Some Christians cling to their Bible like the drowning clutch a life preserver. The words mean everything to them. Here’s the trouble with this – the interpretation of the words, and the back story behind them may miss the mark. The message of Jesus can be misunderstood to the point of actually missing his core points, leaving one to, well, drown.
Many of the misguided stories come from the right and left of Christianity. They’re either telling us to join God’s army for some cause regardless of one’s beliefs, or that Christ came to die for us personally even though we’re scum so repent and believe. Uh, okay…
Few like change. And we can certainly need compassion for those who for more than half their lives heard “the” gospel only to find out it’s not actually what Jesus was saying, or that it was not the whole story. I’d be upset to put it mildly.
The gospel story will be clarified. There is to too much pressure, tension, and conflict for it not to. Think of the Piper/Wright debates.
One of my favorite misinterpretations to clarify is the Sermon On The Mount – the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes have been hailed has the ultimate moral guide by Christian scholars, philosophers, pastors, and everyone else for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. But that’s not what it was.
In his book, The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard makes the critical connection of what was happening prior to the Sermon On The Mount. He links the two events together. Don’t believe me or him, go back and read Matthew. Start at Chapter 4 so you see the natural connection. The Beatitudes is not a separate teaching.
In short, Jesus is walking around healing, teaching, doing miracles, and simply blowing people away. He was “doing the Kingdom” – the new creation in real time. People were flocking to him. People dropped what they were doing to follow this new teacher that everyone was talking about. They didn’t “follow him” in the belief sense. It was curiosity. Who the heck is this guy!?
So there he is among the crowds. He was in close contact. He was up close and personal with their pain, their sorrows, their grief, their suffering. So what did he do? He climbed a little hill and said “Guys, great news, God is welcoming you into his empire. The time has come – the Kingdom is at hand, and here’s what it looks like. I know that you’re poor in spirit, but yours is the Kingdom. You’re poorness of spirit is not a virtue. It’s the recognition that you need God – that’s great!” On and on he went outlining what the reign of God looks like.
The Kingdom of God has begun. Enter in and through Jesus.
Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson