This morning I looked at Twitter, as I do every morning. I always like to have a little glance at the trending topics of the day. Usually, there’s nothing much that catches my eye, but today was different. #ThingsJesusNeverSaid is trending today, so I thought I’d have a look at it. It’s the kind of topic that brings out all sorts of comments, from the profound to those intended to insult. I decided to offer my own attempt, which got me thinking. Here then, are three things Jesus never said. Let’s start with the one I tweeted.
Occasionally my wife and I go into Birmingham city centre to do some shopping. When we do, there is usually someone standing in the street preaching at people as they go by. Let me say now that I don’t have a problem with street evangelism – in fact, I’m going out to do some this Sunday. What bothers me is the message that is being preached.
On one particular day the preacher was a very angry man, who was shouting at everyone passing by,
“You can pray all you want, but God won’t listen to you because of your sins. He’ll listen to me, but he won’t listen to you.”
Wow. On another day I saw a man shout in a woman’s face about her sin, and as she walked past him, quite shaken up, he turned and checked her out!
The Christian message is called the Gospel. That word means “good news”. I firmly believe that every Christian should share their faith with people around them. I also firmly believe that the way they do that should make it clear to people that it is indeed good news.
Here is the quote that I wrongly paraphrased:
“Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.”
To “make disciples” means to encourage people to follow Jesus. I’m not sure there are many people who would want to follow someone whose representatives start by telling them that they’re a horrible sinner. Christians, let’s not do that please.
2. “I hate you.”
This is similar to the first one, but it’s so important that I think it’s worth addressing separately.
Somehow Christianity has gained a reputation for hating people. This is at least partly due to the kind of preaching I’ve already talked about. Over the years, people within Christianity have misrepresented Jesus as being focussed on specific moral issues first and foremost.
Let me be clear here: there is such a thing as sin. The Bible makes it clear that God hates sin; he can’t stand to be around it. However, Jesus never said that he hates people who sin. If he had, there wouldn’t be anyone around that he didn’t hate!
Probably the most famous example of this misrepresentation would be Westboro Baptist Church’s iconic (for all the wrong reasons) “God Hates Fags” placards. WBC make a point of picketing any event they can, including (or especially) funerals, waving this hateful banner in people’s faces. All it takes is a cursory reading of just one of the Gospels (accounts of Jesus’ life) to discover that this is not the message he came to preach.
St. Paul, who wrote a large part of the New Testament, gives an excellent summary of Jesus’ message:
We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.