Christianity 201

February 23, 2013

Jesus, The Holy Nomad

To start today, another section from Matt Litton’s book Holy Nomad, The Rugged Road to Joy (Abingdon).

Holy Nomad - Matt LittonReading the Gospels, I discovered that the Holy Nomad is not the least bit interested in the laws and doctrines of religion.  He is more radical than any philosophy of life.  He does not associate himself with a particular political agenda, a government, a race, or even a nationality.  He is not a hip cultural trend, and based on his violent reaction to people setting up storefronts in the temple, not cool with being presented as a business venture to be marketed and sold.  From the way he interacts with the sick and sinful it’s clear that the Holy Nomad is kind and compassionate, but, also obvious from his harsh words with the religious leaders… The Nomad is not safe.

The Gospel of John says that he was present at the dawn of time but broke into human history, climbed into human skin and walked around in it so that we could see and understand the true nature of God, his father.

In this Nomad we find the universe’s source of compassion, the essence of love, the loyal friend, the divine comforter.  In him we meet the intolerance of inequality, and the very power of freedom.  He is the Resurrection, the foundation of life and the leader of the most important invasion in the history of the universe – the invasion of light.

Witnessing the Nomad on the path of the Gospels, I am left believing he must be the source, the antidote for Spiritual Stockholm Syndrome, the one to bring us out of darkness.

But I also discovered again that there is urgency for us to respond to his call.  The gospel of Luke tells us a story of Spiritual Stockholm Syndrome.  It is a poignant scene where several men are asking Jesus what it means to follow:

On the road someone asked if he could go along. “I’ll go with you, wherever,” he said.  Jesus was curt:  “Are you ready to rough it?  We’re not staying in the best inns, you know.”

Jesus said to another, “Follow me.”

He said, “Certainly, but first excuse me for a couple of days, please.  I have to make arrangements for my father’s funeral.”  Jesus refused.

“First things first.  Your business is life, not death.  And life is urgent: Announce God’s kingdom!”

Then another said, “I’m ready to follow you, Master, but first excuse me while I get things straightened out at home.”

Jesus said, “No procrastination.  No backward looks. You can’t  put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow.  Seize the day.”

“When once the call of God comes, ” wrote Oswald Chambers, “begin to go and never stop going.”  These words often remind me of my friend Craig.  They remind me of Jesus breathing on his followers as he sent them to their work.  I wonder how close the Nomad was in those moments and if we could see it – how he breathed on my friend to empower that first step from the cell of addiction.

Perhaps with each decision, every new step, we should take a fuller breath of God’s spirit – the sacred wind that powers our journeys.

For another excerpt from Matt’s book, click here.

September 14, 2012

The Great Axiom of Domestic Pets

NIV Matthew 7:6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

NIV Matthew 15:25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.

26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

When the conversation is lagging, here’s a bit of trivia that is sure to get a reaction, I call it the great axiom of domestic pets (in the Bible at least):

The cat is the only domestic animal not mentioned in the Bible

Actually, as much as I was told that and passed it on to others, I know that my son kept degus and they and hamsters are not mentioned, at least not by that name. (And my friend Steve would then say, “Did you know you can’t tan through glass?”)

The corollary to the great axiom is something I came up with when my dog loving friends jumped all over it:

But the dog is always cast negatively in scripture.

Well, not anymore.  Keith Brenton at Blog in My Own Eye puts an end to that theory at a blog post he titled:

Jesus, Syro-Phoenicians and Dogs

Click title to read at source

I just got in from walking my dog Roadie, and I’m sure that had some bearing on this topic leaping to my mind.

A few days ago, I made the apparently outrageous suggestion in the comments of a Facebook post that Jesus didn’t call people “dogs” in a prejudicial, insulting way in Matthew 7:6 or 15:25-27; rather that He was quoting a maxim of that era to illustrate the pervasiveness of judging others and how wrong it is.

I was immediately shut down with a chorus of “of-course-He-dids” and didn’t have time to defend my contention right then, and the moment passed. So I will now.

First of all, to call someone a “dog” who is of a different ethnicity is completely foreign to the nature of God, who created all men and all ethnicities. To say differently of Jesus — through Whom and for Whom all things were created (Colossians 1:16) — is to declare that the signers of the Declaration of Independence were less bigoted than the Lord when they declared “all men are created equal.” Preposterous.

Secondly, it is not possible for Jesus to have been prejudicial. He could be judicial, because He knew men’s thoughts (Matthew 9:4; Luke 9:47), but not pre-judicial. He could call certain people “a brood of snakes” (Matthew 23:33) because they were children of the great serpent Satan when they were plotting to kill Him (John 8:39-47). It wasn’t like He didn’t know; He did. We don’t have that knowledge, and we are not equipped to judge. He was. But that wasn’t His purpose in coming (John 12:47); that is His purpose when the day set for it comes (Acts 17:37).

Third: “Dogs” was a term of derision in the first century. See Philippians 3:2 and 2 Peter 2:22 and Revelation 22:15. Don’t miss whom these verses talk about, and what they have done or are doing.

They are not about ethnicity. They are about sin.

“Dog” was an insult. In the centuries before, especially in the books titled “Samuel,” the term “dog” is a term of self-deprecation as well as an insult to others, and I believe it is always used as an insult about peoples outside of Israel. Several translators insist that Jesus even softened the term to “puppies” or “little dogs” when speaking to the Syro-Phoenician woman — perhaps lest she imagine real judgment in His tone.

In speaking to this woman and granting the miracle she desires, He refutes what He has said in Matthew 7: He gives a holy gift to someone He has called a “puppy.” How could this not be an object lesson to His entourage, to help prepare them for the idea of the total giving of Himself for all mankind?

Fourth: In Matthew 7:1-6, when Jesus — I believe — quotes this maxim about giving dogs what is holy and giving pearls to pigs, it immediately follows what He has just said about not judging people. If He is not quoting a common proverb as a bad example, then it follows (immediately!) that He was violating the principle He has just given them — how credible is that?

How can we escape the conclusion that prejudice and judging and insulting other people is not Christ-like, and is never something that His followers should participate in?

Finally: Let’s face it. It’s easy to create God in our own image — and doing the same to Jesus is no exception for us. We sometimes want to justify things we want to do by maintaining that He did them in this flesh, in this world. But that doesn’t mean He did them, or said them because it gets us off the hook for wanting to say or do them. We all judge, and we all should not judge. Using the excuse of being like Jesus is no excuse because we do not have all of the authority or capability of Jesus to do so.

Okay. It’s not a Q.E.D., but it is a simpler explanation to me than Jesus saying one thing and then immediately contradicting Himself, and if you respect Occam’s Razor as a sound principle of logic, then I think you’d agree that William would shave with it.

And it certainly is preferable to the theology of a God who called people dogs based on the ethnicity He gave them.

~Keith Brenton