There is much confusion amongst followers of Jesus as to what Jesus really taught. He says things that seem to contradict. He tells a Samaritan women that he came only for the people of Israel, but when asked who his neighbor is, Jesus makes the hero of the story the Good Samaritan. Jesus teaches that not the smallest section of the Hebrew law is to be forgotten, yet he regularly "revises" the same law when the religious leaders challenge him on things like working on the Sabbath and the law's injuction to fast or to give to the poor.
Why do we have Christians on street corners with bull-horns acting like Old Testament prophets and others posting a 3500 year old Jewish document on billboards? I believe the answer can be found in the context of Jesus' life. How silly we are to ignore the time and culture of Jesus' life as we try to understand what he taught.
Jesus came to a culture that was distinctly Jewish. What does this mean to Gentiles two millenia away? It means that much of Jesus' teaching was specifically addressing a people group who were already the people of God, who already had relationship with him, who already sought his voice and to do his will. When Jesus says in Matthew 5:13, "You are the salt of the earth. . .", he is addressing Jews (the people of God). He is warning Israel that if they don't flavor the world with the heart of their loving Father they may find themselves "thrown out and trampled on". Low and behold most of Israel rejects Jesus and over the next two thousand years we find the Jews (for the most part) on the outside looking in. We find their history repeting itself as the powers of this world trample on them.
Jesus is extremely compassionate and loving to almost everyone he encounters. He heals everyone brought to him, he feeds the hungry, he tells poor people the good news of a new kingdom. However, Jesus saves his more belligerant responses for those who are spiritual leaders. He regularly attacks the behavior and character of the spiritual leaders of Israel calling them names, insulting them, and messing up their church building. He even saves some of his most aggressive stuff for his own disciples who he is grooming to lead when he is gone. He calls Peter "Satan" and he gets openly frustrated with his guys when they cannot heal the boy with a demon. Why the double standard?
I believe that we as humans misunderstand the teachings of the son of God because we have a different orientation than he does. We look at the world as good and evil. We see us and them. We think in terms of right and wrong, anchoring our morality to a static (unchanging) system of belief.
Jesus regulary took a distinctly other-world position or a third choice. He didn't see the choice of stoning a women caught in adultery as either; obey the law or ignore the law. He inserted choice number three. Yes, the law requires her death, let the righteous execute the law. What, no one is righteous? Surprise. Surprise. Hey, I'm righteous, and I decide to give you mercy not judgment. By the way, sweetheart, you probably don't want to sleep around anymore.
Jesus' posture recognizes that two different groups are present when they bring him the woman caught in adultery. Group one, morally upright, leaders in the church, intent on "protecting" their righteousness. To these Jesus has a message that causes conviction; a message of direct instruction, a message that if it does not produce repentance will cause distance between them and Jesus. What happens? What they thought was the morally right execution of their function in the people of God is taken away from them. This causes many "leaders" in the church to secretly resent the teachings of Jesus and to look for ways to retain control, to keep their position.
Group two, the woman.
Jesus was constantly aware of two groups of people who were following him around. Group one were the outsiders, the poor, the rejected, the sorrowful, the sick. These he pursued with love. These, he hung out with in their comfortable places and befriended. To these he said, "I haven't come to judge you but to love you." His kingdom is expressly for them. This is why he has come.
Group two are the righteous, the insiders, the healthy. Now, Jesus is not against these people because they are righteous, healthy insiders. Rather, he resents the posture of those who have gotten theirs and are not concerned that others be included. In fact, I would suggest that Jesus loves the insider just as much as the outsider. But his invitation to these is different. Come, spend your wealth on the poor. Invest, your health and energy on those who are sick. Risk your comfort and safety to attack the powers of this world and undo the work of Satan in the world.
So whether you consider yourself to be an insider or an outsider, whether you are healthy or sick, whether you have tons of joy or regulary sorrow; Jesus invites both groups to be part of a third group. Those who wish to be intimate with Jesus and as they grow healthy in him to invest that strength the same way Jesus invested his strenth - for the salvation of those who are hurting.
Jesus said, "I did not come to call the healthy but the sick." However, he would love it if the healthy would join him in loving on the sick. So God Bless the bull-horns and the billboards. Just keep them inside the church buildings where only the "righteous" can feel the sting of rebuke and wrestle with the law. After all, this was Jesus' model and should be ours as well.
Just some stuff we should talk about.