Category Archives: Kingdom Life
Train up a child
Our children and grandchildren were homeschooled in loving, caring, academically challenging environments; so, I’m certainly not opposed to homeschooling. On the other hand, there is a strong homeschooling movement among conservative fundamentalist white evangelical Christians in America that is unbiblical and abusive.
Parents are taught to inflict physical pain with their hands, with switches, wooden spoons, and belts on children beginning when they can crawl – placing objects they should not touch in front of them and hitting them when they try. This is done to “break the child’s will” because children are seen as born evil and rebellious. Children are corporally punished for the slightest perceived transgression throughout their childhoods. They are taught that public schools are evil bastions of anti-Christian indoctrination, that the government, educational system, and public libraries are controlled by elite people determined to destroy righteousness, and that America was founded by dedicated Christians who feared God. They are taught that guns are a God-given right, that science is not to be trusted (especially when it comes to vaccines, evolution, and environmentalism), and that women must submit to men.
Absolutely none of that is biblical. Those positions are based on cherry-picking verses out of the Old Testament and justified by ignoring the teachings of Jesus. Christians do not live by the laws of the Old Testament. We don’t stone or beat our children.
Children are not born evil. They are created in the image and likeness of God, innocent. “Total depravity” is an invention of the Middle Ages. Yes, as we mature, we all sin; we all miss the mark. That’s why Jesus came. Because of the cross, sin is off the table – forgiven, gone forever.
Christians do not believe or spread conspiracy theories. Science is not a threat to faith. All truth is God’s truth, whether that truth is found in a laboratory or in the Bible. Speaking of the Bible, Christians interpret all scripture in light of the teachings of Jesus. The New Testament trumps the Old; the red letters trump everything.
So, what did Jesus say about child-raising? How did Paul interpret what Jesus taught?
- “Invite the children to come to me; don’t prevent them.”
- “Come like a child… of such is the Kingdom of God.”
- “It would be better to have a millstone tied around your neck and be thrown into the sea than to offend one God’s little ones.”
- “Fathers, do not provoke your children, but raise them in they way they should go.” (The way theyshould go – not the way you think they ought to go.)
- “Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is gentle.”
Children are indeed a gift. Treasure them. Love them. You cannot love a child too much. help them discover the glories of creation. Teach them to think critically. Let go of conspiracies. Embrace the wonders science has discovered. Be tender and kind. Support public schools. Trust educators. Stop banning books and trying to rewrite history. Truth sets people free. Saturate your home with unconditional love, mercy and grace. Get out of your silo. Love God. Love others (all of them). Love the natural creation. Love yourself. Gently lead the young.
God never ordered anyone to slaughter anyone
God never ordered anyone to slaughter anyone else. How do I know? Because God is exactly like Jesus. There is nothing unchristlike in God. Jesus is the perfect revelation of who God is. Jesus said, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” And, “I and the Father are one.” And, “I do always those things that please the Father.” God is exactly like Jesus and Jesus forgave his enemies, refused retaliation, and rejected violence as a solution.
Yet, in the Old Testament, we have passages where it says God ordered genocide. How can that be? In the Ancient Neareast (of which Israel was part), you honored your god by ascribing all victories to him/her/it. The ancient Jews did the same. They claimed YHWH slaughtered the Canaanites, Hittites and Jebusites. Of course, they knew right well that they did the killing. God told them to possess the land. They assumed that the only way to do was to invade with swords drawn. There’s evidence that if they’d simply trusted God, God would have persuaded the people who lived there (people created in God’s image; people God loved) to move on their own accord. Instead, the ancient Jews invaded, slaughtered, and gave the God of cruciform love the credit.
Jesus also invaded Canaan. In Matthew 15, the story is told of Jesus in Syrophoenicia. Jews and Syrophoenicians didn’t get along, mostly for economic and cultural reasons. A Syrophoenician woman begged Jesus to heal her daughter. Using a bit of street theater, Jesus acted exactly as any Jewish rabbi would be expected – he ignored her. She pressed in. He said he had been sent to lost sheep of Israel. She said even dogs get crumbs. Jesus ended the theater and responded as we knew he would, with grace, love, acceptance, mercy, and healing. His Jewish followers had to be astonished.
Joshua and the ancient Jewish tribes invaded Canaan with sword and genocide. Jesus invaded Canaan with cruciform love. A new kingdom has come.
Deconstructing Religious Faith
Many people in North America are questioning their faith. That doesn’t in anyway intimidate God. God wants us to use our brains to examine and wrestle with issues.
Why are so many people in North America questioning or turning away from faith?
- Some question Christianity because they were told that if the Genesis creation accounts are not literal descriptions of how life formed, the entire Bible is false. An introductory course in evolutionary biology shatters that.
- Still others feel an incongruency between a loving God and eternal conscious torture.
- Mega-churches feel like inauthentic shows to many people.
- Others see white evangelicals and conservative Catholics supporting ultra-right-wing authoritarian politicians whose policies are opposite the teachings of Jesus.
- They see those same people as anti-LGBTQ+
- They see professing Christians as caring more about fetuses than women.
- They hear people who claim to represent Jesus espousing racism, promoting gun ownership, & being in favor of capital punishment.
- They hear Christians promoting revisionist, anti-indigenous and anti-black history.
- They hear “patriots” espousing antisemitism.
- They watch them waving Confederate battle flags and Nazi banners.
Rethinking your belief system is a good thing. It doesn’t in anyway intimidate God.
Just don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Jesus is real.
God is exactly like Jesus.
There is nothing unchristlike in God.
God is perfect, eternal, unconditional, cruciform love.
God loves you and desires to have a loving relationship with you.
God won’t mess up your life.
God will fulfill your life.
Yea, though I Walk
I was a lad of what? 10? 12? Walking home alone the four or five miles from town in a fog so thick I literally could not see my own feet. To stay on course, I slapped my sneakers as I walked on the narrow country road. When I felt the crunch of wild blueberry bushes that separated road from forest, I’d readjust until I once again heard blacktop under my feet. There were no cars – no one could drive in a Cape Cod fog like this. I knew the roads by heart, having ridden my bicycle and walked over them daily. I had no fear; conversely, I enjoyed the adventure. Home beckoned where there were lights, a fire in the fireplace, and fish on the griddle.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil,
for you are with me … (Psalm 23:4)
I do not think it means what you think it means
The Kingdom of God is upside down compared to the kingdoms of this world. Worldly kingdoms are all about power and wealth. They use violence and coercion to obtain more of both. God’s Kingdom is about love and service.
Jesus’ parable of the minas in Luke 19:11-27 is normally interpreted as a set of instructions for good stewardship. The noble, we’re told, represents Jesus who goes away for a long time leaving his slaves to invest for him. He comes back, congratulates the two that made a lot of money, rebukes the one who buried it, and slaughters those who didn’t want him to rule over them.
I think that’s entirely mistaken.
Authoritarian figures in Jesus’ parables either act badly like everyone listening would expect them to, or the opposite of what would normally happen in real life. When they act as one would expect, Jesus’ message is, the Kingdom of God is not like this. When they act contrary to the world, his message is, this is what the Kingdom of God looks like. A king sends people out into the back alleys to bring lame, poor, blind, broken people to his banquet. No worldly king does that, but God does. That’s a picture of the Kingdom of God. Here, we have the opposite.
The noble in this parable acts exactly like rulers did. In fact, he acts exactly like Pilate. Pilate traveled to Rome to get more authority from Caesar. The Jews sent delegations to Rome to complain about him and ask that he be removed from authority (v. 14,27). Pilate slaughtered dissenters, mixing their blood with their sacrifices. That was recent history. All of Jesus’ listeners were aware of Pilate’s despicable actions. The parable’s noble is nothing like God, nothing like Jesus. He’s like Pilate, whom Jesus will face within the week.
When Rome came down on Israel (64-73 AD), those who opposed Roman rule were ruthlessly slaughtered. Jesus saw it coming and wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44). When Jesus comes again, he will not physically slaughter anybody.
I know. Revelation 19. Look at it closely – Jesus returns wearing a robe dipped in his own blood before any battle takes place. In the “battle,” only flesh is destroyed. Deny yourself, take up your cross, crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts. Jesus symbolically “slays” with his word, the sword of his mouth. Revelation is poetic, symbolic, apocryphal literature.
Immediately after Jesus’ parable of the minas is the triumphal entry. Jesus is placed in stark contrast to Pilate. Pilate, the empire’s representative, rides into Jerusalem from the west on a war horse surrounded by 600 armed soldiers. Jesus rides into Jerusalem from the east on a donkey’s colt surrounded by peasants waving palms. The Kingdom of God is the opposite of the Empire.
In the parable, Jesus is saying, “Here’s a picture of Empire. The Kingdom of God is nothing like this.”
So, what about the investors? One guy doubles the noble’s money; another makes a hefty 50% profit. The third buries it and gives it back. I was taught this means we all have gifts and resources we’re supposed to use wisely until Jesus comes back. I’m all for good stewardship, but that’s not what Jesus is teaching here.
Jesus is in Jericho. Zacchaeus, the hated, wealthy, traitorous tax-farmer has just had a radical heart-change. Embracing jubilee, he gives away half his wealth and publicly offers 4-fold restitution to anyone he’s defrauded. He’s free of mammon. Not missing a beat, Jesus goes on to share the story of minas.
Three slaves are owned by a brutal ruler who is seeking more worldly power. Two sycophants are commended for making more money. A third sees the noble for what he is and refuses to participate. He is condemned for not putting the money to interest. Usury is strictly forbidden the Law of Moses. Amassing wealth is impossible if you’re practicing Jubilee.
This parable is not teaching us to adopt the ways of the world, be good business people, and support an authoritarian despot who slaughters people who simply want justice. That’s Rome. That’s Pilate. That’s people who support Rome and Pilate.
The commendable person in this parable is the servant who buried the money. He refused to practice usury, refused to go along with a harsh despot, refused to participate in the worldly empire and its ways of doing things.
Living as Jesus taught is not at all practical. If you sell all you have and give to the poor, who’s going to support you in your old age? If you turn the other cheek, you may be victimized. If you stand up for justice, somebody might mix your blood with your sacrifice. If you don’t practice good capitalistic business practices, somebody else may wind up with your wealth.
In the parable of the minas, Jesus is giving us a picture of exactly what the Kingdom of God does not look like. In the Kingdom of God, resources are shared so no one lives in want. In God’s Kingdom, the wealthy don’t get wealthier while the poor get poorer. People in the Kingdom of God behave like redeemed Zacchaeus, not like Pilate. Servants in empires support corruption and are attracted to power and money. Servants in God’s Kingdom see empires and rulers for who they are and refuse to participate. They are generous, forgiving, and kind; they bring good news to the poor, wash feet, feed the hungry, welcome strangers, house the homeless, heal the sick and visit the incarcerated. We wave palms, not swords. Our King rides a donkey and is crowned with thorns. His throne is a cross.
Luke 19 NRSVUE
19 He entered Jericho and was passing through it. 2 A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. 5 When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. 7 All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.”8 Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” 9 Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”
11 As they were listening to this, he went on to tell a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. 12 So he said, “A nobleman went to a distant region to receive royal power for himself and then return. 13 He summoned ten of his slaves and gave them ten pounds and said to them, ‘Do business with these until I come back.’ 14 But the citizens of his country hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to rule over us.’ 15 When he returned, having received royal power, he ordered these slaves to whom he had given the money to be summoned so that he might find out what they had gained by doing business. 16 The first came forward and said, ‘Lord, your pound has made ten more pounds.’ 17 He said to him, ‘Well done, good slave! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small thing, take charge of ten cities.’ 18 Then the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your pound has made five pounds.’ 19 He said to him, ‘And you, rule over five cities.’ 20 Then the other came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your pound. I wrapped it up in a piece of cloth, 21 for I was afraid of you, because you are a harsh man; you take what you did not deposit and reap what you did not sow.’ 22 He said to him, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked slave! You knew, did you, that I was a harsh man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why, then, did you not put my money into the bank? Then when I returned, I could have collected it with interest.’ 24 He said to the bystanders, ‘Take the pound from him and give it to the one who has ten pounds.’ 25 (And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten pounds!’) 26 ‘I tell you, to all those who have, more will be given, but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 27 But as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to rule over them—bring them here and slaughter them in my presence.’”