Friday, August 26, 2011

Stop sinning!

by Tom Wise

How about a short and simple religious essay?

John the Baptist said, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 3:2).

Jesus said, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 4:17).

Coincidentally, Jesus happened to be Jewish. I know this because he was circumcised (Luke 2:21). If Jesus didn't want to be Jewish, he should have made that known right away. Thankfully, no anti-Semite was he! Too bad the same can't be said for Marx and Freud.

It's important to know that he was Jewish because Jesus wasn't saying anything new. Repentance is a Jewish idea and Jesus was repeating the essence of obedience, which is repentance. You can't be saved without it. You can't be purified without it. It's an ongoing process. Let's face it, you just can't stop sinning now, can you?!

Probably the most controversial of Jesus' sayings is "For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matt. 26:28). It's interesting that this is not repeated by Christ in any other gospel, and the offshoots of it don't have the same power. But what does it mean? Your friendly preacher will tell you that if you accept the blood of Jesus your sins are paid. Oh? "Remission" to me is "going away" not "paid off." Like cancer in remission, sin in remission is a healing, not a satisfied invoice.

Jesus said that his blood was shed so that many would stop sinning. Stop sinning! Get it? “I’m giving my blood so you will STOP SINNING!” Or, did he mean, “I’ll just go and die now, and you can just call on me whenever you feel like it. Then, I’ll swoop down and remove all the penalties of sin from you. Just like that, no obligation, nothing more to buy.” Well, that doctrine is not true either. In actuality, even to receive this “free gift” you have to give up your sinful ways. You have to learn Torah to even know what a sin is. You basically must start thinking Judaic. Did that just turn you off? I guess you don’t really want that Jewish Savior touching you then, do you?

You: The Law is dead.

Me: No, it’s not.

You: Yes, it is.

Me: No, it’s not. Without Law, you cannot break the Law.

You: But the Law died when I received Jesus.

Me: Did it? What rules were you thinking of following, o non-sinful one?

You: The Law of Love.

Me: What is that Law?

You: Love your neighbor as yourself.

Me: Where is that Law?

You: In the Bible!

Me: Where in the Bible?

You: (long pause) Jesus said it!

Me: Did he make it up?

You: No, it came from God.

Me: It’s in Torah.

You: Toe-what?

Me: Leviticus 19:17-18. Jesus didn’t think the Law was dead.

You: That’s the moral law! The cultist law is dead.

Me: Is it? Why do you take communion? Why do you have a cross?

You: You’re a Jew, aren’t you?

Me: (running)

Interestingly (puff, puff. pant), this is an actual conversation I have at least twice a year (minus the running). Christians seem to have some aversion to Law, like an allergy:

Christian: Oysters?

Me: I can’t eat shellfish because it’s against God’s Law.

Christian: Ah-choo! (or did she just yell “A Jew!”?).

The way I see it, the conversion to Christ is the actualization of the prophecies from Isaiah and Ezekiel. That is, Gentiles will beg the Jews to be a part of God’s people. Maybe that’s the way it started, but it quickly became, “What makes you so great, just because you invented monotheism?” and then, “Get ‘im!”

My understanding is not so odd. The Egyptians gave the Hebrews everything, including gold and clothing (not shoddy merchandise either!), just to get rid of them after the tenth plague. Some even decided to come along for the ride into the wilderness. Of course, when every other weekend is boils or hail, the choice becomes a bit clearer.

But I think the practicality of the matter is a better illustration. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, so long regarded as the pests they truly are, would be a much different experience if they understood “remission” correctly:

JH: (knocks on door)

You: (opening door) Can I help you?

JH: Stop sinning.

You: What?

JH: Stop sinning!!

You: Aren’t you a Jehovah’s Witness?

JH: That’s right.

You: Don’t you want to give me some literature?

JH: No, I want you to stop sinning. Good day.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I think that would make a greater impression on you than the latest Watchtower extolling the virtues of empowering single mothers for the cause of conversion. When it’s about “remittance” (free money), many are lined up. When it comes to “remission” (changing your life), the wait time is greatly diminished. It seems to me that the doctrine of salvation, as currently evangelized, sacrifices quality for quantity. More souls, not more great souls. I don’t want to be cynical, but it appears to be only to fill the pews and the coffers. Almost like Amway. Almost.

Look, nothing against having more people on board the monotheistic train, but what good is it to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob if you can’t even believe in His commandments? It’s not like wicked Christians are any better than wicked anyone else. If you don’t believe me, believe Christ. When asked, Jesus said that the way to eternal life was to keep the commandments (Matt. 19:17-19). I think he should know.

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