I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will.
THREE MAXIMS OF JESUS
By Edgar Jones
The Inversion Maxim
The Inversion Maxim. Thus I christen the principle derived from Jesus according to which all things pertaining to happiness or woe are inverted in the transference from this age to the age to come, that is, from earth to heaven, from time to eternity. Perhaps I should not credit myself with this christening, as others may have done it before me. If they have, I haven't heard of it and trust they will forgive me as I do not mean to plagiarize. The maxim is so obvious that millions have certainly noted it through the centuries; however, it is so very unattractive to our usual way of thinking that perhaps very few have ventured to realize it – that is, to give it the standing of a real entity in Truth by naming it.
An unwanted baby, one begotten out of wedlock, will not inspire the mother to attend to naming it until absolutely necessary, and she then might say to whomever is standing by, "Oh, I don't care what it is called. You name it!" So likewise a new principle in Truth (I mean a newly discovered principle) will hardly generate enough interest in the discoverer to inspire naming it when one would prefer not to have discovered it. Better let it alone, forget it. Then, perhaps it will die without causing trouble! Just abort it!
So, millions have certainly noted this maxim. Without a doubt, most of them – indeed, all but a very few, have proceeded to ignore it and thus have forgotten it. Among the very few, there just might be one or two who have already christened it, this Inversion Maxim, and if so, to you I humbly apologize. It is surely not my baby, but one I have discovered for myself, as Baby Moses was discovered in the bulrushes by the Egyptian princess. Nevertheless, having discovered it, like her I have made it mine; therefore I have named it The Inversion Maxim.
This maxim specifies, in particular, that whatever circumstances apply to the children of God and of men on earth will be inverted in the hereafter. On beginning to read the Gospels of the New Testament, our first encounter with this maxim is in the Beatitudes, in the introduction to the Sermon on the Mount. These "beatitudes," or words of supreme blessedness, comprise nine verses beginning with Matthew 5:3, and each verse begins with the word "blessed," from the New Testament Greek word makarios. This word literally means supreme happiness, or supreme blessedness. Then there follows, in each case, a descriptive term – "poor in spirit," "those who mourn," "the meek," "those who hunger and thirst after righteousness," and so on until the last two, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake" and "Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account." Finally there follows in each case a specification of the reward that corresponds to each description, and the last one sums them all up with the words, "Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you."
The descriptive term, in every case, applies to experience on the earth. We are poor in spirit, or we mourn, or we are persecuted for righteousness sake or whatever, on through the whole list, and all of it applies to the here and now. But the rewards are applied only in heaven! So, whenever any of the descriptive terms apply to any one of us on the earth, the corresponding reward will apply to that person in heaven. In the case of the nine beatitudes, only the last two specifically correspond to the Inversion Maxim. Those who are persecuted, or reviled by men here on the earth for the sake of Jesus (on my account) will receive great rewards in heaven. It is not nearly so clear that the other seven beatitudes correspond to the Inversion Maxim, since the reward in heaven is not so clearly an inversion of the descriptive terms. One who is poor in spirit is blessed because his or hers is the kingdom of heaven. You see, the inversion is not so clearly defined. Nevertheless, it applies even in the case of these seven and to see the application it is only necessary to refer to the parallel verses from Luke's Gospel. The relevant verses are shown here in parallel columns for convenient comparison:
The Inversion Maxim From the Sermon On the Plain
The Blesseds (Luke 6:20-23)L
Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be satisfied.
Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh.
Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, Your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.
The Woes (Luke 6:24-26)L
But woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation.
Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger.
Woe to you that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.
Can there be any better representation of the inversion than this? The poor now are blessed because theirs is the kingdom, whereas those who are rich now are under a cloud of judgment, having received their consolation. Those who are hungry now are blessed because they have a future feast to contemplate, whereas those who are full now, having plenty, shall hunger in the Eternal. Those who mourn and weep now are blessed and will laugh in the age to come, as inheritors of the kingdom, whereas those who laugh now are subject to eternal woe, where they shall mourn and weep. Finally, those whom men hate, who are excluded, reviled, and cast out, are the blessed because their reward is great – In
heaven, so that even now they should leap for joy, whereas those of whom men speak well are destined for woe in the age to come! Truly, this is the Inversion Maxim, according to which all individual circumstances in this life are to be inverted in the life eternal.
This does not mean that every rich person must inevitably suffer poverty in the age to come. This does not mean that every hungry person shall receive an eternal feast. The explanation is found in the qualification shown at the bottom of the left hand column: it is when these things become our lot because of our service to Jesus, as he said, "on my account." Therefore the maxim has a limited application in that the blessings apply only in the kingdom of God – that is, to those who are to inherit the kingdom. Those who are outside the kingdom, yet are poor, hungry, weeping, despised – they need take no comfort from this maxim, for it does not apply to them. Being poor, they yet may be filled with envy of the rich, and with covetousness, and with the love and lust for wealth. They may be poor, hungry, weeping, and despised, yet they are rich in spirit, and can claim only an eternal poverty with the rich. Penitentiaries are full of such people! No, the promise comes only to the pure in heart, who, if they are poor, hungry, mourning, or despised because of their testimony to Jesus are nevertheless rejoicing in the knowledge that they are blessed for eternity, having no envy of the rich, the full, the laughing, or the highly esteemed among men because their hearts are pure, being set on only one thing – the blessedness of the saints in Glory! Truly, they shall see God!
Neither does this mean that all rich, full, laughing, and highly esteemed people are to be eternally damned. Again, all depends on the state of the heart – whether or not it is pure, being set on a single thing, that is, the Glory of the Father. Jesus truly taught his disciples,. . . it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. (Matthew 19:23-24)The disciples then asked him, "Who then can be saved?" and he replied, "With men it is impossible, but with God all things are possible." No, Jesus does not teach that all these persons are inevitably damned – but he makes it so improbable as to render this position very unattractive to anyone who really believes him. He seems to be saying that the rich, for example, can only be saved by a special dispensation from God!
Jesus told the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus to illustrate this maxim. Lazarus, far from being full, lay at the rich man's door and begged the crumbs from his table. He was also covered with sores, and the dogs licked them. On dying, he was carried by the angels to Paradise, to Abraham's bosom. But the rich man on dying found himself in hades, in torment. He issued his appeal across the "great gulf fixed" to Father Abraham to send Lazarus to cool his tongue with water and to comfort him. But Abraham responded with an answer thoroughly compatible with the Inversion Maxim, "Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but how he is comforted here, and you are in anguish." Blessed Lazarus! Poor, hungry, mourning, despised by men! Blessed Lazarus! Accursed rich man! Full, comfortable, laughing, highly esteemed! Accursed rich man!
So the maxim is clearly defined in the opening pages of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, in the sermon called, in Matthew, the Sermon on the Mount, and in Luke, the Sermon on the Plain. The inversion is all comprehensive, covering three fundamental areas: the inner state of the individual (the heart), the outer state of the individual (materiality), and one's social state or status (relationships with others), that issues in a response from others. The Beatitudes of Matthew focus more on the first, where the eternal blessedness of those who are poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, and peacemakers applies to the inner state. Since "poor in spirit" and "hungering and thirsting for righteousness" replaces the "poor" and the "you who hunger" in Luke, there is no direct reference to the outer state in Matthew. That is because Matthew's rendering goes to the heart of the matter, to those who are poor in heart (spirit). A rich man might, rarely, be poor in spirit. That is, he might be unaffected by his wealth and would empathize with the poor, sharing with them liberally. He might be full himself, yet he would hunger after righteousness by giving food and drink to those who are hungering and thirsting. So, the rendering of Matthew is much more comprehensive by thus going to the nature of the heart and its response to the outward condition. It therefore includes the exceptional rich man whom Luke has excluded, or for whom he has made no provision. Both gospels give attention to the social state of the individual, to the relationship with others. Matthew is more comprehensive, detailing a wider spectrum by specifying peacemakers and persecuted in addition to simply being reviled by men as specified by Luke. But the bottom line is that both honor the Inversion Maxim. Luke makes it clearer by being very exact, whereas Matthew clouds it a little by specifying a variety of circumstances in the interest of providing a place for the exceptional person who may be blessed in eternity in spite of temporal circumstances, because "all things are possible with God." I should say here that any exceptions apply only to the outer state or circumstances – never to the inner state or to one's status in the world of men.
Luke includes a parable Jesus told to illustrate the Inversion Maxim as it applies to social status, summarizing the essence of it with the word:
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted (Luke 14:11).In the parable he instructed his disciples, when they were invited to a marriage feast, not to sit down in a place of honor, lest a more eminent man be invited, in which case the host will say to you, "Give place to this man" and you will with shame begin to take the lowest place. Instead, sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes in, he may say to you, "Friend, go up higher." Then you will be honored in the presence of all the guests! The metaphor of course does not apply to a literal marriage feast. It applies to the feast of life, set on the table of this world, in which the Lord is host. Those who humble themselves, that is, take the lowest seat in this life, will be exalted to the head of the table at the marriage feast of the Bridegroom of God. You will notice again that this applies only to those who humble themselves. One who is forced by unfavorable circumstances to take a low seat at the foot of the table of life, against his will, need not expect to be exalted in the age to come.
Matthew includes the same statement in the course of instructing the disciples about greatness among themselves.
Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ. He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Matthew 23:10-12)Mark and Luke both record another incident in which the disciples were disputing among themselves as to which was to be regarded as the greatest. This was apparently a serious issue among them and Jesus said,If anyone would be first, he must be last of all (Mark 9:34).Jesus repeatedly addressed this particular version of the maxim. When the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to intercede on behalf of her sons, asking him to "Command that these two sons of mine may sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom." Jesus concluded his response by saying: You know that the rulers of the gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:25-28).Luke's version of this inversion is stated during the Last Supper, during which he first tells us that "a dispute arose among them which should be the greatest." This would most appropriately have been associated with the feet washing incident described only in the Fourth Gospel, according to which Jesus washed the disciples' feet and then explained: If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet." Recognizing that washing the feet of guests at a dinner was the most servile of tasks, normally assigned to household slaves, we are given a glimpse of an incident in which the Lord and Teacher of all has made himself the slave of all. So the maxim thus applied teaches clearly that the disciples should aspire to be slaves to one another, because, "whoever would be first among you must be your slave." We see also that Jesus, by his self humiliation both by washing the feet of the disciples and by submitting to the despicable death by crucifixion, has not only taught the Inversion Maxim, he has also set the example. Because he humbled himself in this age, he is exalted to the right hand of the Father. This is integrity par excellence!
Matthew relates yet another incident in which the disciples come to Jesus with the question, "Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" This is evidence against them, for they doubtless are really concerned about which of them is to the be greatest. Jesus took a child and put him in the midst of them and said,
Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3-4)This child was probably the single most appropriate metaphor of the Inversion Maxim, because this leads us immediately back to the Great Principle, the Great Commandment, and the Great Relationship, which is the relationship to God as a child to the Father. The Father wants us for his children, which requires that we convert to become his children and take on the character of a child before him, in stark contrast to the Gentiles who lord it over one another as masters over slaves. This disposition of self humiliation is therefore the hallmark of the genuine child of God.
It is easy to see how the Great Principle also leads to the same attitude of temporal self humiliation. When we take on the attitude of the hatred of life as taught by Jesus, we have no desire to exalt ourselves within it because we understand that through the hatred of life we will receive the life eternal. Establishing our values in Eternity, we no more value or seek high position among men. We become children and childlike, with complete dependency upon the Father, trusting him to supply all our needs as is meet for children, and not seeking to rule the household of this world but being meek and obedient. Indeed, the Inversion Maxim is seen to be readily applied to the Great Principle: to save life is to lose it. That is, to save the life in this age is to loose the life Eternal.
There are few themes more prominent in the Synoptic Gospels than this Inversion Maxim. Here, in summary, are different ways Jesus found to state it:
1. The poor shall be rich and the rich shall be poor. 2. The hungry shall be satisfied, and the full shall hunger. 3. The mourners shall laugh, and the laughers shall mourn. 4. The reviled (for Jesus' sake) shall be greatly rewarded, the highly esteemed shall be humbled. 5. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. 6. The first shall be last, and the last shall be first. 7. He who takes the lowest seat will be given the highest; he who takes the highest will be given the lowest. 8. Whoever makes himself the slave of all shall be the greatest.
The Fourth Gospel, unlike the others, is not replete with a variety of expression of this maxim. This is doubtless because the author had noted beforehand that the Synoptics had already covered this topic sufficiently. It does, however, show through in a number of places, most prominently in the feet washing incident, alluded to above, in which the message is clearly displayed: the greatest of all is the servant of all. In addition, the Fourth Gospel contains references of hungering and thirsting that give further insight into the Synoptic references illustrating the Inversion Maxim.
Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you. . . I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall never hunger and he who believes in me shall never thirst. . .(John 6:27,35)
If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. (John 7:37)While Matthew blesses those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, the Fourth Gospel declares how that thirst is to be satisfied: through receiving the living bread, the words of Jesus, and believing. This is the food that will sustain us for Eternity! Therefore, though we may hunger for the material bread due to poverty, we will be filled by the bread of life by hearing and believing the Son of God. While the Inversion Maxim of the Synoptics specifies that whoever exalts himself will be humbled, the Fourth Gospel expresses this in terms of the quest for glory. Jesus does not seek glory from men, and those who do cannot believe in him because they then must renounce the glory of men; that is, they must humble themselves. The alternative, of course, is to seek, and to receive in the age to come, the glory that comes from the only God. Here is the Fourth Gospel rendition: I do not receive glory from men. . . How can you believe, who receive glory from one
another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God (John 5:41-44)?This matter of receiving, or seeking, the glory of men, or of being exalted or seeking exaltation among men, or of exalting ourselves to the head of the human table, is the most certain route to perdition. I made it a point, above, to provide for exceptions to the Inversion Maxim based on the Divine Mercy in what the Father may judge to be special cases, for though it is impossible humanly speaking for a rich man to be saved, nothing is impossible with God. We can conceive of many wealthy people, persons who have lived their whole lives in successful pursuit of the buck, who on their death beds come to the sudden realization of the error of their manner of life and, in repentance, suddenly hate life and turn to the Lord for mercy. We have every reason to believe that every such person has hope before God; that a death-bed confession is certainly far better than no confession. There is one case in particular where Jesus himself has given us assurance of salvation for one on his death-bed, the repentant man being crucified with him – though, to be sure, his death-bed was a cross – this should in principle make no difference whatever. The Father only wants one thing of us, that we learn to love him, and in that love want nothing more than to go to him, to join him in his Glory. He is overflowing with love and mercy towards us, and in his great mercy can do nothing but embrace us, rejoicing over one who was lost and is found, was dead and is alive. The point in life when one does that can have no effect on the final outcome – only it must be done before we depart this life, for this is the place of choice. So, therefore, Jesus could only respond to him, This day shalt thou be with me in Paradise! Yet there may be one case where even the Father can make no exception, the case of the one who solicits and receives the glory of men. You (the Pharisees) are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts; for what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God (Luke 16:15).How can an abomination be acceptable to the Father in Glory? I recently watched a television broadcast of a Billy Graham Crusade. It was a re-broadcast, directed and paid for by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, under Mr. Graham's direction. It was the second time within a week that I had seen the same thing on a Graham broadcast – a presentation to Mr. Graham and his wife, Ruth, of the Congressional Gold Metal by the United States Congress. There, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Newt Gingrich, speaking for the occasion, described the select group of citizens to have been so honored, nearing 300 in number beginning with George Washington in 1776 and now including Mr. and Mrs. Graham, as the most exalted of all people. I thought of the above statement of Jesus . . . and shuddered!
The Association/Identification Maxim
This maxim, called hereafter simply "the ID Maxim" specifies that ones identification as a child of God or as a child of this world may be established by association with appropriate parties, apart from any conscious, qualifying action, ritual, or commitment. This may result in many surprises, both happy and sad, on the Great Day of Judgment. Jesus expressed this particular application of the ID Maxim in describing the final judgment after the Resurrection:
Then the King will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me." Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?' Then he will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me." (Matthew 25:34-45)This depiction of the Great Assize is marked by the many surprises that are to result from the judgments rendered by the King. The "blessed" who stand on the right hand are totally baffled in their happy surprise. Why us? What did we ever do to be accepted into the Eternal Blessedness? And then it is explained to them that they merit this Blessedness because, "As you did it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me." This is a kind of association, in which the Blessed Ones have identified with the brethren of Jesus (and the sisters) in ministering to them, and thus have been counted as identified with them and qualified to share in their Eternal Blessing. Amazingly, there is here absolutely no indication of any other requirement. They have not qualified by baptism, either in water or in the Spirit; they are not qualified by having subscribed to confessions of faith; they have no church membership qualification; they are not even qualified by any statement of belief. Only one thing has saved them, which is that they have ministered to "my brethren." They are thus identified, not only with "my brethren" but with Christ himself.
The same is true for the "cursed." They are terribly surprised and cannot imagine why they, of all persons, are eternally condemned. This suggests that we are dealing here with a category of persons who think they "have it made" as to their qualifications for an Eternal Blessedness. And who can this be, but the masses of Christendom who, through confessions and baptisms and church membership, have done everything they thought necessary for their Eternal Blessedness, only to be shocked with Eternal Cursedness. Again, why? "As you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me." Therefore, their failure to associate with "one of the least of these" by ministering to them results in their failure to be identified with them, that is, with the "Blessed."
Eternal destiny therefore depends on association with and identification with those who are the brothers and sisters of Jesus, through ministering to their needs. The Blessed fed them when they hungered; they gave them drink when they thirsted; they welcomed them as strangers; they clothed them when they were naked; they visited them when they were sick or in prison.
Now it is supremely important to recognize that this judgment of the Blessed Ones is based wholly and solely on their ministering to those who, as brethren of Jesus, are associated with him. The inverse is true for the "cursed" who stand at the left hand of the King. Their condemnation is wholly and solely the result of their having failed to minister to, or associate with and identify with, those who are also identified with Jesus as his brethren. The simple fact that Jesus chooses to set these sole criteria of final judgment before us shows that nothing else much matters. If we have failed to minister to him through ministering to his "brethren," nothing will save us. There are no compensating factors. Whatever else we may have done avails nothing. A public confession of faith? Baptism? Church membership? All is vain. This is the bottom line for establishing eternal destiny. Yes, there will be surprises!
Let us hasten to acknowledge that the usual interpretation of these words, as commending general works of charity in the world, is absolutely in error. The persons who are here being fed, refreshed, clothed, welcomed, visited . . . . these are not simply the poor of this world, the hungry of this world, the naked of this world, the prisoners in the penitentiaries. No, these are only those who are the brethren of Jesus, his brothers and sisters who are the children of the Father. While it is true that love for our neighbors compels us to minister to all these needs consistent with the Great Commandments, this is not a saving ministry unless it also includes those who suffer for the name of Jesus, who are his brethren and sisters. So, at the Great Assize, they will cry out in terror, "Lord, when did we fail to minister to thee?" And he will reply, "As you did it not to one of the least of these (my brothers and sisters), you did it not to me." To identify with his brethren is to identify with the Lord.
On the face of it, this is also the basis for the Kingdom welfare program. We must care for one another. Since our Eternal Blessedness depends ultimately upon this type of welfare, we should be highly motivated. Where can we ever look for a better offer? When Jesus told us, in the Sermon on the Mount, not to be anxious for tomorrow's needs, but to trust our Father to feed and clothe us, we see that he was depending upon our caring for each other as any have need. We see also that we must be very careful when, for any reason, we fail to respond to any persons need. We are not the judge, and that person just may be one of the brethren of the Lord, and we certainly do not want to hear these words on that day, "As you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me."
Since the ID Maxim is to be the basis of our final judgment, we would expect to find that Jesus made much use of it in his teaching, and indeed he did, repeatedly. Here we have one expression:
He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me. He who receives a prophet because he is a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward, and he who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man shall receive a righteous mans reward. And whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward. (Matthew 10:40-42)Obviously, this is also the basis for the judgment at the Great Assize. Look carefully, and you can see that there is more to it than simply ministering to the needy. No, the reason is essence of the thing. Not just giving a cup of cold water to a thirsty person, no, absolutely not! But to do it "because he is a disciple" is the crucial factor. To receive a righteous man because he is a righteous man, or a prophet because he is a prophet . . . that is the thing, and the reason for the reception is paramount. Ministering to the needs of a disciple because he is a disciple, and receiving the righteous man or the prophet because of their righteousness and prophetic status, secures for any one exactly the same rewards as those merited by the prophet or righteous man. And, wonder of wonders, to receive the disciple is to receive the Lord who sent the disciple, and that is to receive the Father who sent the Lord.
When Jesus sent out the seventy to preach the kingdom and to heal, he pronounced the judgment of Sodom and Gomorra on those who would not receive them. It is to be more tolerable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida because they failed to receive him and repent. He concluded with a generalized statement, from a negative point of view, of the ID Maxim:
He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me. (Luke 10:16)Anyone who receives a disciple of Jesus because he is a disciple also receives Jesus and the Father, and is received by Jesus and the Father. Conversely, anyone who rejects a disciple rejects Jesus and the Father, and is rejected by Jesus and the Father.
This maxim represents an important aspect of Truth. Jesus emphasized it, mentioning it repeatedly during the course of his ministry. All the gospels include it. The Fourth Gospel testifies to the ID Maxim, both positively and negatively in the following verses:
He who receives any one whom I send receives me; and he who receives me receives him who sent me." (John 13:20). He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. (John 5:23) He who hates me hates my Father also. (John 15:23) These verses include the "receiving" we have already found in the Synoptics, but go on to express the maxim in terms of honor and hate. To hate Jesus is to hate the Father, to honor Jesus is to honor the Father – and of course the same applies to all the disciples of Jesus, whom the world is to hate because it first hated Jesus, and the disciples are identified with Jesus by the world so as to share his hatred. Whatever happened to Jesus in this world will be repeated in the experience of those who identify with Jesus in this world, today or any day. So, all the gospel writers bore witness to the ID Maxim, highlighting the great importance Jesus assigned to this conception. If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. (John 15:18-20).
But you may be thinking something is missing here. Look again at Matthew 10:42:
Whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.Is that all there is to being saved for eternity? Does Eternal Blessedness come at the cost of only a single cup of cold water? Speak of cheap grace! And what about those poor souls on the left hand of the King at the Great Assize – are they to be condemned eternally solely because they refused to put out a cup of cold water on some occasion during their lifetimes? This whole ID Maxim thing just doesn't seem to square with Jesus' other statements about the cost of discipleship, how he will not receive anyone who does not forsake all that he has: Whoever does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:33).On this basis, one person, let's call him Pete, forsakes everything – parents, wife, children, yes, and puts his own life on the line daily and thus becomes truly a disciple. Then his younger brother, lets call him Andy, sees the lonely, poor bedraggled Pete come to the house at high noon, hungry and thirsty, and meets him at the door with . . . one cup of cold water, and on this basis Andy is also a disciple and heir to the rewards of a disciple, but he has given up absolutely nothing except . . . one cup of cold water. Yet Jesus has said, just one cup of cold water to one of his disciples who thirsts, and one receives a disciples reward – an Eternal Blessedness! So now Andy goes on his merry way in the bosom of his family, living the good life in the midst of the world, while poor Pete, his thirst refreshed, returns to the cold world alone and penniless, despised and rejected, bearing his cross daily. We are obviously missing something here, and I am the first to acknowledge it. For if this is all there is to say about the ID Maxim, where is the righteousness, the justice of God Almighty? Surely the great issue of an Eternal Blessedness outweighs one cup of cold water!
Yes, something is missing. What we have failed to incorporate to this point in the discussion is yet another maxim, one that is even more fundamental than either of the two yet discussed, the Inversion and ID Maxims. Let us go on, then, to set the third and final one before you.
The Either/Or Maxim
Contrary to what we would like to believe, this maxim begins with the fact that, in the expression of Eternal Truth, there are no gray areas. Everything, absolutely everything, is either black or white. There are no compromises, no accommodations, no fudging, no ifs, ands, or buts. Soren Kierkegaard, in his magnificent book, Either/Or, may have been the first to recognize this. I should hasten to say that I am not indebted to him for this insight, for I learned it from listening to Jesus as his words spring forth from the gospels. Nevertheless, when I discovered Kierkegaard it was a wonderful day because I then knew I am not the only one to realize the Truth as we have it in Jesus. Since I know there are two, there must be three . . . a dozen . . . hundreds . . . perhaps thousands scattered throughout Christendom, in the midst of all the gray people, yet shining brightly like stars on the blackest night. Now Jesus gave this maxim a variety of expressions and we will look at them all, beginning with the following:
John said to him, "Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us." But Jesus said, "Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward." (Mark 9:38-40, see also Luke 9:49-50.)These synoptic passages include, from Mark only, another statement of the ID Maxim already discussed, but after first setting forth that which is missing from the discussion to this point, the Either/Or Maxim, with the words, "For he that is not against us is for us."
You see, there is no middle ground, no gray areas, no compromises, nothing but a sharply defined either/or. We are either with Jesus, or we are against him. And if we are not against him we must inevitably be with him. It is also very important to note the occasion of this utterance. The disciples had seen another man, a stranger to them, casting out demons in Jesus' name and they forbade him because he was not following along with them. This informs us immediately that an institutional affiliation with Jesus' disciples is irrelevant to discipleship. This man did not belong to the disciples' assembly; he had not applied for membership in their church. He wasn't following the disciples, wasn't doing everything exactly as they thought it should be done, therefore the nerve of him! Casting out demons in the Lord's name, and he is not even a member of our church! No, we can't let him get away with this!
But doesn't this contradict the Either/Or Maxim? This stranger was not with them, so he must have been against them? No, look at it from the other perspective: he was not against them, so he must have been with them, which is exactly what Jesus said. And how did Jesus know he was not against them? There was one reason only: what he was doing, casting out demons, he was doing in Jesus' name, and thus he was identified with Jesus consistent with the ID Maxim. Any one who did works in Jesus' name must be with them! Any such person, operating in the name of Jesus and so bearing the name of Jesus, cannot lose his reward. The name of Jesus is the key element here, such that Jesus could tell them very sharply, "Do not forbid him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me." This identifying with the name of Jesus is but another way of stating the ID Maxim, and it is founded on the Either/Or Maxim. They fit together as the hand in the glove.
So Jesus said it very clearly: "Whoever is not against us is for us." That is simple; clear enough for any child, it would seem – yet he did not stop with that but went on to state it backwards as well as forwards:
He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. (Matthew 12:30, Luke 11:23).He who is not against me is with me, and he who is not with me is against me. Stated in this way, both backwards and forwards, totally eliminates any thought of there being some neutral or common ground in the transactions between Jesus and the world as they are represented by disciples and the children of this world, whom Jesus called "Gentiles." Jesus was so concerned to make this absolutely clear to us that he stated it repeatedly. Look, for example, at another synoptic passage: No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they scoffed at him. But he said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts; for what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. (Luke 16:13-15)This utterance came, if you recall, at the conclusion of the Parable of the Unjust Steward. This man, commanded to give an accounting of his stewardship in preparation to handing it over to someone else because he had been wasting his masters goods was under great stress because he was about to lose his job. What shall I do? Then he made what was for him a wise decision, seeing that he was in trouble with his master in any case. So he called each of his masters debtors in and, while still invested with the powers of his office of steward, greatly reduced the indebtedness shown on the books. This would put them in obligation to him, so that they would repay the obligation by taking him in after he had lost his job.
Surprisingly the master commended this dishonesty, for, as Jesus said, ". . .the sons of this age are wiser in their own generation than the sons of light." The man had made friends for himself "by means of the mammon of unrighteousness," and Jesus then instructed us to do similarly, so that when mammon fails, the friends will receive us into everlasting habitations. He obviously isn't telling us to resort to the same kind of dishonesty, but to abide by the same dictum by making friends by means of the mammon of unrighteousness. In the case of the disciples, whom Jesus here designates "sons of light," they are to so use mammon as to make friends, not on this earth but in heaven, in the eternal habitation. They do this by using money to minister to others in need, in obedience to Jesus' example and the many commandments to this end. He took an example from among the "sons of this world" and derived a principle according to which the "sons of light" can make friends in heaven. In the process he has shown us another very important aspect of his thinking: There are two disparate categories: the sons of this world and the sons of light. This sets up a radical dualism that knows no blending. The divine evaluation is represented by the final statement listed above: ". . .what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God."
"Men" is another name for the category: sons of this world (this age). If we review the utterances of Jesus keeping this in mind, we will discover that in his vocabulary, the single word "men" often defines a category that is inevitably hostile to his disciples, who are the sons of light. It is true that he draws his disciples from among men, but once they have responded, being begotten of God, they are no more attached to this "men" category but instead are hated, cast out, rejected, persecuted by the men of this age. The nature of things is such that there has always been and will always be bitter enmity of men toward the sons of light, and the character of men is such that whatever they highly esteem is an abomination to God.
A few examples are in order. When Peter objected to Jesus' prediction of his passion, Jesus responded: "Get behind me, Satan; you are on the side of men rather than the side of God." (Matthew 16:22). More literally, the language accuses Peter of "minding the things of men" rather than the things of God. In either case, however, men are set over against God as minding, or esteeming, the things that the Father abhors. The hostility is inevitable and requires being faced by anyone who would follow Jesus so that Jesus said,So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 10:32,33).It is for this reason that Jesus pronounces a blessing on who ever is not offended in him, because he knows that the character of his message is such, and character of "men" is such, that they must inevitably hate the message and everyone associated with it. He warned his disciples, saying, "Beware of men." He compared people from both categories with fruit bearing trees. "The good man out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth evil." (Luke 6:45). The enmity shines forth in the Sermon on the Mount, where he said to the disciples,Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you and cast out your name as evil, on my account. (Matthew 5:11).Jews and Gentiles altogether fall into this "men" category that has only hostility for Jesus and the disciples. The disciples are always few in the world, and so the "men" category in general is also labeled "the world," whereas the disciples are labeled, "the little flock." It was the Jews in the Fourth Gospel who were deliberately targeted as belonging to the hostile men. He explained to them that the problem was parentage.Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. (John 8;43-44)The key to the determination of one's category is the ability to receive the words of Jesus.He who is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God. (John 8:47).And the key to the ability to hear the Word is parentage: whether or not one is begotten of God, or is of the devil, as Peter was when Jesus rebuked him with the words listed above, "You mind the things of men and not the things of God."
The Either/Or Maxim springs from this radical dualism that, in turn, is based on our parentage, which is either of God or of Satan. That is why there can be no gray areas, no compromises and no accommodations. We are Either/Or. There are no other possibilities.
It would seem that a dualism so radical must be founded on some deep seated issue, and indeed it is. When Jesus rebuked Peter for being on the side of men, he did so because Peter had objected to his assertion that he was to be delivered into the hands of men to be killed by them. Peter wanted Jesus to save his life. This was Peter's fundamental problem, and this is the most basic point of issue between the sons of this age and the sons of light, between men and the little flock. Men are fundamentally committed to saving their lives and are by that driven to do all things. The love of life is their big thing, and everything we do in this world somehow revolves around that single issue. But Jesus, through the Word, calls us to radically hate life in this world and has made it very clear that, unless we do so, we have no hope of the Eternal Blessedness. This is the central issue that divides the disciples from the world, and it is unavoidable. We cannot hear Jesus unless we hear the words that bind us to the hatred of life, which none of the "sons of the world" are able to do because the thought is a radical offense to them. Thus the enmity inevitably results.
Christendom's church people have trouble with this, because, with few exceptions, they love their lives in this world and cannot listen to Jesus. It is very instructive to note that the Jews who gave Jesus such a hard time in Chapter 8 of the Fourth Gospel, and whom Jesus designated as being "of your father the devil" were defined as "the Jews who had believed in him." (John 8:31). They must actually have believed only in a false conception of him and Jesus, knowing this, proceeded to erase their misconception with the result that their true colors showed and the enmity took control. In the same manner and according to precisely the same pattern the churchmen who cannot entertain the hatred of life end up rejecting Jesus in Truth, for they mind the things of men and not the things of God. The witness they render to the world is therefore a false witness.
In conclusion, we now see why the ID Maxim works as it does. One is either/or: either of God or of men and there is innate hostility between man and God, for what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination to God. To identify with Jesus or with other disciples who have already identified with him puts one in jeopardy in the world. It therefore is not a thing lightly done, and once done, qualifies one to inherit the kingdom along with the disciples!
These three maxims, the Inversion Maxim, the ID Maxim, and the Either/Or Maxim are all of a piece. They are fundamental to the Gospel of the Kingdom and together, explain much that is otherwise obscure. They are there and they will not go away.
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