What? Jesus is for us! He is against them! Yes, it is an easy trap to fall into. We are not always on the side of the angels. Sometimes we are not on the side of Jesus when we try to be. Often we think some action or idea is good for two reasons. The first is it sounds good to us. The second is other people approve of it especially people who think as we do. I offer a few times how Jesus is against us.
Jesus is against prayer. He is against how we do it. I grew up in a church where prayers were expected to be extemporaneous and long. Reading a prepared manuscript for a prayer was not quite spiritual. The men leading prayers would drone on and on until they thought enough was said. My father often complained he could never keep his eyes closed for so long without going to sleep.
Jesus is against forced prayer. Jesus opposes coerced praying as well as praying to sound spiritual. “And whenever you pray do not be like the hypocrites do in the synagogues and the streets, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you they have their reward.” (Matthew 6:5) Praying is not magical manipulation of spiritual forces. No one on earth or heaven is required to respond to any prayer we offer.
God is not required to keep players who are trying to injure one another safe. God is not required to protect school children in communities that do not have sensible weapons enforcement or public health measures. Most of our calls for public prayers are this very kind of magic. Jesus is against this sort of prayer. It does not matter how many people pray or where such prayers are held.
Jesus Opposes Hoarding Goods
Jesus is against hoarding money too. The excuse given for those who amass large fortunes is that they can do good things with that money. Jesus says such people do not even do that. “He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more that all those contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41-44)
Obviously, the temple is not going to operate on pennies. It won’t do so on a mountain of them. Large religious institutions must rely on the goodwill of wealthy people if they are to function. But wealthy people do not normally give more than a small percentage of their money to these institutions. If someone has say 10 million dollars and gives 90 per cent away, how much will they have left? The simple answer is 1 million dollars. Something is wrong with that figure according to Jesus. But religious institutions are not totally reliant on wealthy people.
Jesus Against Taking The Widow’s Living
Just before Jesus sits opposite the treasury Mark records his attack on the Scribes. “Beware the of the scribes, who like to walks around in long robes, and to be greeted in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widow’s houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” (12:38b-40) When the temple treasury receives the widow’s offering, they are doing something wrong. Yet, the scribes were not the Temple authorities. They took money from those who needed it to buy those long robes and get the good seats. Please note too the “long prayers” made for that income.
Against Converting People
What? What about the Great Commission? Isn’t that soul-winning? Not if we are trying to make the other person like ourselves or our image of Jesus. Are we trying to remake people into our image? St. Paul called for people to imitate him as he imitated Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). He did not call people to follow Paul. Earlier in the same letter, he asked people if any were baptized into his name. “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the convert twice as much as a child of hell as yourselves.” (Matthew 23:15).
Having a person say, “I want to be just like you,” is flattering. But there is only one me in this world. And the world, I am sure, is better for it. The whole idea of converting people to be like us is erroneous. Jesus asks why would we want to make sinners into another sort of sinner? And are we sure about their sins? Are they somehow worse than ours?
The description of the ministries of Peter and Paul in the Acts is not evangelism in the contemporary sense. No. They were inviting people to escape from the Judgment to come into a new world being birthed. The judgment was already being experienced. The new world could be too. Peter and Paul were not soul-winning, evangelizing, or converting people. Salvation is about dying to an old way and living in a new way. The problem many of us have is we get the two confused.
Jesus For Us
Jesus opposes many things people claiming to be his followers do today. He always has. Jesus preaches and teaches a new way – a new world described as a Kingdom and a City – that is one of grace and peace. We make the mistake of mixing the old world with the new. And we err too often on the side that seeks to preserve something Jesus opposes.
We fail in faith when we do not seek the peace and grace of the new world. We are blessed when we find it.