Things Jesus never said

Jesus covering faceAs we start our Lenten journey, I’ve been thinking about how easy it is for us to cheapen discipleship to the point it’s no longer recognizable. Certainly I often fail to follow Jesus when it involves risk or great cost, so I’m not pointing the finger at everyone else here. Rather I’m noticing how hard it is for all of us, especially for folks like, I suspect, many readers of 7WD who are likely to be pretty comfortable.

In our church — and in our liturgy — we often polish off the rough edges, the places that might push us. For example, instead of declaring things, clergy like to offer limp wishes. “May the peace of the Lord…” or “May God bless you…” Or rather than declare absolution, we express hope and refuse to use the priestly imperative. The prayer book gives us strong language in these places, and priests are meant to make strong declarations, not express weak hopes.

During Lent, it makes some folks uncomfortable to say, as the Book of Occasional Services requires, “Bow down before the Lord” before the Prayer Over the People (if you use that instead of a blessing). All this has gotten me thinking: maybe we need to remember, both in our lives and in our liturgy, that it’s hard, and often harsh, to be a Christian.

Personally, I like to leave the rough edges on, because they are reminders of what it means to follow Jesus. With that in mind, here’s the alternative: the anti-Gospel.

So here’s a list of things Jesus never said.

  1. Follow me, whenever you get done with more pressing matters.
  2. If you can, try not to sin any more.
  3. Please take your mat and walk, if you get a chance.
  4. Anyone who would be my disciple must love your family first, because that’s what really counts, and please fit your commitments to me around your prior family obligations.
  5. First, go and sell some of what you have, for instance last-year’s fashions, to a vintage shop, and then follow me.
  6. Whenever two or three are gathered, I will be there, so long as you’ve organized yourselves into a committee with a recording secretary.
  7. Repent, or at least think about it for a second, for the kingdom of God has come near, to hug you.
  8. I’m going to tell you a story about sheep and goats, but what I want you to notice is how cuddly both the goats and the sheep are. Srsly cute!
  9. Go ye therefore into all the world and, well, be nice. Be really, really nice.
  10. I am the Bread of Life, unless you are on a low-carb diet, in which case, I am the Lamb of God. Wha? Vegetarian?! Well, then I don’t know what to be for you.

Oh, and I highly recommend the #thingsjesusneversaid hashtag on Twitter. I only just now discovered it while I was looking for an illustrative image.

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7 Responses

  1. Anita Williams says:

    LONG ago,a faculty member at a small liberal arts college in the midwest put a sign up on his office door: “God so loved the world that he DIDN’T send a committee.”

  2. Jonathan Litzner says:

    Don’t forget, “God helps those who help themselves.”

  3. Brenda H. says:

    Is that actually in the Bible? Ben Franklin was credited for writing it in Poor Richard’s Almanac, but I’m not sure it was a direct quote from the Good Book.

    • jlewis433 says:

      It is not a paraphrase of anything in the Bible (in fact, the thought is contrary to everything the Bible tells us), and while Franklin did write “The Lord helps those who help themselves,” he was paraphrasing one of Aesop’s fables, more precisely the moral attached to one of those fables by a later ancient writer. Aesop’s fables were actually cast in the form of riddles, so to end one with a “moral” was like explaining a joke. An exact parallel can be found in Matthew 13, where the Parable of the Sower is followed by a later writer’s inept and wrongheaded “explanation” of the parable retroactively put in Jesus’ mouth. And to circle back to the beginning, the claim that “the Lord helps those who help themselves” is an example of “softening” the Gospel message to make it more palatable to the control freaks among the faithful. Have a blessed Lent, y’all!

  4. Lynn Marini says:

    As one who does not appreciate being told how I “ought to” or “should” interpret scripture or what to believe, I’m especially fond of of a point made by my spiritual director. “John 3:16 states, “God so loved THE WORLD”. The WORLD is all inclusive.”

  5. steve crocker says:

    hmm, Lynn. Keep reading that very verse and the following

  6. David Barbrow says:

    #10 for vegetarians… “living water”

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