So-called Christian groups made recent news with outrageous breaches of conduct. This behavior explicitly contradicts the command of the one they profess to follow. How should their actions—and beliefs—be understood?
“Keep My Commands”
Shortly before his crucifixion, Jesus admonished his followers:
15“If you love me, keep my commands. … 21Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.”
–John 14:15,21a NIV
Jesus said, “If you love me, you’ll obey my commands.” What are his commands?
The Two Biggies
A teacher of the law once asked Jesus which of the Mosaic commandments was most important.
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Luke 10:29-31 NIV)
These two commands—loving God with your whole being and loving your neighbor as yourself—are more important than any point of doctrine or religious observance (v. 33). (According to Jesus, they’re also the ones by which one may inherit eternal life—see Luke 10:25-27.)
“Who Is My Neighbor?”
Another teacher asked the same question and, upon hearing Jesus’ answer to love your neighbor, wanted to qualify who his “neighbor” was. Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan, an ethnic and religious outcast who cared for a Jew who had been mugged and left for dead.
Our neighbors are not only those who we like and who share our beliefs. Jesus told this story to point out that our neighbors are also those outside of our religious, cultural, and values circle (see Luke 10:29-37). To those “Bible-believing Christians” who need the text interpreted, “neighbor” includes Jews, Muslims, Catholics, New Agers, pagans, and atheists. Homosexuals, too. Oh, and Democrats.
The point of Jesus’ parable is that to truly love our neighbors, we must eliminate all the artificial, ungodly designations we use to narrow those he requires us to love. Our neighbor is everyone in need of mercy, care, and compassion.
“Love One Another”
Jesus boiled down the entire Hebrew scriptures into two commands: Love God, love your neighbor. But these two commands really are subsumed into one:
34“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
–John 13:34-35 NIV
Later, John wrote:
20Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
–1 John 4:20-21 NIV
There is only one requirement for those who say they love God: Love your neighbor, as Jesus defines neighbor. This is the primary command of Jesus Christ.
Whether or not you acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah or Christ, the Son of God, a prophet, a great teacher, a historical or only a mythical figure, if you love and respect and honor others as did the Good Samaritan, you are not only keeping his command, but he considers you his friend. Jesus said, “You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14 NIV).
So where does this leave us with the fundamentalists who made recent news?
Date-Setting the Rapture Misses the Mark
Harold Camping’s recent prognostication of May 21, 2011, as the date of “the Rapture” (the alleged snatching away of Christ’s faithful and holy followers to heaven, leaving the rest of the world [“sinners”] to suffer the Great Tribulation) is an unfortunate example of sincere people being genuinely deceived.
Jesus clearly stated in the Bible (which most Rapture proponents profess to revere and obey):
32“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.”
–Mark 13:32-33 NIV
If Jesus said no one (including himself) knows the day or the hour, then if you believe, love, and obey him, you simply will never set a date for his return based on some numerological system or any supposed revelation.
Jesus said that his true followers hear his voice and will not follow the voice of a stranger (see John 10:4-6).
Without even considering the obvious failure of the prophecy, we can conclude that those who set dates for the Rapture or the Second Coming or the end of the world are in blatant disobedience to the clear statement of Christ. Therefore, according to Jesus’ words:
- They do not love him.
- They are not his friends.
- They are not listening to his voice, but rather to that of a stranger.
They are deceived and deceiving others in the name of God. Jesus warned that if the blind lead the blind, both will end up in the pit of embarrassment and shame (see Luke 6:39 and Deut. 27:18).
A suggestions for date-setters: Stop worrying about the Rapture and start obeying the one you claim is master and lord. Love him by loving others without condition, dropping this false separation of “saints” and “sinners.” If you can do this, you have nothing to worry about.
Editorial Side Note
I’m writing this article not because I believe as fundamentalists do, but to point out their errors from their own religious and biblical viewpoint. If you say you love and obey your personal Savior, but blatantly ignore his commands from the book you take literally as the basis of your faith, you’re only fooling yourself. If you say you worship Jesus and follow the Bible, yet behave otherwise, this is logically how the Bible condemns that same behavior.
Picketing Funerals and Hating Fags Misrepresents Jesus and the Bible
Westboro Baptist Church, now a stench in the nostrils of nearly everyone, is a “faith organization” that has earned the designation of hate group.
By picketing the funerals of soldiers, celebrities—well, just about any of Satan’s minions—they show their blatant disregard for the words and wishes of Jesus. They also demonstrate their disobedience to the scriptures they claim to believe, understand, and follow so much more perfectly than others.
15“If you love me, keep my commands. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—17the Spirit of truth. …”
–John 14:15-17a,21 NIV
Jesus said that if his followers loved him, they would keep his commands. To these obedient ones, he said he would give the Spirit of truth. Those who demonstrate they do not keep his commands therefore do not have the Spirit of truth.
Fundamentalist groups such as WBC achieve an EPIC FAIL on the following accounts:
- They do not love their neighbors as Christ commanded. Therefore,
- They do not love God.
- They are not Jesus’ friends, either.
- They are liars who have not the Spirit of truth.
Again, do I personally feel this way toward them? No. But according to their “biblical” belief system, this is logically what their own Bible says about them. I’m just pointing out a good reason not to bang the Bible so hard. It bangs back.
Jesus said of the fundamentalists of his day: “You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you’ll find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These Scriptures are all about me! And here I am, standing right before you, and you aren’t willing to receive from me the life you say you want.” (John 5:39-40 MSG)
If You Love Him, Obey Him
If you believe in the literal return of Christ, you will do what Jesus says. He says to prove your devotion by obeying his command to love one another. (Try to fit this in between watching and praying.)
If you do not believe in the Rapture—even if you don’t believe in Jesus at all—wouldn’t the world be a better place if everyone showed Christ’s brand of mercy, love, and compassion?
If you believe the Bible is inerrant and infallible and claim it as the sole source of your faith and doctrine, you’ll recognize that you cannot carry a sign that says “God Hates Fags” and love your neighbor at the same time. “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar” (1 John 4:20). What is the fate of liars? “[A]ll liars… will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur” (Revelation 21:8 NIV). See, I can bang my Bible as well as anyone. DISGUSTING, ISN’T IT?
It’s time to stop listening to those who clamor about the Bible and who claim to know, love, and obey Christ but betray him by their actions and lead others astray. The sooner we do, the sooner the world will actually become that better place.