Be Alert

Some parts of the NT message are awkward, or difficult, or really challenging, or all three!

In the media we see appalling stuff coming from within the ranks of the trusted. The crimes are deplorable, and, I think, unacceptable.

What about contradictory thinking, where the message is diluted, distorted, adulterated, or truncated, from within?

Why are the NT injunctions, warnings and cautions neglected, or not taken into account? Where do I see appropriate serious attention paid to these? Are they only aspirational ideals? Is it all just too hard?

Consider the (following) parts of what Jesus said.

31 When he (Judas) was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him,[c] God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.
33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”John 13 (NIV)
  • Is Jesus saying disciples are shown to be authentically his by the way they treat each other? 

Don’t condemn others, and God won’t condemn you. God will be as hard on you as you are on others! He will treat you exactly as you treat them. 
(I have omitted verses) 
13 Go in through the narrow gate. The gate to destruction is wide, and the road that leads there is easy to follow. A lot of people go through that gate. 14 But the gate to life is very narrow. The road that leads there is so hard to follow that only a few people find it.

15 Watch out for false prophets! They dress up like sheep, but inside they are wolves who have come to attack you. 16 You can tell what they are by what they do. No one picks grapes or figs from thornbushes. 17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that produces bad fruit will be chopped down and burned. 20 You can tell who the false prophets are by their deeds.

21 Not everyone who calls me their Lord will get into the kingdom of heaven. Only the ones who obey my Father in heaven will get in. 22 On the day of judgment many will call me their Lord. They will say, “We preached in your name, and in your name we forced out demons and worked many miracles.” 23 But I will tell them, “I will have nothing to do with you! Get out of my sight, you evil people!” Matthew 7 (CEV)

24 Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. 25 But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. 26 When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew.
27 “The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’
28 “‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed.
“‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked.
29 “‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’” 
(I have omitted verses)
37 Jesus replied, “The Son of Man[d] is the farmer who plants the good seed. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one. 39 The enemy who planted the weeds among the wheat is the devil. The harvest is the end of the world,[e] and the harvesters are the angels.
40 “Just as the weeds are sorted out and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the world. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!
Matthew 13 (NLT)

Is Jesus saying
  • the crowd of his disciples will inevitably include fakes?
  • conspicuous good deeds do not change the reality?
  • there is no way to separate all the false and it should not be tried?
  • the false have a final destiny of exclusion?
  • contradictory things that both simultaneously apply?
“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.
(I have omitted verses)
15 “If your brother or sister[b] sins,[c] go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’[d] 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.  Matthew 18 (NIV)

Is Jesus saying that
  • the false will try to deceive the true?
  • grave trouble comes to his disciples through human agencies (accepted amongst them, but false)?
  • God takes sides?
  • offences are to be confronted?
How about the Apostle Paul - what had he to say on this area?
17 My friends, I beg you to watch out for anyone who causes trouble and divides the church by refusing to do what all of you were taught. Stay away from them! 18 They want to serve themselves and not Christ the Lord. Their flattery and fancy talk fool people who don’t know any better. 19 I am glad that everyone knows how well you obey the Lord. But still, I want you to understand what is good and not have anything to do with evil. 20 Then God, who gives peace, will soon crush Satan under your feet. I pray that our Lord Jesus will be kind to you.
Romans 16 (CEV)

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral persons— 10 not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since you would then need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother or sister[c] who is sexually immoral or greedy, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber. Do not even eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge? 13 God will judge those outside. “Drive out the wicked person from among you.”  1 Corinthians 5 (NRSV)

How well is the Apostle actually reflecting Jesus in specific circumstances?
('immoral' needs interpreting, doesn't it! 'New Living Translation' and 'The Message' offer guidance.)

Taking these passages seriously surely means the failings are all too predictable. (Granted the need to make judgements re 'little ones' and 'immoral', I am supposed to be forewarned, and cautioned.) Saddened but hardly surprised. The failures are not excused - I am not excused. This is serious stuff. Yes, forgiveness from God is available. That does not mean breaches should be condoned and the ranks kept intact as before. Clearly our laws should be properly applied, without fear or favour, and with no shielding. (Apart from care for victims, that is the first consideration.)

OK - yes, I agree, it is far from easy to apply these passages in our lives. This is particularly true because we operate so much in institutional settings. I am not going there...

Of course some people may find reasons to set aside or treat as optional (these) parts of the NT. (Thus, sadly, to fulfil the descriptions.)

The escape clauses:
  • Only John has the discourse(s) which are dissimilar to Jesus the Teacher in the synoptics.  The author has used "more freely his own modes of thought and language in reporting and interpreting the teaching of Jesus" (Oxford*). So - how can we know what Jesus actually commanded?
  • The weeds parable is unique to Matthew - nothing like it anywhere else, so, of questionable authenticity?
  • The resolution procedure is unique to Matthew - nothing like it anywhere else, so, of questionable authenticity?
  • Luke does not have the strident warnings about eyes,  and feet - so ....?
  • How could the pre-ascension Jesus be talking about the 'church', even with a small 'c'? (How indeed; translation issue - though all the major versions have the same?)
  • That Apostle! 
Conclusion: I do not think this post (originally titled 'Unheeded?') has exhausted the central issue, which is tricky in our day. (Probably the issue always was.) Do pray and be alert!

Postscript: Heresy trial? No comment! That procedure belongs to an institutional approach which I am avoiding.
Oxford*: The New Oxford Annotated Bible; New Revised Standard Version (OUP, 1991), p 124NT

Scripture quotations marked (CEV) are from the Contemporary English Version Copyright © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.

Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NRSV) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.