Monday, February 12, 2007

Jesus Preached Violence and Hatred

I’m not sure why I do it. It’s a weary process to cruise through atheist web sites. The audacity of the lies, bigotry and intolerance is breathtaking. This is no more true than on a site that proclaimed that Jesus preached a message of hatred and violence. I don’t believe for one minute that the authors did this out of ignorance. Rather it was done, I believe to deceive and delude its readers. Nevertheless this is the case that was put forward.
One statement of Jesus’ that was used as a proof-test was this one:
"... if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one."
A second verse is:
"If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his mother and father, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters - yes even his own life, he cannot be My disciple."
A third verse that the writer tried to put forward to make h/his case was this one:
"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter against her mother-in-law, a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household."

Do these sound like something that might make the case that followers of Jesus are dangerous? Does it sound like Jesus Himself was prone to violence? Being the great and learned scholars that atheists fancy themselves to be, even they would admit that taking verses out of context is a rather pathetic way to make an argument. I’ll address these verses later, but first let’s see a more complete cross-section of what Jesus taught.

. Blessed are the poor in spirit
. Blessed are the meek
. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
. Blessed are the merciful
. Blessed are the peacemakers
. You’ve heard it said that you shouldn’t murder but I’m telling you to not even be angry.
. Treat women with respect instead of just sexual objects
. You have heard it said and eye for an eye, but I tell you, don’t resist an evil person.
. Turn the other cheek
. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
. Forgive others as you have been forgiven by your Heavenly Father
. Don’t judge others in a hypocritical manner
. I have come to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons
. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest . Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
. So that we may not offend [the rulers] go and pay our taxes
. Don’t forgive the person who sins against you only seven times, but every time.
. Love your neighbour as you already love yourself
. Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant and whoever wants to be first must be your slave - just as I did not come to be served but to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many.
. I will welcome everyone with open arms, no matter how evil they have been or what wrongs they have committed if they will only turn from their sins and follow me.
. O Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets sent to you. How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.
. Why are you harassing this woman [a prostitute]? She has done a loving thing for me.
. On the night before he was killed, Jesus washed the feet of all his disciples, even the one who he knew was about to betray him and have him killed.
. Filled with compassion Jesus healed the man with leprosy.
. Jesus had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd
. Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honour your father and mother.
. Father forgive those who are killing me for they don’t know what they are doing.
. Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. Be merciful just as your Father is merciful.
. Do not judge. Do not condemn.
. Do to others the kind of things you would like others to do to you.
. "I am willing to heal you." "I have compassion for you and I’ll heal you." "When Jesus saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, "Don’t cry."" "I tell you her many sins have been forgiven. Go in peace." "Don’t be afraid." "Whoever welcomes a little child in my name welcomes me." "Then neither do I condemn you." "Peace be with you." "Dear woman [his mother] here is the person who will take care of you when I die."
. Everyone who does the will of God, I will consider the same as members of my own family.
. If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.
. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
. Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
. Put your sword away. Shall I not go through the very thing for which I came to the world to do? Jesus allowed no one to fight for him.
These are just a few of the things that Jesus taught regarding peace. But what of his closest followers? We’ve already seen that Peter was ready to violently defend Jesus. If Jesus preached violence and hatred, one could expect that message to be found in the letters / propaganda that was later published by these followers.

I’ll first explore Peter’s writings.
. Don’t conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.
. Rid yourselves of all malice and slander of every kind.
. Live such good lives among the pagans that though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God.
. Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men
. It is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.
. Do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil.
. Show proper respect for everyone.
. When they hurled their insults at him he [Jesus] did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats.
. Husbands, be considerate as you live with your wives and treat them with respect.
. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult but with blessing because to this you were called.
. Whoever would love life must seek peace and pursue it.
. It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
Hmm. Looks like Jesus caused quite a transformation in Peter’s life.

Well, how about John, the one that used to be called the ‘Son of Thunder.’
. Love one another
. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him.
. Let us not love with words but with actions.
. Whoever does not love does not know God because God is love.
. Whoever loves God must also love others.
. [Jesus'] command is that you walk in love.

How about James, one of Jesus’ brothers?
. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble
. The wisdom that comes from Jesus is peace-loving, considerate, full of mercy.
. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
. Do not slander one another
. Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.
. Love your neighbour as you already love yourself.
. Do not show favouritism.
. Mercy triumphs over judgment
. If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.
. Everyone should be slow to become angry for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

How about the writer of Hebrews?
. Do not forget to do good and to share with others
. Make every effort to live in peace with all people.

And of course, how could this close without quotes from the most diligent follower of Jesus, the great apostle Paul
. Warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. . . Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.
. Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
. You know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worth of God.
. We were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children
. Do not lie to each other
. In Christ everyone is equal, none better than another
. Therefore as God’s chosen people, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
. Fathers, do not embitter your children or they will become discouraged.
. Let your conversation be always full of grace.
. For then in Christ, be overflowing with thankfulness.
. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is praiseworthy, think about such things and the God of peace will be with you.
. This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless.
. We preach the gospel of peace
. Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
. Each one of you must love his wife
. Fathers do not exasperate your children
. In your anger do not sin for anger gives the devil a foothold.
. Be completely humble and gentle; bearing with one another in love.
. Love your neighbour as yourself. If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
. The outcome of living by the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrong. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
. A husband must not divorce his wife.
. The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?
. You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we all stand before God’s judgment seat.
. Do not repay anyone evil for evil
. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
. Do not take revenge, my friends.
. If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink
. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

I could go on and on and on but even the dullest person should be able to see that neither Jesus nor his followers who wrote the New Testament preached a message of hate or violence. But what about those other verses that seem to say just the opposite?

One statement of Jesus’ that was used as a proof-test was this one:
"When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?" "Nothing," they answered. He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. The disciples said, "See, Lord, here are two swords." "That is enough," he replied.

fn. NIV - These words are record in a section where Jesus was preparing his followers for his departure from earth. He was preparing for a change in leadership from him to them. Until now they had been dependent on generous hospitality, but future opposition would require them to be prepared to pay their own way. Considering all of Jesus’ other teachings, we would have to conclude that Jesus was using hyperbole or speaking metaphorically regarding the sword. He was warning them of the perilous times about to come. They would need defence and protection, as Paul did when he appealed to Caesar as the one who "bears the sword." Romans 13:4 This is further shown to be the case when in frustration, Jesus sees that they are taking his words too literally and they were rebuked with a sharp, "that’s enough [of that stupid talk]. Not long after this, the hothead Peter was sharply rebuked by Jesus for using his sword. ". . Peter, put your sword back in its place so that I can heal the man you have harmed. For all who live by the sword will die by the sword." There is no example of Jesus’ closest followers ever again resorting to violence. They all, like Jesus, went willingly to their deaths to protect the integrity of Jesus’ name.

A second verse that is used is:
"If anyone come to Me and does not hate his mother and father, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters - yes even his own life, he cannot be my disciple."

The reason that most people misunderstand this verse is their lack of understanding of the Hebrew language. The word hate, in this context means to place second. Nothing more. Nothing less. The statement could read. Anyone who doesn’t consider following me to be more important than h/her own family is not really my servant. In most cases, it is only by following Jesus that we love our families more than ourselves and therefore treat them properly.

The third verse that the writer tried to put forward to make h/his case was this one:
"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter against her mother-in-law, a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household."

The meaning of this verse is so clear that I can only guess it is misinterpreted on purpose. Jesus said, "Because of Me, all people will hate you." The reason that one person turns against another, within the context that Jesus is commenting, is the belief of one person and the disbelief of another person in Jesus the Christ.

Actually, the writers of the vitriolic atheist sites are living out Jesus’ very words. Their verbal violence and someday their physical violence is turned toward followers of Jesus, NOT the other way around. It’s they who are turning against members of their own families. Jesus wasn’t preaching that Christians should or will become involved in violence. He is warning His followers that violence will be turned against them by the kind of people one reads on atheistic sites.

To say that Jesus preached hate or that he encourages his followers toward violence and hatred is a working definition of defamation. The atheist web sites contain the cruelest of lies for they turn people away from the one and only source of love in the whole universe.

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