When Quoting Jesus Harshes Your Mellow


If the Internet were somehow the complete representation of the words of Jesus, the Bible would pretty much come down to this:

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that [Jesus] answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
—Mark 12:29-31

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
—Matthew 7: 1-5

Jesus, sword in mouthIn summary: Love God and love your neighbor—and don’t badly judge your neighbor, either.

If the Internet is any indicator, that’s the sole breadth of what Jesus supposedly said.

And thinking that is pretty stupid, when you ponder it. But then many of the greatest quoters of the Bible have actually never read it from cover to cover, so what should we expect?

When some bad stuff went down in ancient Palestine, a group of people came to Jesus for an explanation:

There were some present at that very time who told [Jesus] about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
—Luke 13:1-5

Yeah, He went there.

“Way to harsh the mellow, Jesus! Those people came to you for some comfort, not criticism. What a buzzkill!”

But you see, the thing about the Christian faith is that it’s not a departure from reality. It’s not the puppy dogs and rainbow-farting unicorns you see on the Web. It’s blood, guts, and in your face. It’s as real as it gets. And Jesus isn’t going to selectively filter what He says to people so they can feel good about themselves and bad about the bad people, which, coincidentally, is what Jesus is saying everyone standing before Him is, bad.

Good people don’t have to repent. Only the wicked, rotten, evil ones.

When Jesus tells the crowd, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish,” He’s not mincing words. He’s saying this:

That terrible thing that happened to those people? If you don’t turn from your own wickedness and turn to God, something like it is going to happen to you too.

Except the Bible also says that the bad thing that is going to happen to people who don’t repent is going to go on and on and on.

Jesus also said this:

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
—John 14:6

“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
—John 17:3

Jesus said a lot of things people should listen to.

Don’t be a total hypocrite in your judging. Love God and love your neighbor.

And don’t be a complete dumbass by selectively quoting Jesus without knowing the rest of what He said. Because whatever your agenda is in doing so, you need to get over it. Why? Because unless you turn from your evil personal agenda and turn to God and His agenda, you also will end very, very badly.

Slowly to Oblivion: How Christians Fall Away from the Lord, Part 2


Falling AwayPreviously, I wrote how Christians fall away (“Slowly to Oblivion: How Christians Fall Away from the Lord, Part 1“). In doing so, I realized I erred by focusing on one type of falling away solely: Phariseeism.

In truth, more than one way exists.

If you missed the intro explaining the idea of falling away, rather than rehash it here, please see the previous post.

Here is another pathway to falling away. Some will contend it afflicts you folks in the younger generation more so than older folks who are so susceptible to the other type of falling away.

Another way in which some Christians fall away from the Lord…

Crown Doubt.

Faith is one thing, but when you repeatedly parade your doubt before your Christian friends, you show how cool you really are. After all, the sword swallower  and fire-eater in the circus side show are the real attractions, aren’t they? Talk about doubt all the time. Love doubt. Write poems and hymns about the wonder of doubt. Make sure you sanctify that doubt, too, by dredging up historical references to Desert Fathers and Ancient Patricians who doubted all the time, like some type of Old Timey Doubt Machines.

Embrace appealing causes.

Get on board! You know which causes people are talking about most. Make sure you like that cause’s Facebook page. And don’t forget to buy the T-shirt. Wear it proudly so others can see how committed you are—until a hotter cause comes along.

Take the temperature of the times and adjust your beliefs accordingly.

What does the culture say? What’s society’s scuttlebutt? If you don’t already know, find out. Then open your Bible—if you still have one—and find a way to make the words in it conform to whatever the trend gurus say. Truth is flexible, right? A living document should change with the times. So be the one who changes it! Or find a pioneer or two who have already done the flexing for you and parrot everything they say. Besides, that pioneer is surely popular. You have his/her/its T-shirt and iPad app by now, don’t you?

Pick fights with the unenlightened.

Find a deeply held belief in someone else? Challenge it. Especially if it conflicts with your cause or the temperature of the times. Jesus challenged people all the time, so you’re just imitating Him. Convince yourself this makes you look more like Him. Remember, there’s a solid biblical precedent to ask questions that start with “Did God really say…?”

Talk in riddles and circles.

What is the sound of one hand clapping? That is the sort of thing Jesus would ask because He liked to unsettle people. Make statements that don’t say anything concrete. Ask questions you never plan to answer (which is a great way to allow for plausible deniability should the temperature of the times change). People will see you are spiritually deep if they can’t make sense of what you’re saying or pin you down. Clarity is so 2002.

Endorse other religions while making sure everyone knows the evils of your own.

Make sure other people know that Christianity is messed up, terribly. Apologize for being a Christian to anyone who will listen. Talk about how truth can be found in so many other religions. Read just enough about those other religions to be able to talk about them with likeminded people over a biscotti and fair trade mocha grand latté with organic soy milk.

Proudly avoid church.

Church? “Old and busted indoctrination factory” is more like it. And while you’re not attending church, make sure other people know your reasons. The reasons are always good, especially if you own a T-shirt that explains them.

Sin boldy.

Nothing says you are sanctified better than showing that you can sin as much as the next guy and not be affected by it. Nike said it best. And the founder of Lutheranism, Martin Luther King.

Read the right pseudepigrapha.

You have read the gospels of Judas, Marcion, the Four Heavenly Realms, and all the rest. Of course you have. Wisdom right there, ladies and gentlemen. John Shelby Spong says so.

Hate whatever is the new hate.

Point out that some Christians are really haters in disguise. Ensure other people know you hate that. While you’re at it, hating yourself in a meta sort of way can give you street cred (see Endorse other religions while making sure everyone knows the evils of your own).

Love yourself.

Look at those fundamentalists. Morons. Pretty much everything bad in the world can be traced to them. But not you. You are soooooooo much smarter than they are.

Sarcasm isn’t pretty, but then neither is the kind of delusional thinking depicted above. Yet it is very common among people who once started in the Faith and then kept pushing past the limits God set.

While the above may seem like caricature, I wish it were. I’ve met folks like this, though. They seem to be the reverse of the Pharisaical type mentioned in the previous post. They have pushed so hard not to be seen as a Pharisee, they have become one, albeit of doubt rather than faith. Sadly, their nonstop questioning only leads them to faithlessness and ruin.

Slowly to Oblivion: How Christians Fall Away from the Lord, Part 1


Falling AwayNothing in the Bible should be more sobering than the reality that some people aren’t going to make it to heaven. Even more sobering is that some of them were once considered part of the in crowd.

Now some will protest that Scripture is clear that the saints will persevere. (Hey, that rhymes!) But it also seems clear that the Bible repeatedly notes that some who were at one point counted part of the group were not counted so at the end.

Something happened. Something undeniable.

Claim all you will that those who don’t make it were never part of the group to begin with, but there’s that daunting reality again that a lot of people who now seem out of the group were the same ones we once accepted readily as being in.


Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.
—Hebrews 3:12 ESV

Throughout his writings, Paul used the term brothers to refer only to those who were in.

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”
—Matthew 24:9-13 ESV

Context is king. In this context, the King of Kings is talking to the in crowd. They are the ones who will see their numbers dwindle and fall.

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned. Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things–things that belong to salvation. For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.
—Hebrews 6:4-10 ESV

“…as you still do.” What matters in the end is perseverance, and it is clear that some who were once in may not persevere.

“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.”
—Revelation 3:1-5 ESV

A name once written in the Book of Life has the potential to be blotted out if what was once alive becomes dead, if the works once started remain incomplete.

The one who continues to long to remain in Christ will remain there, for no outside force can rip us away from God. But we need to be careful of what we harbor within.

How can you and I fall away from the Lord? It’s scarily simple.


Hoard everything God gives you. Time. Goods. Knowledge. Wisdom. Love. Keep it all to yourself. Build barns and silos to store it all. And if you should dole out a tiny portion of what you have been given, make sure others know how generous you are in doing so. And make sure the knowledge you portion out is used to crush others who don’t have the silo full you do. Also ensure the pittance of love you offer has every expectation of being returned. Then when people don’t treat your generous gift with the appreciation you believe they should, horde more. And don’t ever repeat the mistake of throwing your pearls before those you deem “swine.”

Cultivate cynicism.

Knowing everything means suffering fools, of which there seems to be no end. The person who knows it all can see through it all. Every motive in others becomes clear. Every sell job known for what it is. The cynic claims to see all as it rightly is and calls it out from the lofty grandeur of self-deemed righteousness. Some go so far as to label this “discernment.”

Love only those who love you.

While you’re not casting your pearls of wisdom before swine, don’t give them your love either. Talk about those people. Make sure everyone knows who you think they are. Save your love for people like you; the right kind of people. And since there are usually so few who measure up, most of your love will eventually deepen into further self-love. Because it’s easier to love yourself and leave it at that.

Find a ghetto to dwell in—then never venture out of it.

Lutheran. Charismatic. Calvinist. Paedobaptist. Dispensationalist. And on and on. The Christian life contains all sorts of ghettos. Of course, the one you choose to live in is the best. The others contain nothing but error. Best not to visit them—ever. There’s nothing anyone in those other ghettos can teach you anyway. No sense risking damnation by checking out how the other half lives.

Fight every battle.

It doesn’t matter what the battle is, proving how right you are is all that is essential. Make sure everyone knows where you stand on every position. “Fight the good fight,” right? Take on your enemies and pound them into submission. And if it seems after a while that everyone else is the enemy, chalk that up to the rightness of your cause. Because anyone who is on the side of rightness will be persecuted—or so you keep telling yourself.

Pursue comfort.

Even though you’re fighting endless righteous battles, no need to work up too much of a sweat. Look after yourself. Make sure you have the best of everything. You’re a King’s Kid. You deserve the best. This is especially true of Americans. You’re pretty sure the American Dream is right there in the Bible, so it’s in your best interest to embody it.

Exude righteousness.

Practice your religion before others and make sure they know how well you are doing it and how poor their execution is. Talk about your spiritual giftings all the time. You’re a model. You probably even tithe your mint and dill, though others give you strange looks when you toss part of your spice rack in the offering plate on Sundays. What do they know?

Use the lingo of the in crowd.

When you talk about your religion, use the buzzwords. Often. Because nothing says you’re in like talking in the approved code. In addition, this is a good way to ensure the out crowd stays out.

Find ways around the must-do’s that only the noobs must attend to.

You’ve been around. You’re proven. No need to spend too much time attending to the basics, like prayer and Bible study. Or serving the downtrodden. Leave that to the new guys. You’ve got bigger fish to fry. Besides, you know it all and have done it all already.

Resist reproof.

And the noobs? Who are they to question you? Error is for the other guy. Really, the nerve…

Never question yourself.

Once you’ve arrived, why make trouble for yourself by checking to see if your destination is the correct one after all? The other guy is in the wrong place. He always is.

I’ve heard it said that sarcasm isn’t very Christian.

What seems to be not so Christian is to let oneself fall into the kind of delusion the sarcasm above attempts to pierce. It’s a common delusion though. What makes it really sad is that most people who need desperately to reverse course before they find themselves out of the in group will read that set of warnings above and resist reproof. Because error only and always dogs the other guy. Always.

I end by saying that to the person afflicted by the delusional thinking depicted above, all change is bad. And yet a great swath of Christianity in the West needs desperately to change. This doesn’t mean abandoning solid doctrine, just bad practice based on self-righteous misunderstandings of the words of God.

Too many of us have become the living embodiment of the Pharisees we mock. The mirror of Scripture and the inner prompting of the Holy Spirit should reveal us for what we have become.

Unless it is already too late.


Slowly to Oblivion: How Christians Fall Away from the Lord, Part 2