I LOVE comments. Please leave some even if they are brief half-formed ideas
that you aren't even sure you really believe. I just love comments.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sermon on the Mount, Thirteenth

Someday, I want to revisit the difference between lesser of two evils decisions and indistinguishable evils decisions. But, I also want people to read my blog and not think of me as a jerk. So, let's get back to Jesus.

*The counter-numerologist in me, I think it is cool that we should wrap things up with the thirteenth reflection.

The Sermon on the Mount concludes with three points: living in accordance with the Way is restrictive, living in accordance with the Way it will be obvious from results, and living in accordance with the Way will help you survive troubling times.

First, the narrow way.
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
This could easily relate only to conduct. Take food & drink in moderation. Just have normal sexual relations. Work hard, but not to the exclusion of having family. Worship God. But we know from the rest of the sermon that this also refers to our hearts. It is easy to hateful, but we are not to be so. It is easy to be lustful, but we are not to be so. I submit that we can learn to be hateful or forgiving. While at any one minute, we cannot control our mood, in evolving as human beings we can. Agree?

Next, judged by our fruits.
"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
I take this as duel purpose advice. We should check ourselves. Are we getting what we seek? Is our faith bearing fruits, such as happiness and fulfillment? If not, we should change. Likewise, it tells us how to evaluate others. It says that the work of the faithful should be verifiable. It is not enough to say, we're doing this because God says so. We have to be able to say, we're doing this for X and look, here's X.

Finally, our faith is a foundation.
"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."
This is something I have found to be true. In times of trouble, my faith has given me comfort. My church family has done so. Though my faith cannot stop the rain from coming or the stream from rising or the winds from blowing, it can brace me against the storm. I certainly do not think Christianity is the only faith that allows this. Indeed, I suspect that it is not even limited to spirituality. But I know, that my Christianity helps me.

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.
So the speaker had good command of his subject matter and was able to hold their attention. I wonder if he made good use of visual aids? ;)

6 comments:

Matt Dick said...

I submit that we can learn to be hateful or forgiving. While at any one minute, we cannot control our mood, in evolving as human beings we can. Agree?

I certainly agree.

"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves."

I think this is a dangerous authority to give to worldly clerics. It allows any cleric to label anyone with the tag "false prophet" without allowing evidence to contrary. This is a witch trial waiting to happen.

I take this as duel purpose advice.

See, you meant "dual", but I'm saying it's really "duel" advice.

And does this not contradict that a false prophet comes in sheep's clothing. Or at least it compounds the problem. You place clerics in the position of having to persuade people that the good works they are seeing are really bad works.

So taking his own advice, how are we to determine if he's a sheep, or a wolf in sheep's clothing.

He claims the same authority that Zeus claims. Or perhaps the same claims are made for him. I see no greater evidence pointing me to Jesus' divine origins as I do for Zeus.

JimII said...

Disclaimer: all of this stuff can be read to hurt people. No argument from me.

My reading about the false prophets is that they have to put up or shut up. So, when someone says, "Matt, you just have to believe," he or she has to follow it up with some fruits. If I expect you to follow in the Way, it is not enough for me to make promises. I have to show you something.

I see this as more of a guide to Christians than a persuasive piece. That's true of the whole Sermon, isn't it? Now, if you take it as a whole and it speaks to you and makes your life better, then sure it could bring someone to the faith. I don't think that is crazy at all.

It also gives me a nice label for people who claim that if you love Jesus enough you will be rich and healthy.

Matt Dick said...

I don't mean to be such a horrendous antagonist about this, but I think this is a very important discussion about the modern interpretation of the bible by Christians.

The passage about sheep's clothing can certainly be read metaphorically to mean something about one's personal faith, but a much simpler and more defensible reading leads directly to the conclusion that this is a tool for clerics to burn their rivals at the stake. I understand that you are not someone who is gung ho about rousing a mob to murderous destruction of a rival sectarian, but it seems to me that you have to stretch (and I'm glad people are willing) to get this to mean something else.

JimII said...

I disagree. It is uninteresting that Jesus (or his followers a couple generations later) would write down that you should distinguish true from false prophets. I think it is interesting to use a test of "Did what they say turn out to be right" is much different than the test used by many of us today "Did he say what I wanted him to."

I think directing followers to look for results is the most remarkable part of that passage. And so, I think my reading is not strained.

And, your antagonism is necessary for the discussion. I adore it.

Matt Dick said...

And, your antagonism is necessary for the discussion. I adore it.

As long as you recognize it as a vigorous challenge and not pure antagonism for its own sake.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.