22 May 2015

James 3.1-5:
Those who want to teach.

My fellow Christians, don’t become a bunch of teachers:
You’ve known they’ll come under great judgment,
for we all trip up—
though if someone doesn’t trip up in the word,
this man of integrity should be able to bridle the whole body as well.
If we put bits into horses’ mouths so we can direct them, and drive their whole body,
or look—a great boat driven by a harsh wind, is guided by the smallest rudder,
despite where its movement wants to steer it.

James 3.1-5 KWL

The way this passage has been historically taught is, “You don’t want to aspire to become a teacher. Trust me. ’Cause one day God will hold you accountable for every single thing you ever taught, and judge you harshly. If you ever led someone astray, if you ever taught the wrong thing, God’s gonna blame you for every cult founded, every wayward Christian who destroyed lives, every dissatisfied disciple who quit Jesus. It’s all on you.”

What about grace? Nah. God’s not gonna extend grace to teachers so much. Too many of ’em might take advantage of it, be sloppy, and teach heresy. So to scare away anyone who won’t take the job seriously enough—or who might want to use it to control people’s lives—God threatens ’em with a little extra judgment. Teach at your peril.

The tip this is a bad interpretation? Verse 2: “We all trip up.” Everybody trips up. Teachers included. James, the guy who wrote this book, included. We all trip up. The perfect, flawless teacher, other than Jesus? Doesn’t exist.

21 May 2015

Jesus the prophet.

Every single time I state Jesus is a prophet, Christians feel the need to point out he’s more than just a prophet. Well, duh. He’s Messiah, he’s Lord, he’s God the Son. And he’s a prophet.

Funny thing is, I don’t get this sort of reaction when I talk about Jesus being our great high priest, or our King. I only get it when I bring up how he’s a prophet. What’s up with that?

It’s about despising prophecy. 1Th 5.20-21 People don’t think much of prophets or prophecy anymore. They’ve met too many cranks who claim to be prophets, yet are sloppy or fake. They’ve seen too many nutjobs on television talking about the End Times, and making wild predictions which haven’t happened, won’t happen, and put the rest of Christian biblical interpretation into ill repute. Or they’re cessationists who think all prophetic ministry stopped back in bible times, and therefore all present-day prophetic ministries are fraudulent. To all these folks, the fact Jesus is a prophet isn’t a compliment. “Okay, he’s a prophet, but he’s better than that. Call him something better.”

I don’t blame people for being irritated at would-be prophets. I’m irritated too. But remember: Just as Jesus’s behavior is high above the behavior of any of his would-be followers; just as Jesus’s fruit is far more abundant than that of the people who claim allegiance to him; just as Jesus’s character is way more consistent than those people who claim to be Christlike; so he is a better prophet than any and every Christian prophet. Even the good ones.

20 May 2015

Lies!

Lie laɪ n. An intentionally false statement; a statement involving deception or a mistaken impression.
2. v. Make an intentionally false statement; present a false impression; be deceptive.
[Liar laɪ(.ə)r]

By “lie,” most folks ordinarily mean a deceptive statement. “I floss every day,” you tell your dentist, and you totally don’t. “I think I was going 45,” you tell the traffic cop, and you know you pushed it to 60 to beat the stoplight. “I exercise,” you tell your friends, but haven’t been to the gym since January. The truth is embarrassing, or may get you into trouble, and when you try to get people to believe otherwise, that’d be lying.

But Christians have another definition of lying. Political pundits use it too. It’s kinda inflammatory, and kinda meant to be. In short, everything untrue is a lie.

19 May 2015

Anger.

Anger is the most obvious sign of spiritual immaturity. Out-of-control anger especially.

Unless we’re talking a clinical psychological problem, anger always, always means poorly developed fruit, or no fruit at all. An angry Christian is still knee-deep in the works of the flesh. Try as they might to disguise their sins, the anger consistently exposes them for who they really are: People who either follow Jesus superficially, or not at all.

Yeah, that sounds harsh. And I’ve been accused more than once of being overly harsh by saying so. But I know of whence I speak: I grew up an angry Christian, in a church full of angry Christians. I still know plenty of angry Christians. And when I was an angry Christian, I was a terrible Christian; a hypocrite who took full advantage of cheap grace, yet never extended grace to anyone else. All bile, no love.

18 May 2015

Scribes.

Scribe skraɪb n. One who writes [for a living].
2. In ancient Israel, a bible scholar; one with expertise in the Law and theology.

Universal literacy is a relatively new idea in human history. Maybe 25 to 15 percent of the people in the Roman Empire could read. The rest didn’t have the ability to learn it, or didn’t bother: Their jobs didn’t require it, and a good memory did just as well.

But in the Hebrew culture, universal literacy was actually an expectation. God ordered his people to not just learn his Law, but “write them on your house’s doorframes, and your gates.” Dt 6.9 If you’re gonna obey that command, you gotta know how to write. The culture had to be literate. A written Law required it.

So the Pharisees created synagogues, or schools which would teach Hebrew children to read and write—specifically so they could read the Law, and copy it down. But for those who felt called to copy it down, or to study it to the depth Pharisees figured we oughta study it, they became sofrím/grammateís/“scribes.”