Taking Jesus’ teachings word for word

Everything about Jesus concerns what He taught. And everything about deception in Christianity concerns everything that Jesus did not teach. This datum is as true as Jesus confirmed it Himself. Blessed are those not believing anything said, without verifying the authenticity against Christ’s teachings? There is no exception to this rule, as coming directly from the author of Christianity.

“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” (John 14:15-21 NIV).

From a world full of deception, such as ours, two reasons make it necessary to take Jesus’ teaching, word for word. The first reason is that Jesus is the vine, from which all of us are like branches, bearing fruits, only when attached to Him. One branch cannot supervise other branches (John 15:5).

The second reason is that there is an aspect of culture and tradition. These cannot be easily resisted, as they predominantly shape our behaviour in this world. There are many things, assumed to be normal and yet abnormal. Hence, Jesus suggested that one should first consider discarding everything, before following Him.

The fact that any opinion can be embraced by the majority does not make it factual. Jesus brought new teachings, needing consideration, in a new unit of time. The worst is absorbing Jesus’ teachings according to common viewpoints.

The cause of division implies misunderstanding. If Jesus is the Bread of Life, His words should be taken verbatim, without excuses for variation. There cannot be another way to evade charlatans, masquerading as authentic preachers. Let us pick two passages of Scripture, commonly assumed to mean something different, or simply ignored, for reasons of expediency.

This should not necessarily be construed as suggesting that the author is immune to error. The proposition is for an honest discussion on matters that bring us closer to Christ. These serve to remove all causes of confusion.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1-5 NIV).

Let us first clear the meaning of the word ‘judge’ as used in the passage. As a noun, the term implies a public officer appointed to decide cases in a law court. But when used as a verb, it implies forming an opinion or conclusion about some presented matter. Nothing appears amiss with that conduct.

However, in His discourse, Jesus brought something different and not applicable with common reasoning. Jesus was giving this instruction to His disciples, later to become God’s children. They were expected to take full responsibility for sins committed by others, similarly to how Jesus died for everyone.

“For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Jesus was speaking from the viewpoint of loving others as one loves himself. Therefore, when viewing another person as though not different from you, it cannot be possible to escape the punishment preferred against the same person.

God’s child is different from ordinary humans, who are allowed to do stupid things without condemnation. Instead of condemning us, Jesus took full responsibility for our sins, dying on the cross. Those having committed themselves to follow Him, do likewise.

Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters” (1 John 3:15-16 NIV).

This Scripture is referring to those having become Christians. This is not applicable to ordinary humans. Common reasoning, as applicable in this world, still applies to those of this world. However, God’s children, have no liberty to behave similarly.

They behave like Jesus, being willing to lay down their lives for those considered as sinners. God’s children no longer conduct their lives according to the dictates of this world. They live in this world. But they are no longer of this world. Their standard is that of Jesus.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Sawdust refers to the chips, coming from a log, being chiselled. I suppose Jesus used this analogy, from His background in carpentry? The sawdust, chiselled out of the log, is insignificant when compared with the actual plank, or log.

This denotes the significance of a plank when compared to sawdust. Without the Holy Spirit, any person is as insignificant as sawdust is insignificant. Having received the Holy Spirit, a Christian is exposed to cursing the Holy Spirit. He faces the danger of condemnation, where those without the Holy Spirit hold some chance.

 “And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12:31-32 NIV).

There is a clear distinction between a baptized person, and an ordinary person. The one with the Holy Spirit cannot separate himself from the person in a sinful condition. Instead of blaming, a Christian takes full responsibility for that person’s ineptitude.

Christianity is not a casual matter. Hence Jesus advised counting the costs, before commitment (Luke 14:31-33). That responsibility denotes the plank that Jesus was referring to, as compared to the sawdust, on the sinful person. The safe side implies allowing the Holy Spirit to take charge of everything.

Most Christians, either ignore this Scripture or interpret it in some other hilarious way. But Jesus was contextually teaching those having become His disciples. This was a continuation of the discourse covered in His Sermon on the Mount. He was not teaching ordinary people, but His disciples.

The second Scriptural reference, often neglected or misinterpreted, concerns authoritarianism. This world needs authority. But the Christian authority is found only in Jesus. The idea of assuming a posture in Christian leadership is highly misplaced. Wise people consider it impossible, to guide those led by the Holy Spirit.

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah.  The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:8-12 NIV).

Jesus was communicating with His disciples, distinctly telling them how they were to conduct themselves. They were different from the gentiles. They would not be the Rabbis, holding authority over others. They would regard each other as brethren, suggesting equal status.

A Christian organization is a Spiritual organism, where members are granted respective gifts, without profile consideration. There is no command structure, whatsoever. The functions of the Church are like those of a physical body. None of the physical structures could claim superiority over others. This is clearly articulated in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12.

Through these passages, Paul shows how mischievous it would be, for anyone to claim authority over other functionaries. For instance, if holding a gift of prophecies one cannot claim authority over those holding knowledge and wisdom, or vice versa. None is inferior or superior to others.

One cannot look down upon those holding peculiar gifts. The most important datum is to appreciate Christ, working with whoever He chooses to work with, regarding whatever gift. In humility, Christians serve one another in the Spirit, where Christ is exalted, without necessarily exalting one another. This follows Paul’s exhortation in Romans 12:3-21.

Surprisingly, in Christianity, there are those preferring to use portions of Paul’s teachings. They do so, justifying their authoritarian mindset. This comes out of their appetite for exercising authority over others. It is a herculean task to establish any basis for discussion with such characters, except through God’s intervention.

They invalidate everything taught by Christ, as in love of their authoritarian posture. It takes only those with the willingness to learn, to disabuse themselves of such fallacious teachings. Otherwise, there is no other information surpassing the reality that Jesus is the only authority, above everything.

Paul is most respected among the first-century apostles. Churches are established, not according to Christ teachings, but according to the teachings of Paul. There is no suggestion of invalidating Paul’s teachings, except reminding everyone that Paul bears no equality with Christ.

Paul taught his disciples to regard Jesus ahead of everything. But Paul was as human as all of us are humans. Everything that Paul taught, ought to be evaluated according to the teachings of Christ. The same applies to the rest of the apostles, and all of us, even as I write, today.

Let us analyze the Scripture, commonly used as authority to ordain pastors, as an example. This is quoted more than any other Scripture, among the teachings of Christ. The only reason for quoting that Scripture is expediency. Without this passage of Scripture, the charlatans would not be able to elevate themselves to positions of authority.

“Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer, desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)” (1Timothy 3:1-5 NIV).

The first instance is that Paul was not selected out of his noble behaviour. He was on his way to Damascus, intending to commit crimes against God’s people. How should he be different from those he then requires to be of ethical conduct? I wouldn’t call this double standard, except to bear with Paul. He was not quoting from Christ’s teachings.

The gospel books, written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, had not yet been published. His ethical considerations were based on his own viewpoint. I suppose, if he were to be resurrected, he would point his accusers to many Scriptures, where he advised following Christ above everything.

Human reasoning and God’s reasoning are not always in agreement. Everything needs evaluation according to what Jesus taught. It takes only a wise person to distinguish such differences. This is exactly the advice that Jesus gave to His disciples before He left the scene.

Whoever hears my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to him.” (John 14:21NIV).

One can come up with a dossier of obvious mistakes by the apostles, manifesting that they were not different from all of us. What is important, at this stage, is to highlight the fact that Jesus is the only authority, above everything. Instead of solely using Paul’s writings, it is important to view how those writings compare with the teachings of Jesus.

Andrew Masuku
 is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope.

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