Do as Jesus Says, Not as He Does?

Do as Jesus Says, Not as He Does? September 5, 2015


Bruce Gerencser shared the above graphic, which another blogger made from a quote of his. Bruce writes, “for any Christian who happens to stumble upon my deep, dark, evil corner of the blogosphere, I’d love to hear your explanation of Jesus saying, love your enemies, while God, the alter-ego of Jesus, tortures his enemies in hell. It seems the words of Jesus don’t match the actions of Jesus.”

I’ve suggested before (taking my cue from Rabbi Harold Kushner) that there are principles in the Bible – such as treating others as we want to be treated – which are so lofty that even the Bible’s authors fall short of them. Those of us who take the humanity of Jesus completely seriously can add Jesus alongside them. But those who aren’t prepared to do that can console themselves through the fact that there is teaching attributed to Jesus in the New Testament which stems from other people. But whoever is responsible for it, whether Jesus or his earlier followers, Bruce is clearly correct: it is indeed inconsistent to say that God and/or Jesus wants us to love and forgive our enemies, but is unwilling or unable to do the same.

For this reason, I once suggested that the final judgment – for those who think there will be such a thing – ought to be envisaged as Jesus gathering his (self-)righteous followers before him, surveying the rest of humankind, and saying to the Christians, “Whichever of you is without sin, let him or her be the first person to cast someone into eternal torment.”

When no one does so, presumably he would say, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, enter into my rest.”


"I think immersive role playing is an awesome way to learn a language. I had ..."

Direct and Indirect Learning Through Games
"I never thought about it before, but Paul stressing Jesus was of David's line is ..."

Genealogies and the Age of the ..."
"James said: I've thought that Q might have had some reference to Jesus being born ..."

Genealogies and the Age of the ..."
"That's a great question. That two authors independently decide to add infancy stories and genealogies ..."

Genealogies and the Age of the ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • ES Carpenter

    OH DEAR! U have it wrong! Hell is a Catholic invention! GOD didn’t invent it. RELIGION did. Religion & GOD never met.
    GOD is unconditional love. We r all immortal beings learning through mortality. We all make heaven Everyone is so okay. Honest.

    Please read MY BLOG:

    Below is an excerpt from the book – The Definition of Normal. This excerpt is an alternate way of looking at the most perfect Being. I have stumbled across a like idea in another electronic media; The New GOD Argument. As far as I am concerned – any argument that GOD is far more loving and far more perfect than the antiquated tribal version now so unquestionably accepted by most of the current religious civilization – is a good one. I truly believe this magnificent perfect Being is just love. Why? If you were bazillions of eons old and could create ANYTHING you wanted …would you create anything you didn’t love? Would you really create something just so you could hate it? (Neither did GOD)

    The Excerpt (taken from Chapter 13 – Jake and Morgan discussing perceptions of (unquestioned aspects of) GOD – The Definition of Normal by E S Carpenter)

    …picked up in the middle…..

    …So please …God first.”
    He welcomed her choice. “I agree. He is first. He’s perfect, don’t you agree?”
    “Yes.” Her eyes narrowed.
    He smiled, and continued. “What’s your definition of perfect?”
    She held her sandwich as she rested her hand on her plate. “I don’t know. We were taught He’s perfect.”
    He also lowered his sandwich to just above his plate. “Can He get angry?”
    She smiled. “Hell yeah.”
    “Does He ever hate? Does He ever take sides?”
    Her breathing increased again, and she smiled. “Some of the stories seem like it, sure.”
    “Some of the stories do seem like it, don’t they?” He thought about those words for a second, and inhaled. “May I expand on the popular dogmatic version of perfect?” She nodded and he continued. “Perfect, the typical two thousand year old dogmatic view taught in some of our finer institutions is; the perfect God has some interesting human qualities, including jealousy, anger, frustration, impatience, even though they acknowledge his perfection. Certain well accepted mainline stories have God creating us and almost immediately being disappointed in us and telling us we can’t be in heaven with Him without outside intervention. He is more often than not, dissatisfied with us, and very few get to be on His good side, especially if you’re human.”
    He stared at her for a moment before continuing. “Is it okay if that’s not my definition of perfect? Is it okay if I share my definition of what I perceive is the definition of a perfect God?”
    She looked at him curiously. “Sure.”
    He tilted his head and offered a half smirk. “My definition of perfect is without flaw in every and any action. He loves perfectly; by definition…unconditionally. That means He’s never angry or dissatisfied with us. He made us human, which means He has no problem with us being human. Seems silly to think otherwise, doesn’t it? Dad loves me even though I’m human. Dad doesn’t have a problem I’m human. Do you mean to tell me God could take a lesson from dad? Or is God perfect at it?” He paused and eyed her for a reaction to anything so far. She offered none, so he continued. “He forgives perfectly. Dad forgives me for being an idiot and dad isn’t perfect. How could dad be better at it than God?” He paused and they both took a bite of their sandwiches. “Do you and dad have intentions of someday leaving me this house?”
    She sat up, pleasantly surprised by the change in topic. “Of course. Do you think you’d ever live here?”
    He breathed in. “Do you think God would make a house for us and not have us live in it? Do you think He wants us to, but doesn’t always get His way? How about not make enough room for us when a universe of rooms take nothing more than a fleeting thought, the room He has to work with is the entire spiritual universe and no one takes up any room? Not my definition of perfect. Yours?”
    Her reply was emotionless. “No.”
    “I know this is going to sound weird, but I thought of something God can’t do.”
    She smiled at his sudden vigor and waited with a look of curiosity.
    “He can’t do anything not perfectly. And you know what that eliminates?” He paused and smiled at her. “Every childish human emotion. Hate, anger, jealousy, pettiness…all of them. It seems the dogmatic and human definition of perfect has the flaws humans have. How funny is that?”
    She quietly looked at his face and shoulders and sighed. Her non-reply caused him to wonder if she was hearing him, but he had to continue. He straightened out the chips on his plate, then picked one up. Her stare caught him off guard. “Is it okay to go on?”
    She nodded, “Yes.”
    He paused and looked at her to confirm her reply, then continued. “Do you think anything so perfect would ever create something He wasn’t aware He was creating? How about something He disliked? He can create anything, any way He wants. Could He really be bothered creating something that offended Him? Or is He flawed? Or are we too stupid to realize He’s not flawed?”

    He paused and offered a contrite smile. “May I continue?”
    She nodded softly.
    “My definition of perfect means He chose to create everything He created, and that includes the different kinds of humans He made. Can there be any doubt about that?”
    Her head tilted. “There’s just men and women.”
    He sighed. “That’s one of the problems, Mom. There aren’t just men and women. People two thousand years ago thought there were only just men and women, but our far more advanced society, with its advanced medical machinery, has proven otherwise. (

    I believe He loves everyone. Perfectly. And I truly believe He has better things to do than throw some of us away, for no greater crime than being how we were made. I also truly believe we can love whoever we want to love. I believe He has better things to do than be angry or destroy. I don’t believe a God who would make something just so He could destroy it, can fit my understanding of the definition of perfect…and I know He is.”
    “But how can you know?”
    He smiled. “Either there’s an imperfect God ruling over this place, or the current human interpretation of prefect is more antiquated and myopic than we ever gave it credit for. My guess; it’s a human interpretation problem, due to our small imperfect minds. Because my definition of perfect is just that…perfect. No flaws. Flawless. No human qualities. Way above us in every perceivable aspect of existence. Perfect.”

    (without detail – may I offer that I have had first-hand experience regarding this perspective – that I was asked to write. There is far more in the book – though the book offers no blatant spiritual perspective. GOD is too great for anything but a soft loving initiation into an alternate way to look at GOD. …see …GOD is more loving …forgiving ….and perfect than our young (cosmic) minds can fathom …and GOD’s love for us is boundless. You are alright. You and everyone you love is so alright. GOD loves you and GOD can only do that …perfectly.

    • Phil Ledgerwood

      This certainly left an impression on me. I could not possibly be more interested to read your book than I am right now.

      • ES Carpenter

        I am humbly honored. You can reach me from the website contact page …if you have interest. The title as all 1 word… com

        Be well. I hope you enjoy.

  • Michael Wilson

    The language of the Bible is ambiguous on whether the wicked are annihilated or suffer forever. What Jesus himself thought on this is an unknown but it does seem he believed there would be a judgement, and that judgement seems to be at the core of his preaching. The standards if the sermon on the mount were what one had to aspire to do to avoid being on the wrong side of the judgement.

    I like your idea, James, of Jesus asking his followers to contemplate their own failings before judging. However the passage suggest that the wicked should put evil behind them. To admonish the wicked to come to their rest without repentance seems preverse. Further, I think the punishment for evil is often a consequence of the action. Is God unloving and unforgiving because evil deeds cause us guilt, remorse, and alienation? I think one can be compassionate and still act to deny people the opportunity to find fulfilment in wickedness. I think in a sense this is what judgement is, the thwarting of the proud, greedy, and vengeful from pursuing their schemes.

    • ES Carpenter

      Your assumption: Jesus had any thought like this is interesting. It shows your depth of study on the subject.

  • Horseman Bree

    I think you will enjoy H G. Wells’ short story “A Vision of Judgment” , which comes to a slightly different conclusion about the Day of Judgment than what you have above, while retaining the mild amusement on the part of God. In this case, God puts the onus on you to recognise what happened in your life, rather than God Himself having to do all the work.

  • louismoreaugottschalk


  • Sheila C.

    I like to imagine God gathering together the most despised of the world and sitting them at his right and left hands. Then he says: This is what it’s going to be like. The people you think you’re better than, are greatest in the kingdom of heaven. If anyone doesn’t like this, go ahead and leave now.

    Of course this is all my own invention!

  • DutchS

    Picture someone who has spent his whole life amassing wealth and power, living his whole life dominating and degrading others and laughing at their suffering. A human trafficker. A hit man. Idi Amin. Pol Pot. Then he dies and goes to Heaven. Wealth has no meaning. Everyone has everything they need or want. He has no power over anyone else. Nobody fears him. He’s absolutely incapable of harming anyone or anything.

    Would he consider it Heaven?

    • louismoreaugottschalk

      yes and he/she will need a complete makeover!

  • John MacDonald

    Jesus seems to think of Hell as a place of torture and torment. We read:

    – Mark 9:43, 48-49 “And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire…where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ For everyone will be salted with fire.”

    – Matthew 13:41-42, 49-50 “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

  • Herro

    >it is indeed inconsistent to say that God and/or Jesus wants us to love
    and forgive our enemies, but is unwilling or unable to do the same.

    I don’t see why it has to be inconsistent. One could easily imagine a god who has different morals/rules for himself. Like the government forbids citizens from locking up people against their will, but the government still throws people in jail.

    Even a better example: Paul says something like “don’t avenge yourself, let god do it for you”.

  • John MacDonald

    Jesus was a typical cult leader:

    (A) He tried to isolate people from their families:

    34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn

    “‘a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
    a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
    36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’

    37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. – Jesus (Matthew 10:34-38)

    (B) Jesus, as a cult leader, also tried to put new followers in a state of confusion by speaking in parables. This would prepare initiates for the cult’s teaching by reducing their rational defences.

    • John MacDonald

      Jesus’ parables were meant to confuse, not encourage reflection.

      Many Christians believe that Jesus taught in parables to make His message clear, but that is not biblical. Even His disciples were in the dark and did not understand. Repeatedly, they asked Jesus to explain the parables to them.

      We read in Mark:

      “And when He was alone, they that were about Him with the twelve asked of Him the parable. And He said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God, but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables.

      “That seeing they may see, and not perceived: and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted and their sins should be forgiven them. And He said unto them, Know ye not this parable? And how then will you know all parables?” Mark 4:10-13

      This passage tells us that Jesus didn’t want them to understand.

      • Ian

        I hate that bit where a well meaning Christian literalist says ‘context!’ to mean ‘it doesn’t mean that, because that would be bad’… but…

        This passage in Mark does have some interesting context. Where I think Matt+Luke can be read in pericopae, Mark shouldn’t. It’s a story. And Mark crafts his narrative. The first third of Mark, in particular, is a masterclass in rising tension and stakes.

        It seems clear to me, in this context, that Jesus is using parables as a way of avoiding the authority of the Jerusalem bigwigs who’ve been summoned north to condemn him. A couple of chapters back they are sent for, the local pharisees take to following him around picking fault, he’s accused of being demonic. Only then does he begin teaching in parables ‘so they wouldn’t understand’, and even then, the text portrays him as being willing to explain himself (somewhat tetchily). In the context of the story, this makes more sense than it being an atomic principle.

        By the time the other gospels ransack Mark for its story, this chronology and logic is lost, unfortunately.

        I’m not a believer, but I do think Mark is well constructed. So well constructed that I don’t think it likely this is historical (I suspect he did speak in parables).

        • John MacDonald

          In Matthew 13:10, we’re told that the disciples came to Jesus and said to Him, “Why do you speak to them [the crowds who came to see Jesus] in parables?”

          They wanted to know: What did He expect to accomplish by not speaking plainly to the crowds?

          Jesus’ answer is:

          To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.” But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. (Matthew 13:11-17)”

          This answer is absolutely telling. It’s telling because, in effect, Jesus is telling them: “I speak in parables because the truth of the kingdom of heaven is not theirs to know. They think they see the truth of my kingdom, but they don’t. They think they understand, but they can’t. If they did, they might turn and repent.”

          It’s hard to grasp the idea that Jesus would not want people to know what He was saying. Yet, He didn’t.

          Jesus’ explanation of His use of parables reveals that they had a two-fold purpose: to harden the hearts of some who heard, and to cause others to seek out Jesus and ask Him what He meant.

          Every time He spoke, He was simultaneously excluding some and including others. Some, after hearing His particularly difficult teachings, turned away and “no longer walked with Him” (John 6:66). But others were drawn to Him. They did not simply accept the unknown, but were fueled by what they did not know to learn more. As the leader of a brainwashing cult, Jesus confused people with parables to break down their rational defences to prepare them for the teaching of the cult. Jesus’ main goals were to separate people from their families and then brainwash them.

          • Ian

            Thank you for responding without either acknowledging or addressing my point. Since you’ve merely repeated your original point in different words, and I don’t want to do the same, I’ve nothing to add.

          • John MacDonald

            Hi. Jesus did not tell parables because profound truths were contained in the parables, but because confusion at the parables would draw the listener into a closer relationship with Jesus. As the leader of a brainwashing cult, confusing parables were one way Jesus drew the gullible in. When Jesus told confusing parables, the proper response was for people to go to Jesus and say, “What in the world? That made no sense, Jesus. What did you mean by that parable?” And Jesus always responds by saying, “Ah! I was waiting for you to ask. Let’s talk about it.” And that is what He does. He sits around and discusses the parables with those who want to learn more and who come to Him seeking a relationship. That is why He tells the apostles in Matthew 16 that their eyes and ears are blessed because they see and hear what many prophets have longed for. What did they see and hear? Not the parables…. but Jesus Himself.

          • Ian

            You’ve still not acknowledged or responded to my point. You just respond with the same point in different words. You’re clearly not copying and pasting. Are you under the impression that I disagreed because I didn’t understand your point? You seem to have the fingers in ears approach of true believers.

        • Andrew Dowling

          I think it’s clear this is Mark extrapolating an ahistorical rational to further his own claims re: the reason for parables. Given their very early rise in the Jesus tradition (Q, Thomas) and their place in Rabbinic culture in general, they likely go back to the historical Jesus. And parables were definitely a teaching and conversation starting device; they were not some clever way to disguise anything from anyone.

          Perhaps we agree on all this; unclear from the post.

          • Ian

            Yes, that would be my reading too. The rationale also fits Mark’s general concerns for his portrayal of Jesus.

            I think John’s preoccupation with unsettling Christians, rather than figuring out the text, is leading him to be uncritical.

          • Andrew Dowling

            Fully concur.

    • Cecil Bagpuss

      John, what you meant to say is that the inventors of the Jesus myth very cleverly made it look as if Jesus was a cult leader in order to create a more convincing deception. They were very cunning, but they completely blew it by preserving the letter to the Hebrews. As you know, the following is all too obvious:

      Further evidence lies in the fact that Jesus in this gospel [i.e., Hebrews] sprinkles his blood on objects in outer space, not on earth. Though he does not die in the celestial temple, he nevertheless must carry his blood there.

      • John MacDonald


    • John MacDonald

      As a typical leader of a brainwashing cult, it was of the utmost importance for Jesus to isolate potential disciples from their families. This would increase their dependency on Jesus and the cult. For example, in Luke 14:26 we read that: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)”

  • John MacDonald

    Jesus was a moral monster for getting men to abandon their families to follow him. This is one of the points raised by Dr. Hector Avalos in his new book “The Bad Jesus,” see