in Hebrews 11 or James 2 – was shortly before I turned twenty. I gave up all my worldly possessions (what little I had at least), went out and preached my first brief sermon at a local church and embarked upon the life of itinerant preaching which Jesus and his disciples pursued. It lasted only one day, but like Peter in the boat I suppose I took that first step at least. Perhaps it was just coincidence that it was on that day, for the first and so far only time in my life, I met two members of a group who considered that very mission to be their own calling also. For various reasons that was a difficult period in my life, so perhaps it wasn't really God's calling which I'd followed, or perhaps I was just too scared to follow it far enough. I'll probably never know for sure, and I have regrets either way."


True story; I wrote the above a few months ago for a book draft I completed last month, though of course the events happened fourteen years ago (almost to the day, in fact). A few months after that was when I suffered my loss of faith:
    "One thing disturbed me though; there were usually well over a hundred people in the Sunday morning services, but only about a third that number in the evening service. There were a few different house groups – six or seven regulars in mine – and four or five folk who'd often attend the Wednesday morning prayer meeting. That was quite early in the morning of course, and the three or four folk who came to the Friday evening prayer meeting I'd started were often different faces. Perhaps strangest to me was one day when, playing touch footy with a church group on Sunday afternoon, someone injured his ankle and not one person among us had the courage or strength of faith to openly pray for him. This was a somewhat charismatic and vibrant church, too; yet people who'd seem so passionate and dedicated in their faith on a Sunday evening or morning would on that occasion have been utterly indistinguishable from anyone else.

    Then, I suffered a loss of faith. Looking back so long afterwards I guess that perhaps all along, subconsciously, I was asking myself “Is that all there is?” I loved that church, especially the emotional atmosphere of the Sunday evening services, but whatever I told myself at the time I couldn't really say that what I was seeing or experiencing was “the kingdom of God present with power.” The proximate cause of my loss of faith was concerns over biblical issues like slavery and genocide in the Tanakh, but if the spiritual life I was living had measured up with what I'd been led to expect, I cannot imagine that these abstract concerns would have led me down that path of uncertainty and depression which my loss of faith entailed. There was something wrong, not with that church itself, but with churchianity in general."


At various times over the years since then I've often speculated what went 'wrong' there. Of course one of my leading theories has always been that it was a step in the right direction, that there's little special about Christianity itself, but over the past four weeks I've been wondering about quite a different possibility which for some reason hadn't really occurred to me before. Namely, perhaps it was precisely because I had not continued to follow in Jesus' footsteps that mere church-going became a hollow shell eventually shattered.
    Mark 4:14 The sower sows the word. 15 And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. 16 These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; 17 and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble. 18 Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, 19 and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 20 But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.


I've read through most of the gospels again in these past few weeks, and I've actually found it quite amazing how consistently - almost continually - a theme keeps cropping up which many Christians, at least in my experience, are almost completely blind to. In this parable for example, the cares of this world and deceitfulness of wealth are ranked right up there with persecution and with Satan himself as reasons why hearers of the gospel fail to bear fruit. How many Christians are burdened by the cares of jobs and bills and cars? And how many of those bear thirty or sixty or a hundredfold fruits?

The first person we read of in Mark's gospel is John the Baptist: "Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey." The first thing we read about Jesus, after his baptism, involves him spending forty days with the wild beasts in the wilderness. The first followers of Jesus are fishermen who leave their families and careers to go with him. Mark's is the earliest extant gospel, and it does not seem particularly subtle in conveying to readers the kind of lifestyle which should be expected by followers of Jesus: He all but disavowed his family (3:31-35), he sent the twelve apostles out without baggage or money (6:7-13) and he told the whole crowd that to follow him meant denying yourself and taking up your own painful death (8:34-9:1).

Is it even possible for the extremity of Jesus' teaching to be emphasized any more clearly than that? And is there anything even remotely similar to that taught in the churches today? Somehow (again, at least in my churchgoing experience) this is all dismissed as merely 'spiritual,' merely figurative, all completely meaningless in any practical sense. It's quietly ignored or vocally dismissed even when Jesus explicitly says what we who are rich must do to be his followers:
    Mark 10:21 Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22 But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.

    23 And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 They were even more astonished and said to Him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Looking at them, Jesus said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”

    28 Peter began to say to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, 30 but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last, first.”


This is just Mark's gospel; and not even everything in that which raises this theme. John teaches the same thing, and some of the passages in Matthew and Luke are even more explicit than those in Mark! So why is it that Christians, almost without exception, look identical to everyone else in their jobs and homes and cars, and even on Sunday in big church buildings catering to their social needs?

Don't get me wrong, I've had plenty of arguments with Divine Insight over folks' legitimate right to consider themselves Christians as part of a cultural tradition, especially without being nailed to a Protestant bible but even if they completely ignore the teachings of Jesus himself. But for all its semantic and sociological legitimacy and potentially positive contributions, that kind of chameleon Christianity has nothing unique to offer so far as I have ever seen, or worse, hypes up self delusion and wilful deception into would-be 'miracles' or a pretext of perfection in lifestyle and doctrines.

By contrast the real message of Jesus - however hated or ignored it may be in the church, and however difficult to actually follow - is one which still seems to exert tremendous pull on me even all these years later. It almost makes me wish I could intellectually assent to becoming a Christian again, but perhaps even more than that it's a radical answer to the horrors of materialism which have become even more clear and pronounced today than they were in Jesus' time.

I might go into more detail in a future post on why now specifically this is all preying on my mind, rather than in previous years, but initially at least I'm interested in Christians' thoughts on this teaching of Jesus specifically: That to be his follower, you must deny yourself, forsake all that you have, sell what you own, give to the poor and work for God's kingdom instead of working for mammon. Why is it that virtually no Christians are followers of Jesus?
Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 11: Thu May 31, 2018 8:55 pm
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Re: The most hated teaching of Jesus

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Mithrae wrote:

    "I've never really had much faith. I gave my life to Christ when I was twelve, repenting of my sins and begging forgiveness with absolute conviction and fervour, and I was baptised when I was fifteen, but I've never heard God speak to me. Perhaps the only occasion when I could really say that I had faith – real faith which was manifest in my actions as in Hebrews 11 or James 2 – was shortly before I turned twenty. I gave up all my worldly possessions (what little I had at least), went out and preached my first brief sermon at a local church and embarked upon the life of itinerant preaching which Jesus and his disciples pursued. It lasted only one day, but like Peter in the boat I suppose I took that first step at least. Perhaps it was just coincidence that it was on that day, for the first and so far only time in my life, I met two members of a group who considered that very mission to be their own calling also. For various reasons that was a difficult period in my life, so perhaps it wasn't really God's calling which I'd followed, or perhaps I was just too scared to follow it far enough. I'll probably never know for sure, and I have regrets either way."


True story; I wrote the above a few months ago for a book draft I completed last month, though of course the events happened fourteen years ago (almost to the day, in fact). A few months after that was when I suffered my loss of faith:
    "One thing disturbed me though; there were usually well over a hundred people in the Sunday morning services, but only about a third that number in the evening service. There were a few different house groups – six or seven regulars in mine – and four or five folk who'd often attend the Wednesday morning prayer meeting. That was quite early in the morning of course, and the three or four folk who came to the Friday evening prayer meeting I'd started were often different faces. Perhaps strangest to me was one day when, playing touch footy with a church group on Sunday afternoon, someone injured his ankle and not one person among us had the courage or strength of faith to openly pray for him. This was a somewhat charismatic and vibrant church, too; yet people who'd seem so passionate and dedicated in their faith on a Sunday evening or morning would on that occasion have been utterly indistinguishable from anyone else.

    Then, I suffered a loss of faith. Looking back so long afterwards I guess that perhaps all along, subconsciously, I was asking myself “Is that all there is?” I loved that church, especially the emotional atmosphere of the Sunday evening services, but whatever I told myself at the time I couldn't really say that what I was seeing or experiencing was “the kingdom of God present with power.” The proximate cause of my loss of faith was concerns over biblical issues like slavery and genocide in the Tanakh, but if the spiritual life I was living had measured up with what I'd been led to expect, I cannot imagine that these abstract concerns would have led me down that path of uncertainty and depression which my loss of faith entailed. There was something wrong, not with that church itself, but with churchianity in general."


At various times over the years since then I've often speculated what went 'wrong' there. Of course one of my leading theories has always been that it was a step in the right direction, that there's little special about Christianity itself, but over the past four weeks I've been wondering about quite a different possibility which for some reason hadn't really occurred to me before. Namely, perhaps it was precisely because I had not continued to follow in Jesus' footsteps that mere church-going became a hollow shell eventually shattered.
    Mark 4:14 The sower sows the word. 15 And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. 16 These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; 17 and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble. 18 Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, 19 and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 20 But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.


I've read through most of the gospels again in these past few weeks, and I've actually found it quite amazing how consistently - almost continually - a theme keeps cropping up which many Christians, at least in my experience, are almost completely blind to. In this parable for example, the cares of this world and deceitfulness of wealth are ranked right up there with persecution and with Satan himself as reasons why hearers of the gospel fail to bear fruit. How many Christians are burdened by the cares of jobs and bills and cars? And how many of those bear thirty or sixty or a hundredfold fruits?

The first person we read of in Mark's gospel is John the Baptist: "Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey." The first thing we read about Jesus, after his baptism, involves him spending forty days with the wild beasts in the wilderness. The first followers of Jesus are fishermen who leave their families and careers to go with him. Mark's is the earliest extant gospel, and it does not seem particularly subtle in conveying to readers the kind of lifestyle which should be expected by followers of Jesus: He all but disavowed his family (3:31-35), he sent the twelve apostles out without baggage or money (6:7-13) and he told the whole crowd that to follow him meant denying yourself and taking up your own painful death (8:34-9:1).

Is it even possible for the extremity of Jesus' teaching to be emphasized any more clearly than that? And is there anything even remotely similar to that taught in the churches today? Somehow (again, at least in my churchgoing experience) this is all dismissed as merely 'spiritual,' merely figurative, all completely meaningless in any practical sense. It's quietly ignored or vocally dismissed even when Jesus explicitly says what we who are rich must do to be his followers:
    Mark 10:21 Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22 But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.

    23 And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 They were even more astonished and said to Him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Looking at them, Jesus said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”

    28 Peter began to say to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, 30 but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last, first.”


This is just Mark's gospel; and not even everything in that which raises this theme. John teaches the same thing, and some of the passages in Matthew and Luke are even more explicit than those in Mark! So why is it that Christians, almost without exception, look identical to everyone else in their jobs and homes and cars, and even on Sunday in big church buildings catering to their social needs?

Don't get me wrong, I've had plenty of arguments with Divine Insight over folks' legitimate right to consider themselves Christians as part of a cultural tradition, especially without being nailed to a Protestant bible but even if they completely ignore the teachings of Jesus himself. But for all its semantic and sociological legitimacy and potentially positive contributions, that kind of chameleon Christianity has nothing unique to offer so far as I have ever seen, or worse, hypes up self delusion and wilful deception into would-be 'miracles' or a pretext of perfection in lifestyle and doctrines.

By contrast the real message of Jesus - however hated or ignored it may be in the church, and however difficult to actually follow - is one which still seems to exert tremendous pull on me even all these years later. It almost makes me wish I could intellectually assent to becoming a Christian again, but perhaps even more than that it's a radical answer to the horrors of materialism which have become even more clear and pronounced today than they were in Jesus' time.

I might go into more detail in a future post on why now specifically this is all preying on my mind, rather than in previous years, but initially at least I'm interested in Christians' thoughts on this teaching of Jesus specifically: That to be his follower, you must deny yourself, forsake all that you have, sell what you own, give to the poor and work for God's kingdom instead of working for mammon. Why is it that virtually no Christians are followers of Jesus?


Well said, and spot on target. The thing that I find disturbing is how no one seems to find these teachings of Christ attractive at all. Just think of the liberation in not having all this junk cluttering up one's life. Think of the liberation in not having the self conscious fears, resentments, loathing,etc. Think of being able to place your life exclusivly in the providence of God rather than in your own abilities.

This is repulsive and revolting to all of humanity, but most especially to Christians. Go figure. Well, there's nothing to figure because to lose one's economic status is to lose all. The praise of men means everything to a Christian, and yet this is an abomination according to Christ.

The paradox is in the fact that selling one's possessions and giving the money to the poor isn't really a means of attaining the kingdom. It's just the natural consequence of discovering the kingdom. So we can't judge those who have no clue to the value of the kingdom. It's nothing more than some abstract idea that must be postponed until they have lived their own life to its fullest. Then and only then will they make room for the kingdom, but by that time there will be no point as the kingdom is described in terms of those who have already set aside the things of this world; not those who have them taken away from them involuntarily.

We can grab ahold of the treasure that is abundant in this world, but not the treasures of the kingdom. Once on sees the value of the kingdom, the treasures of this world are trash in comparison and to hold onto them is to become a complete fool. So the only conclusion one can come to is that the world is either blind or foolishly ignorant of the value of the kingdom.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 12: Wed Jul 11, 2018 10:18 am
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Re: The most hated teaching of Jesus

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[Replying to post 11 by shnarkle]

Having come across this post, I do have to ask...where does it end?
Specifically, who is allowed to actually own possessions?
Let's say Mithrae sells all that he owns, his car, his TV, his house. This means that someone else (or multiple people) now own his car, his TV, his house, etc. Are those people supposed to then sell what they now have come to own still yet other people, and so on and so on?

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 13: Thu Jul 12, 2018 9:56 am
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rikuoamero wrote:

[Replying to post 11 by shnarkle]

Having come across this post, I do have to ask...where does it end?


Where does what end?

Quote:
Specifically, who is allowed to actually own possessions?


Anyone who owns them, and wants to keep them.

Quote:

Let's say Mithrae sells all that he owns, his car, his TV, his house. This means that someone else (or multiple people) now own his car, his TV, his house, etc. Are those people supposed to then sell what they now have come to own still yet other people, and so on and so on?


No. What gave you that idea?

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