Christianity is characterized in various denominations, administered according to the patterns and directions of the respective authorities. None claims not to follow the teachings of Jesus. However, adherence to a particular denomination disqualifies allegiance to Jesus. The early Church also faced the phenomenon of allegiance to individual characters, rather than Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:10-17).
This is caused by not taking the words of Jesus verbatim. Paraphrasing the words of Jesus, rather than duplicating everything He said appeals for convenience, yet deceptive. The only Church that was founded by Jesus can be distinguished by insisting on duplicating every word spoken by Jesus.
While no longer observed physically, Jesus physically exists through those not only duplicating and amplifying, but also applying the words of Jesus, in their lives. Those people take the words of Jesus verbatim, as recorded in the four gospel books. While it cannot be identified physically, that Church is distinguishable by applying everything that Jesus taught.
A person having understood the significance of baptism in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit does not flounder. It does not matter which denomination the person subscribes to, as long as appreciating the significance of baptism as meaning application of Jesus’ words.
What is important for that person is allegiance to Jesus. At baptism, most converts appear as fully appreciating the significance of allegiance to Jesus. Yet, there is the aspect of denominational indoctrination that goes unheeded by most Christians. Each convert is expected to abide by the doctrines of the denomination through which they were baptized.
As still new to the faith, the person unsuspectingly assumes everything said by the baptizing minister to be correct. I suppose that would be acceptable—being first gradient level of understanding. If allegiance is truly to Jesus, a sincere convert eventually raises questions when observing practices that contradict the teachings of Christ.
Nevertheless, what is common is desiring to be at peace with the group into which one is baptized. Even if genuine, such questions invite being considered as discordant. But, if Jesus had been influenced by similar considerations, He could not have been killed on the cross. Jesus never sought allegiance to the Jewish community and its leaders. His primary allegiance was to His Father.
His true followers cannot be mistaken, when appreciating that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). Such followers insist on doing everything according to their understanding of what Jesus taught. This, obviously, cannot be popular with established authorities in Christianity.
Often times, such a person is automatically, labelled as a rebel. He is shunned by the entire membership in that group. Very few people are willing to stand against the test of being labeled unorthodox. The fear of being labeled unorthodox, causes many people to succumb—as preferring to be at peace with everyone in that environment.
The person forgets having committed his/her allegiance to Jesus, who never sought to be at peace with religious authorities, as He sought being at peace with God only. This is what Jesus meant, when advising followers to be willing to surrender everything, if desiring to be His disciples (Luke 14:25-33). In short, this is what allegiance to Jesus implies.
A person whose allegiance is to Jesus is willing to be persecuted, killed or being thrown out of the fellowship. That person knows fully, that being thrown out of the fellowship does not, necessarily mean being thrown out of God’s Kingdom. When Jesus said, “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14), He did not imply being chosen by other fellow humans.
Neither did He mean following strict denominational rules, nor being viewed as charming by other group members. It ought to be either allegiance to Jesus, or allegiance to group members. There are no opportunists in God’s Kingdom. When strictly following the rules of the group, one risks being disqualified from God’s Kingdom.
This is how problems arise, in Christianity, when failing to distinguish between what Christ said and the requirements of group membership. Nevertheless, this is not implying that people are served by scrupulous application of Scriptural references, necessarily.
What is most important is appreciating that it is Jesus who spiritually communicates with individuals, according to their respective levels of understanding. The entire Chapter of Romans 14 can be most ideal for all Christians. Individuals ought to be allowed to see things differently, as committing themselves to follow Jesus Christ.
What becomes acceptable would, therefore, not necessarily be acceptable to other group members. This, basically, highlights the substance of true Christianity—whose membership is expected to treat each other as equals (Matthew 23:8-12). Members are agreed, only in appreciating that Jesus is Lord of all. See [Discordant reality in Christianity].
Accepting one another, even with such divergent views is what true Christianity entails. There is no need for a person to leave the group, when adjudged as being discordant. There would also be no need for other group members to dis-fellowship the discordant member. What is important is avoiding to conform to the requirements of the group members, but to the teachings of Christ.
Each member is answerable to Jesus, yet being of service to other group members. The actual words of Jesus are found in the first four gospel books of the New Testament, as highlighted in red, on most English translations. This can help those seeking allegiance to Jesus, when examining the reality of their Christian standing.
I suppose a person who errs when taking the words of Jesus verbatim, is better than a person who errs when ignoring the words of Jesus. Paraphrasing what Jesus taught, is what has caused disunity in Christianity. Several translations are known to have paraphrased those words—originally taken from KJV Bible—whose version is closest to the original Greek translation.
But what is most important is commitment to Christ’s words in prayer and fasting. While the recorded words can be relied upon, Jesus also communicates in the Spirit. Submission to the Spirit can, therefore, be of utmost importance. But, using the recorded words for clarification. The reason, often given for preferring paraphrasing is desiring simplicity in understanding.
Unfortunately, while sounding plausible, that simplicity often invites conformity. Christianity, itself, was never meant to attract simplicity. This brings in what has caused denominationalism in Christianity—causing Christianity to be the worst enemy of Jesus Christ. Paraphrasing leaves subtle changes in the actual meaning of what Jesus intended to put across.
The most important point to take note of, is that the words of Jesus were never meant to be palatable. If so, Jesus could not have been crucified. The reason for His crucifixion was that Jesus taught things that were not palatable, especially as not aligning to customs and traditions of that time. We also have our own traditions that go against the teachings of Jesus.
This is what causes most people to rush into assuming that the KJV is too difficult to understand. They prefer changing Biblical texts to agree with what they desire, instead of following, exactly what Jesus taught. This is what causes most of them to go after their preferred Church leaders—where Jesus would not be in picture, necessarily.
The name of Jesus is often repeated over and over again, but what He said would be totally ignored. Yet it is impossible for a person to have allegiance to Jesus when ignoring His words. Most Christians go to Church for what benefits them, rather than being sacrificial to God’s will.
They completely fail to appreciate that allegiance to Jesus implies allowing Jesus to do as He pleases, in the life of the person concerned. This is exactly what makes Christianity the most difficult religion. Allegiance is given to Church leaders, rather than the author of Christianity. When committing oneself for allegiance to Jesus one has to first duplicate what Jesus taught, before seeking understanding.
When failing to understand what would have been duplicated, that person needs to pray, or seek assistance from good pastors. Unfortunately, this is where a person gets confused when a wrong pastor misleads, rather than direct the individual to Jesus. Good pastors do not evaluate or interpret Scriptures for the converts. They keep such converts focused towards Jesus.
They listen and help the convert to deduce what the Scripture in question implies, based on the understanding of the convert. A good pastor may also be willing to learn and change in the process of helping the convert, concerned. This is why Jesus said there is only one instructor as all are brethren in Christ (Matthew 23:8-12).
The process ought to be: first duplicating what Jesus taught. Secondly, understanding why Jesus said what the person would have duplicated. Thirdly, the person then seeks to apply what he/she would have fully understood. Fourthly, the person communicates with others, what he/she would have fully understood, as also applying it in his/her daily life. This is simply, a description of what Christianity entails.
Christianity is not about what other people say, or what Church leaders say, necessarily. But what Jesus says to the individual concerned. Interestingly, Jesus also stated that Christians would be judged individually, at His second-coming. It is not a question of what group members say. But what Jesus says to those having committed themselves to following Christ.
Most Church leaders assume that being a pastor implies pontification over new members who are viewed as ordinary. But in Jesus, such undertaking is absolutely in error. Paul, was clearly used by God more profoundly, than the other apostles. Yet Paul did not have the privilege of personal relationship with Jesus, like the other apostles.
Imagine Ananias—having baptized Paul to become an apostle—yet Ananias was not even one of the apostles. A truly converted Christian cannot have guts to superintend over other Christians. While it is trendy for Christian leaders to superintend over other Christians, all over the world, that does not mean God approves of that reality.
Otherwise Jesus would not have likened the person who fails to apply His words to the one who built his house on sand. If Jesus is the one who said no-one should superintending over others, why should that be a problem to some people? This is why the apostle Paul declared:
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2) (ESV).
There is a lot that one can benefit from interacting with others. But what is of value is appreciating that every good word primarily comes from God. There is no need to consider the outlook or the background of the person used to reveal these mysteries. What is important is whether what is said comes from Jesus, or not. In God, all are equal, and no-one is special.
Of course, others are used by God in magnificent ways. Yet others are used in ways appearing as insignificant. Yet it is still Christ deserving to be always given due glory. It is therefore, important to pray for the spiritual eyes rather than the eyes that are limited to physical things. There is also a need to pray for the spiritual ears to hear rather than limiting oneself to physical ears.
While Jesus walked on this planet in person, He still walks in person, during our time, as in the first century. The problem is that He may use the least expected individuals in preaching the gospel. But, one of the reasons why Jesus was crucified, was that people least expected Him to be the Messiah. If Jesus was unpopular to the religious people of His time, He is still unpopular to the religious people of our time.
Anyone is safe, as long as committing one’s allegiance to Jesus, rather than to a denomination, or any other human leader. Some people appear as more imposing and respectable than others. Yet others appear as despicable. The test should always be on what Jesus taught. The negligence of highest proportion is failure to compare what Jesus taught, against what other people say.
There is no need to idolize people. Yet there is also no need to despise people. There is need to love people, just as Christ loves all people. The Christian duty ought to be to allow Christ—to do His will, only. While appearing as if that is a mammoth task, this is simplest of all tasks. Christ would have taken over—leaving the individual without the heavier burdens of this world (Matthew 11:28-29).
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from 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 reliefs to those having witnessed 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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