thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these
things from the wise
"WHOEVER IS ASHAMED"(No. 3 of a series on the commandments of Jesus)
By Edgar Jones
The commandments of Jesus are spread throughout the gospels. He introduces them in the Sermon on the Mount, and it is there that they appear the most unreasonable. Who among us can take this seriously:
Mt.5:39 FNT But I say to you not to oppose wickedness, but whoever strikes the right [side] of your cheek, turn to him the other also.
Mt.5:43,44 FNT You have heard that it was said: You shall agape-love your neighbor, and you shall hate your enemy. But I say to you, be agape-loving your enemies.
And yet, he made obedience to these commandments the condition for receiving his blessing at the Judgment. Hearing his commandments, including these, and not doing them is the sure prescription for eternal disaster. He says, at the close of the Sermon on the Mount,
Mt.7:26 FNT And everyone hearing these my words and not doing them is like [a] stupid man, who built his house on sand.
You see the problem. Is there some basis for the Lord's commandments (these my words) by which they become reasonable? If not, why have they been preserved in the Bible for these many centuries?
Christians, following Paul's lead, have an easy solution -- Jesus, our surrogate, kept all these commandments perfectly and then offered himself up as a sinless sacrifice in behalf of the sins of all humanity. If any one will but believe this, one's sins are forgiven and the Lord imputes to such a one the perfect righteousness of Jesus. At the Judgment, such persons will be judged as having kept all these commandments perfectly, for Jesus kept them.
This appears to millions -- no, billions -- a reasonable solution to the problem and has become one of the fundamental doctrines of the Christian religion. Surely, this is the key?
We are tempted to believe it and I, when a Baptist long ago, placed my confidence in Paul's gospel and attempted to conform to the popular religion of my many fellow believers. But I could not be content because every time I returned to the gospels to consider the utterances of my Lord, I found him confronting me with words that do not allow for Paul's gospel. Look, for example, at these words, already quoted above:
Mt.7:26 FNT And everyone hearing these my words and not doing them is like [a] stupid man, who built his house on sand.
If Paul's gospel is true, then this is not true, is it? For, if Paul's gospel is true, the Lord's word can be true only by making exceptions. Mt. 7:26 should read:
And everyone, except those trusting in Paul's gospel, hearing these my words and not doing them is like [a] stupid man, who built his house on sand.
But everyone allows for no exceptions! None whatever! It follows that, if the Lord's Word is true, Paul's is false and, conversely, if Paul's word is true, this word of the Lord is false. This is but one of many examples we can cite to show that Paul's gospel is a direct contradiction to the gospel according to Jesus. The Word of Jesus places every Christian, following the gospel of Paul, in the category defined by the Lord as:
. . . [a] stupid man, who built his house on sand.
If Paul's gospel works, then men are to be judged by Paul's words on the Last Day. Again, this is a direct contradiction of the Word of Jesus, who stated that our judgment is on the basis of his Word:
Jn.12:48 FNT The [one] setting me aside and not receiving my words has [one] judging him: the word that I spoke - that will judge him in the last day. 49 Because I have not spoken from myself, but the [one] having sent me, [the] father himself has given to me commandment what I should say and what I should speak.
This is precisely what Paul's disciples are doing -- setting Jesus aside and not receiving his words. Paul's gospel does not work because the Word of Jesus renders it unreasonable. It is necessary to look elsewhere for a key to making the commandments of Jesus reasonable.
There is a key, but before we identify it we need to explain in detail what we mean if we say that the commandments of Jesus are not reasonable. This will be obvious to most, but some may need to have it spelled out. Let's look at this one specific commandment again (From Matthew 5:44):
But I say to you, be agape-loving your enemies.
What human being does this? Is there anyone who truly loves an enemy?
If you are my age, you will have lived during the course of World War II and the events leading to it. You may have served in the military service and fought in the war, either in the European or Pacific Theater. Your "enemy" was set to kill you, and you were likewise armed and set to kill. That is not a loving option for either of you. Nevertheless you did it, and it would have been most unreasonable to expect an American to lovingly embrace a German or Japanese foe.
What would have been the consequences of loving the enemy? Suppose the entire "Christian nations" of the Allied forces had loved the German Nazi's and Japanese militarists? The result is indeed an unreasonable one -- capitulation to the enemy and all of his demands -- without resistance.
So, you were (or would have been) ashamed of the words of the Lord that command love for the enemy, turning the other cheek, resisting not the evil one and fearing not him who is able to destroy the body and afterward has nothing else he can do. These commandments just do not make sense, do they? Applied anywhere, from confronting a grade school bully to resisting an aggressor nation, they do not work.
Or, do they?
The Key of Jesus
Yes, the commandments of Jesus do make sense when understood in the Light of the fundamental teaching of Jesus. The teaching from Mark 8:31- 37 cited above, along with many other passages from throughout the gospels, contains the key. There are two critical lessons that one must receive before obedience to his commandments becomes both reasonable and necessary.
The Separation From the World
The first critical lesson is that the teachings of the Lord, together with his commandments, are not meant to be followed or understood by the nations of men. We get this lesson from Mark 8:33, quoted here again:
And having turned around and having seen his disciples he rebuked Peter and says: Be getting behind me, Satan, because you do not think on the [things] of God but the [things] of man.
The things of God are distinct from the things of men, and the things of men are associated with Satan, not God. Nations and national affairs, including war, are the things of men, therefore they are the things of Satan and not the things of God. Jesus was rebuking Peter because Peter was tempting him to save his life from the death he had just prophesied. This life saving mode identified Peter with Satan, and with the things of men. This association is, in every case, on an individual basis as it was with Peter who is the individual in this transaction with the Lord. Therefore we conclude that individual disciples such as Peter -- and you and me -- must break away from the things of men in order to join with the things of God.
This is the first thing -- this separation from the nation-state and whatever else belongs to the 'things of men' category. Our Lord further clarified this break by defining the association/non-association of his disciples with this utterance from John 17:16:
They are not of the world just as I am not of the world.
His commandments are only for his disciples, and they are not of the world because he has called them out of the world into his kingdom. Like the first disciples, we must remain in the world for a time so as to maintain this testimony to the Word of Truth within the world. It follows that all thoughts of applying the commandments of Jesus to world affairs are improper. His commandments are for his disciples, his individual followers, who are not of the world as he is not of the world. He has separated us and set us apart from the World and the men of the world.
Yes, Jesus confines the application of his commandments to his disciples who are not of the world as he is not of the world. This is the first critical lesson one must learn so as to see that his commandments are reasonable. They are not designed for the men of the world, who are ashamed of them. They are not reasonable in that arena, characterized by Jesus as "the things of men."
The world arena where men operate and promote "the things of men" has no place for the principles underlying the commandments of Jesus It is folly to think of applying them in world and national affairs, such as on a battlefield.
The Great Principle
The second critical lesson we must learn is the principle that is basic to everything our Lord said and did in the world. We have designated it his Great Principle, found in all the gospels, yet neglected by Christians. They neglect it because it threatens the things of men for all who do not understand or value the things of God. Like the commandments of Jesus, It properly applies only to the individual disciple. It is central to the utterance of Mark 8:31-37 (above) where we find it in this form (vs. 35):
For whoever would save his psyche-life will lose it, but whoever loses his psyche-life because of me and the gospel will save it.
The bottom line of the things of men or of the world is the love of life in this world, or psyche-life as the Faithful New Testament has it, preserving the distinctive New Testament Greek term. Jesus had just announced his intention to give up his psyche-life when Peter, in the life saving mode of men, immediately objected. It is for this reason that Jesus rebuked Peter and identified him with Satan. The evil one held all men in bondage by binding them to the love of life, and Jesus was here to set us free. If he had saved his life, he would have been no more than any other of the many failed messiahs that have appeared through the centuries.
How this principle applies to keeping the commandments of Jesus should be obvious. A person who loves life and seeks to save it will not yield it up to the enemy, but must resist and, if necessary, do violence to the enemy. Alternatively, a person who has found freedom through the Word of Jesus has overcome the bondage of the love of life so that no enemy can force violence upon her or him, not even as a means of saving life. This explains other utterances of the Lord, beginning with this from Mark 8 again (vs.36):
For what does it profit [a] man to gain the whole world and forfeit his psyche-life?
Or this from Matthew 10:28f:
And do not fear those killing the body but unable to kill the psyche-life , but fear rather the [one] able to destroy both body and psyche-life in Gehenna.
Do you see the trade off implicit in these utterances?
Love your life in this world and attempt to save it -- and forfeit life eternal. Applying the Great Principle to the individual is the essence of eternal salvation. It empowers the individual who applies it.
So these two critical lessons, separation from the world and the Great Principle, constitute the real key to keeping the commandments of Jesus, including especially the hard commandments that we have considered here. Christians in general know nothing about this because they are serving the things of men and therefore also Satan, as was Peter when Jesus rebuked him for tempting him to save his life. They are too busy preaching the doctrines of Paul, wherein the attitude to life plays little or no part. Their error begins with their interpretation of the cross. They see it as the place of vicarious sacrifice where Jesus alone suffered to atone for the sins of humans. But Jesus himself explained it clearly in Mark 8:31- 37 above, and in the parallels in all the gospels. His death is an example that his disciples are to follow by applying the Great Principle. Each must take up his cross. Yes, Jesus suffered for us on his cross, demonstrating what we each must do, in principle if not in detail, to follow him to the Father. Read it again (Mk.8:34,35):
If anyone would come after me, let him renounce himself and take up his cross, and be following me. For whoever would save his psyche-life will lose it, but whoever loses his psyche-life because of me and the gospel will save it.
Applying the Key -- Separation
The separation of the individual from the world so that one who is "of the world" becomes "not of the world" is the separation of which we write. Christians have a term for it, sanctification. They have badly bent and mangled the concept so that the term itself is confusing and unenlightening. We are better off to avoid it. We do not need theological jargon to express the essence of our faith and life.
Holy is another very common word among Christians and carries with it the dual technical significance of being separated from the world and joined to the Father. However, because it is so common and immediately implies something sacred that does not necessarily include separation, we are also well advised to avoid it unless we explain its utility.
Separation is a perfectly good word that defines the idea precisely provided only that we understand it to mean a separation from the world to enter into oneness with Jesus and with the Father. But how does one separate from the world so as to take the hard commandments of Jesus and apply them here and now while one is yet in the world?
It is one thing to tell you that you must become separated from the world so as to apply the Great Principle to the commandments of Jesus and become obedient. It is another thing to accomplish this blessed separation and to realize it's power to make the commandments both reasonable and necessary. How is the freedom from fear of the enemy to be obtained? How can one love a malicious foe?
How does the separation of the individual from the world and the things of men become real and effective in the individual experience?
I provide a detailed answer to those questions here -- not in my words but in the Word of Jesus. I will only direct you to the Source where we find the unambiguous answers to all such questions. Here are some of the applicable utterances that include the NT Greek word, hagios:
Jn.17:6 FNT I revealed your name to the men whom you gave to me out of the world. They were yours and you gave them to me, and they have given heed to your word. 7 Now they have known that all, whatsoever you gave to me, is from you; 8 that the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they received [them] and they knew truly that I came from beside you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I ask concerning them, not concerning the world do I ask , but concerning whom you have given me, because they are yours, 10 and all mine is yours and yours mine, and I have been glorified in them. 11 And no longer am I in the world, and they are in the world, and I come to you. Holy father, keep them in your name that you have given to me, in order that they be one [thing] just as we. 12 When I was with them, I was keeping them in your name that you have given me, and I guarded [them] and no one of them perished except the son of destruction, in order that the Scripture be fulfilled. 13 But now I come to you, and I speak these [things] in the world in order that they have my joy made full in them. 14 I have given them your word, and the world hated them, because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them of the world, but that you keep them from the wicked [one]. 16 They are not of the world just as I am not of the world. 17 Make them holy in the truth; your word is truth. 18 Just as you sent me into the world, I also sent them into the world. 19 And in their behalf do I make myself holy in order that they also be made holy in [the] truth. 20 But not concerning these [ones] only do I ask, but also concerning those believing in me through their word, 21 in order that they all be one [thing], just as you, father, [are] in me and I in you, in order that they also be in us, in order that the world believe that you sent me. 22 And the glory that you have given to me I have given to them, in order that they be one [thing] just as we are one [thing], 23 I in them and you in me, in order that they be completed into one [thing], in order that the world know you sent me and [that] you agape-loved them just as you agape-loved me.
JN.14:4 FNT And where I go you know the way. 5 Thomas says to him: Lord, we do not know where you are going. How do we know the way? 6 Jesus says to him: I am the way, the truth and the zoe-life ; no one comes to the father except through me.
Jn.8:30 FNT Speaking these [things], many believed in him. 31 So Jesus was saying to the Jews having believed in him: If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples. 32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
When one abides in the Word of Jesus, good things happen! They include knowing the Truth and possessing the freedom that only the Truth can produce. They include the freedom to obey the radical commandments of Jesus -- all of them. What, then, is the alternative?
For whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the son of man will also be ashamed of him, when he come in the glory of his father with the holy angels.