Welcome to Jesus Unmasked, a weekly exploration of scripture that delves into Jesus’s life and teachings. Over the centuries, Jesus has been obscured by prejudice and bigotry. God in flesh, crucified by human violence, has been invoked to inflict ever more violence on others. Racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia and prejudice against people of other faiths have all been waged in the name of Jesus. These forms of fear and hatred are masks that obscure the truth: that Jesus is Love Embodied. We seek to pull back the masks that hide and distort Jesus so that his love can be revealed and we can follow in his way. We unmask Jesus even as Jesus unmasks us, lifting the blinders of prejudice from our own eyes. We welcome you to join us live, Wednesdays at 10:30 AM CT, on the Raven Foundation Facebook page. This episode explores Luke 9:51-62 and Galatians 5:1, 13-25.
We celebrate that LGBTQ community every month, but it’s the last week of Pride Month. And we have some fascinating Bible passages to discuss in relation to our dear LGBTQ siblings!
Luke 9:51-62: Unlearning a Violent God
Let’s send some Shock and Awe on those Samaritans!
If you do that, Jesus will rebuke you. Hard.
Jesus and his buddies journey to Samaria and enter some villages seeking some good old hospitality and to spread the Good News. But one Samaritan town says, “No thank you!” and sends Jesus and his friends on their way.
John and James – the “Sons of Thunder” – want some divine revenge on those Samaritan jerks! So they say to Jesus, “How about we call on Heaven to send some fire down on those ungrateful Samaritans?!?”
And, you know, the Sons of Thunder had some biblical precedent for this request. Sodom and Gomorrah, anyone? There some Christians (a growing minority, thank God!) who claim that Sodom and Gomorrah is about homosexuality. But it’s not. Do you remember what happened? Some angels came to visit Sodom. They were going to sleep for the night in the town square, but Lot told them that was a very bad idea. Why? Because the men of the town were not very nice.
The men of Sodom were actually heterosexuals. They had children and wives. But they wanted to show the newcomers who was boss of Sodom. The men of Sodom were not homosexuals living in same-sex committed relationships. Rather, they were heterosexuals who used rape to gain power over these strangers.
The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was not homosexuality. It was the fact that they refused to show hospitality. And in Genesis, God basically imitates the men of Sodom – only instead of rape, God murders them with fire from heaven.
And so James and John want to do the same thing to this Samaritan town. And why not? God did it before. Shouldn’t God do it again?
Jesus says “No.” This story is part of the radical transformation of the human understanding of God that Jesus brings to us. As Yoda says, “You must unlearn what you have learned.”
Jesus came to help us unlearn violent images of God. That’s why Jesus rebuked his own disciples. You can picture Jesus #facepalm in response to James and John’s request. “You guys still don’t get it.” After Jesus rebuked them, some ancient manuscripts have Jesus explain, “You do not know what spirit you are of, for the Son of Man has not come to destroy the lives of human beings but to save them.”
Jesus rebuked his disciples because they wanted to destroy human life. And Jesus rebukes us when we want to destroy other. Some Christians today refer to the Sodom and Gomorrah story as justification to be against the LGBTQ community, but Jesus reveals that we can no longer read the story that way. We must unlearn the violent understanding of God so that we can come to know the God of Jesus, who has nothing to do with violence. Or, in the words of the prophet Hosea, so that we can learn about the God who “desires mercy, not sacrifice.”
Galatians 5:1-13-25: The Fruit of the Spirit
Paul goes straight to the point by cribbing something Jesus said. “For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall your neighbor as yourself’” (v. 14).
PAUL! THAT’S ENOUGH! PLEASE STOP!
But Paul liked to talk. A lot. And he didn’t think it was enough. So he went on to tell us all kinds of ways that we fail to love our neighbors as ourselves. You are probably familiar with the list – sexual immorality, idolatry, dissensions, factions, envy, anger, drunkenness. Paul makes a large list and then gives up by concluding “and things like these.”
Basically, just don’t be a jerk, okay guys?
But have you ever been drunk? Maybe sexually immoral at some point? Have you ever been angry? Maybe you fear that you have committed the “unforgivable sin,” whatever that is.
Relax. Paul says that those who “do” such things will not inherit eternal life. The word for “do” in Greek is “peripateo.” It means “to walk.” Are you walking in a way that consistently leads you to neglect the law to love your neighbor as yourself? Paul simply lists what that “walk” looks like so that we can choose to walk a different path.
Then Paul creates a contrast. Paul says that the Spirit of God can be seen by its fruits. And you carry those fruits. Like in a basket? Is that how the metaphor works? I don’t know. But the fruits of the spirit are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
So, let’s stop calling for Heaven to send fire on our enemies. That’s not what God is like. And let’s relax, because God loves you. The fruit of the Spirit is already alive in you. You are loved. Relax into that love as you walk the path of sharing that love with your neighbors.