The Jesus Hermeneutic

I’m adapting and expanding below a comment that I made in response to a post at Jay Guin’s insightful blog post: CENI: A Better Way – The Gospels because, on reflection, I didn’t say all that I wanted to say:

Are all of the imperatives in the New Testament to be interpreted as commands? instructions? suggestions? Which ones are which? Just the ones from Jesus? Just the ones from Paul? Peter? John?

The basic premise of conservative thought, I believe, is “We don’t know (but we don’t want to admit it), so to be safe, let’s just say that all of them are commands.” I can kind of respect that as a “safe” proposition, but the underlying assumption seems to be that God will always incinerate us with fire from above like Nadab and Abihu for any supposed infraction of unexpressed commands. I can’t buy that. That’s not consistent with the nature of the God who gave His Son as a sacrifice for our sins and is not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9.

Are we really called to try to be safe sinners in the hands of an always-angry God? Or to be, at least in some measure, risk-takers with our hearts filled with His instructions (which speak of His love for us and His desire for us to have the best kind of lives)?

The old law said stone the Sabbath-breaker (Numbers 15:32-36).

Jesus said the Sabbath was made for man, not vice-versa (Mark 2:27) and He was Lord of it (v. 28). That’s not stated as law (though it certainly put Him at risk!).

To me, the question is: Do we have be on the edge of our seats in such fear of God’s wrath that we must regard every imperative, every example in New Testament scripture as (potential? binding?) command … or should we trust God and trust also in Jesus? Did He come to make it more difficult to have a relationship with God (Matthew 5:48) or to point out that no one can be perfect, so He served as our atonement to establish that relationship (Romans 3:21-26)?

I tend toward the latter – and I know that makes me a damnable heretic to a good number of my brothers and sisters in Christ – but my sense of His teaching is that we’re here to trust the Master, take some risks in order to do His will and help earn Him some results , and if we don’t do that, we are indeed in danger of being cast into the outer darkness.

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

” ‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'” ~ Matthew 25:14-30

Please body-block me if I’m wrong about this. But isn’t Jesus, in this story, condemning the cowardly servant because he only feared and distrusted his master, leading to his very fiscally conservative – but unproductive – actions?

In fact, if there was ever a more clear story in scripture about violating God’s unexpressed expectations, isn’t this it – far beyond the story of Nadab and Abihu? I realize that this story is not expressly about gathered worship and therefore does not serve the purpose of some who would otherwise cite it to prove their point, but in this story the master never once tells the servants to invest his money. He entrusts it to them according to their ability, but never says, “Make it grow!”

Sandwiched right there between the parable of the unprepared and prepared virgins and the metaphor of the sheep and the goats, here is this convicting parable that essentially says, What do you not understand about why God has entrusted you with all the good things in your life – especially the Story of His Son, Jesus? Do you think it’s all just for YOU?

The servants who had worked for the master in the parable knew he wanted results (just look at the lazy servant’s estimation of him). And it’s the same with us; we know from Jesus’ ministry, His message, the sending of twelve and seventy(-two), the Great Commission … we know He wants results! He doesn’t have to tell us in this story – He’s emphasizing it by its conspicuous absence, just as the story of Esther emphasizes God’s care and intervention only implicitly.

I asked some questions in the first couple of paragraphs about which imperatives should be regarded as commands. This story is not an imperative. It is not strictly an example. It’s really stretching the definition to call this an inference, necessary or not. It’s a parable. It’s the way Jesus chose to teach a good part of the time, for His own reasons (Matthew 13:10-17). Yet, I consider it just as binding on us any other teaching Jesus shared. The tone of His words is teaching, instruction – though this is deep and profound and hard teaching, near the close of His mortal days and ministry in His own flesh. And so were the instructions of the Holy Spirit through Paul, Peter, John and the other writers of New Testament scripture. If we can’t see the epistles through the lens of the gospels rather than the telescope of the old law, our focus is off and our hermeneutic is fatally flawed.

God did the “law” covenant with a maturing human race. It served its purpose as tutor, instructor, guardian. At the fullness of time, we needed a new and better covenant (Hebrews 7:22; 8:6; 12:24): not a law that no one could keep, but an agreement of grace offered and accepted; a contract of debt paid in full; a perfect Example and Pattern of self-sacrifice that would tug our hearts outward toward Him and others, rather than inward and self-ward; a teaching so full of abundant life that it was spoken and lived and murdered and yet could not be kept dead.

This is the Jesus hermeneutic.

It’s seeing scripture pointing forward to, directly at, or back toward Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God, Savior, Redeemer, Master, Teacher.

I said a few paragraphs ago that the parable of the talents is not about gathered worship, and strictly speaking, it isn’t. But it is about worship, the life of worship (Romans 12:1) to which God calls us, and wants for us to have, and wants to use in order to work His will through us and yield a great return: more souls who know Him, more souls who love Him, more souls who will share His love and His Story.

34 thoughts on “The Jesus Hermeneutic

  1. Keith, this is an excellent post not because it says what my itching ears want to hear but because it takes an honest look at God in a way that is respectful to the way God reveals himself to us in scripture. We cannot have a “build-a-bear” type God where we make him out to be who we want him to be with his priorities in line with our own.

    We have to take God at His word. To have a view that any error is destined to lead one to eternal damnation is to say God is lying about his mercy and grace. It is to call Jesus a liar that he was able to sum up all the law and prophets through just two commands, neither of which said anything about instrumental music or fill in the blank.

    Yet that is just too liberating for people who want to be told every little detail or else fear they might get something wrong and be lost forever. Our problem is not incorrect doctrine. That is just the symptom. The problem is a poor and uninformed (or at least limited and proof-texted) view of God.

    • Part two of the problem, Matt, is those who “fear they might get something wrong and be lost forever” have been so conditioned by those infected with the disease of Diotrephes, “who loves to be first.” The hunger for control and power, the inability to internalize Mark 10-type leadership, imprisons people and — like Brooksy in “The Shawshank Redemption,” they eventually become institutionalized and need the walls and the bars because freedom is just too much.

  2. Thanks, Matt and Jason.

    I’ve posted before about the view of God that some of our traditions imply – < HREF="" REL="nofollow">A Cappella and the Ancient of Days<>, and < HREF="" REL="nofollow">How Do You See God?<> are a couple of examples – but you’re right, Matt: too many folks “who want to be told every little detail or else fear they might get something wrong and be lost forever” dismiss the Bible’s clear teachings on God’s merciful (as well as just) nature as the subjective perceptions of liberalism.

  3. Keith,

    This is stellar writing, and I’d humbly take it a step further by combining it with some of NT Wright’s historical interpretation.

    When Wright deals with that parable, he comes from the perspective that when Jesus tells it, the disciples cannot possibly be thinking of the Second Coming.

    They’re going to hear the parable in a blend of two ways: the historical allusion to what happened after the sons of Herod the Great went to Rome to receive their titles; and the rabbinic teaching of a master who left and came back, which always referred to YHWH coming back to Zion.

    Mainly, they’re gonna hear the parable differently than we think, because they’re *not* going to hear it as “the master’s getting ready to leave” but as “the master’s getting ready to return” (which is why it fits so well with the ten virgins). Just like Isaiah and Malachi said, YHWH is following “the forerunner” and he is coming to Zion.

    The reason I think that is important is because that understanding of the parable suggests that every implication you’ve drawn from it has already found fulfillment in YHWH’s judgment of Israel. If we’re still waiting for the parable to be fulfilled, then drawing conclusions from it is a lot more tenuous.

    So not only do I think you’re correct, I think that God’s judgment against 1st century Israel for fearfully misrepresenting Him confirms your points.

    in HIS love,

    PS – you are now going on my roll! Sorry I have forgotten for so long!

  4. ” … seeing scripture pointing forward to, directly at, or back toward Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God, Savior, Redeemer, Master, Teacher.”

    My own study of the Bible led me to conclude this is the way it should be read several months ago.

    It seems like it should be common sense for anyone with a general understanding of the Bible, but it wasn’t for me.

    I appreciate you emphasizing it.

  5. Preach it. I would agree that we should use our spiritual gifts everywhere…whenever God calls upon us to use them.

    There are several scriptures which encourage each and every member to use their gifts in worship…(I Cor.14.26)that EVERYONE (not just the minister and worship team)has been given a hymn, a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or interpretation…We do need to encourage EVERYONE to participate and give each person (from children to blue hairs) the opportunity to minister and strengthen the church. I have never seen that happen in a church (other than a house church).

    Great post, Keith.

  6. I think you are right, and I love the line. If infraction is going to lead to fire. This is just not true. A very insightful point.

  7. I agree that to “err” on the side of caution is to still “err”.

    But I don’t see that you articulated a genuine hermeneutic either.

    Your third paragraph that purports to articulate the conservative view, although strawy as it is, is more defined than your view.

    What is your “Jesus Hermeneutic”?

    You said, “we’re here to trust the Master, take some risks in order to do His will and help earn Him some results , and if we don’t do that, we are indeed in danger of being cast into the outer darkness.”
    How can one take a risk in your world if there is no risk? His only instructions as I here you articulate them are: ‘Just Do It For God’. Since the Just and the Do and the It are all non defined — where is the risk?.

    I have never gone into a situation with “risk” in mind where: what I did and how I did it and when I did it and where I did it and why I did it and whether or not I actually did that very thing or some other thing or no thing at all mattered—- how is that “risky”?

    Just wondering

  8. Ancient Wanderer, with all due respect, I have outlined a < HREF="" REL="nofollow">hermeneutic<>, which is a way of looking at text, particularly scripture, or a way to interpret it. The hermeneutic I propose is to see scripture pointing to Jesus; it tells His Story; it communicates Jesus’ teachings and instructions as the capstone of God’s will for us because of His great love for us – but most importantly, it communicates God’s grace in the sacrifice of His Son to atone for our sins.

    The hermeneutic you have used with regard to this post is to see it as advocating no rules, no law and therefore no risk. (“How can one take a risk in your world if there is no risk? His only instructions as I here you articulate them are: ‘Just Do It For God’. Since the Just and the Do and the It are all non defined — where is the risk?.”) I don’t believe I said anything of the sort in this post. I have simply said that scripture is not ALL rules, laws and requirements – nor is it PRINCIPALLY commandments, ordinances and statutes – and it should not be viewed as such.

    It does contain some, which Jesus compacts into two guiding principles (“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself”) and one commandment (“…that you love one another as I have loved you.”) All other instructions flow from these, the “perfect that gives freedom.”

    If we are looking for a hermeneutic to provide a method by which we can assure ourselves of our own righteousness by determining all the rules, following them flawlessly and drawing lines of fellowship based on it, then we devalue the blood of Christ as the only method of providing righteousness, call the epistle to the Hebrews a lie by trying to turn the gospel into nothing more than law, and arrogantly deem ourselves as qualified as God to judge the souls and motives of others.

    I’ve written plenty of other posts about hermeneutics (they’re < HREF="" REL="nofollow">linked<> at the right) which ought to refute the perception that I’m advocating “no rules,” and see no need to try to summarize them in every post I write.

  9. Thank you for directing me to the definition of “Hermeneutic” I always get that confused with the character Fred Gwen played.

    Now that we both understand Hermen Eutic and not Herman Munster, I still don’t see how your hermeneutic leads one to an interpretation and understanding of Scripture.

    BTW: I never said anything about no rules. I just didn’t see the risk in a WWJD hermeneutic if I don’t “know” Jesus.

    When God walked this earth what was His hermeneutic?
    Before God came here in the flesh was there a “godly” hermeneutic?
    It would seem to me that Scripture is Scripture no matter when (temporally) it is interpreted?
    Is there a different hermeneutic for the various ages.
    I know that dispensations are a “no-no” but is there “Dispensational Hermeneutics”?

    Can we say that since there is a “Jesus Hermeneutic” then hermeneutics is a recent phenom?

    And if it is a “recent” phenom, can one who is a Jesus Hermeneutician(sp)even understand the Old Testament. Or was it written with the “Jesus Hermeneutic” in mind and is it (can it now) only truly be understood by Jesus people?

  10. Ancient Wanderer, you said: “I still don’t see how your hermeneutic leads one to an interpretation and understanding of Scripture.”

    Try it for a while! You might like it.

  11. The Jesus Hermeneutic is another way of describing missional hermeneutics.

    In missional hermeneutics, we understand Scripture to be a tool that God is using to fulfill his. redemptive mission towards His creation.

    As Jesus is the fulfillment of the mission of God (Lk 24:44-47), all of Scripture can be effectively read, internalized, and lived out by working within missional hermeneutics, or the Jesus hermeneutic.

  12. It just sounds like a “whatever I do in the name of Christ” is Christian.
    So why bother with hermeneutics?

    I understand the theory/concept of “I am therefore I Christian”.
    But I still don’t see why anyone would malign any other “hermeneutic” simply because it wasn’t their way.

    Isn’t that attitude anti-missional?

    I understand He “sent them” but He sent them after the promises of John 16.5-16.

    You said, “In missional hermeneutics, we understand Scripture to be a tool that God is using to fulfill his. redemptive mission towards His creation.”

    What does that even mean?

    I don’t necessarily want set rules or standards or massive limitations let’s not even go there, I never did. But when the house is on fire I want more than, “There is an opening found in certain domiciles which is a tool for extracting one’s self. How you deem the use of that door for yourself is a matter of missional burned alive.”

    There has to be at least one “Hey the door is right here.” statement in all of this Jesus – Missional, Hermeneutical chaos. 😉

    But I don’t think there is. Missional seems to have derived itself from a group of college students sitting around in a dorm and free associating. It’s almost hermeneutics on acid.

    You said “tool”. OK, hammer – crowbar – spoon. See, concepts that are real, tangible they become real, concrete with words that have meaning. What are the “WORDS” that describe- Jesus/Missional- hermeneutics?

    You know God could have been so missional that He never actually came to earth in the flesh. But, now that I think about in these terms, the fact that He did is actually (missionally speaking) irrelevant to redemption.

  13. I think I’m having as much difficulty understanding you, AW, as you seem to be having understanding me. Or more!

    Sorry if I’ve been unclear. “WWJD” and “‘Whatever I do in the name of Christ’ is Christian” … I don’t understand how you’re reaching these conclusions about what I’ve written in this post or elsewhere.

    I don’t think I’m maligning a hermeneutic I don’t agree with. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve blogged before that “Command, Example, Necessary Inference” has some value when you actually are dealing with passages of scripture that are law. (Ah, yes, here it is: < HREF="" REL="nofollow">The Comprehensive Hermeneutic<>.) What I disagree with is the idea that one way of looking at scripture is the only one that has value – and I’m proposing that an overarching way of looking at scripture that can be extraordinarily helpful is to see where it points to Jesus.

    That takes my focus off of me and what I want to accept or reject as binding in scripture and puts the focus on Jesus: ; what He did; what He taught; how He lived (and died, and rose again); how He takes away sin.

    Is that any clearer?

  14. i couldn’t agree more with your criticism regarding relating to God in fear versus trust.

    what do you think about two things though:

    (1) In John, Jesus repeatedly states that he only acts on the Father’s initiative. Is Jesus MO here not a model for how we should behave?

    (2) i was going to put a couple different things for “(2)”, but then i realized that underlying them is an unclear understanding of exactly what you see as the continuity and discontinuity between the OT and the NT. Did God intend through the OT Law for Jews to relate to Him only in terror? Did God intend to give a Law no one had the capacity to obey? Did Jesus fail to obey the Law? Did Jesus teach people to disobey the Law? What ought we (NT Christians) to learn from stories like Nadab and Abihu?

  15. Super post, my brother!

    My guess is that some try and understand the hermeneutic you advocate through an institutional lens, filter, or mindset……and it just can’t be done. Won’t happen. So, you can explain until you are blue in the face, and it won’t do any good.

    Anyway, thanks again for this wonderful post!

    P.S. Missed you at Pepperdine….again!! 🙂 When are you coming back?

  16. Reborn, obviously, I’m not Keith–I’m sure he’ll be back w/some wonderful answers to your questions–but I’d like to throw in my two cents anyway and say, regarding #2, that the more I study the Bible, the more continuity (and thus, the less discontinuity) I begin to see between the OT and NT. I think (my personal opinion) is that the OT Law was given to give the Jews (and us, as we are able to look back on it) an idea of Who God Is, and who they (we) were (are) in relation to Him. I don’t think that God gave the OT Law, intending for the Jews to relate to Him only in terror, as He proves Himself to be a loving God, caring for the people, providing for them, and forgiving them, over and over again. But as much as God is love, He is also holy, and the Jews (we) needed to understand that. He is the Creator, we are the created. He is Perfect, and we, as a fallen creation, will never be…at least not without His help!

    You ask, “Did God intend to give a law no one had the capacity to obey?” I don’t think He purposely made out a list of rules/regulations that no one could keep. I do believe He laid out standards for holy living and expected them to do their best to live up to those standards…at the same time knowing that none could keep it perfectly…which would make them realize the need for His help! He had them offer sacrifices for sins…at the same time knowing that none of those sacrifices could take away sin. Keith’s post here is about seeing how Scripture points to Jesus, and I think that’s how the Law helped to do that. I believe the Apostle Paul even states something to that effect in Galatians…that the law was put in place to lead to Christ.

  17. In the NT, we get to see how Christ really was the fulfillment of that Law. “Did Jesus fail to obey the Law? Did Jesus teach people to disobey the Law?” Hardly! He taught the people what it REALLY meant. They had taken the Law and treated it like that list of rules/regulations, and that’s why I think the Jews struggled with it, and with recognizing Jesus for Who He Is. In treating the Law like a checklist, they said to themselves, “I’ve not coveted, I’ve not lied, I’ve not stolen, I’ve not committed adultery, I’ve not murdered, I’ve honored my parents, I’ve kept the Sabbath, etc, etc…check, check, check, check, check, check, check…” With that mindset, rather than recognizing their own need for a Savior, they began to believe that they were righteous <>on their own,<> when, in reality, no one could be justified before God and righteous before Him without Christ’s perfect sacrifice.

    Jesus, in His teaching, taught the people that the <>heart<> of that Law was really…well, the heart!. I gain the best understanding of this from His Sermon on the Mount, which my Sunday morning class just began a study on last week! It’s long been one of my favorite passages of the Bible and is definitely my favorite of all of Christ’s teachings. Rather than just not committing adultery, Jesus says not to lust after another. Rather than just not murdering, Jesus says not to hate. Later, He says that the entire law can be summed up by two commands: (1) Love God and (2) Love others. He tries to teach the people that the attitude of their hearts is more important than their actions. Not that I’m saying actions are not important…but invariably, the actions of a person will reflect the attitude of the heart. To me, these teachings of Jesus are very much in line with the OT Law/Prophets. Over and over again in the OT, God makes it abundantly clear that He wants us to love Him and others. He wants us to treat others with justice, kindness, and mercy. These are even emphasized over keeping the Law. Several favorite passages of scripture come to mind…Isaiah 58, Amos 5:21-24, Micah 6:6-8.

  18. So what are we, as NT Christians, supposed to learn from stories like Nadab and Abihu??? Good question! I’m not sure I have an answer. I think it’s important to try understand them in the context of what happened…and also to try to understand them within the context of our knowledge of Who God Is. Stories like Nadab and Abihu are not confined to the OT. The same God causes the same thing to happen to Ananias and Sapphira. People did something contrary to His command, and He punished them.

    But there are also stories like Hezekiah, who consecrated the Temple and gathered a very large crowd in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, although it was not the proper time and the people were not properly consecrated. But they did it anyway, contrary to what was commanded. But Hezekiah prayed to the Lord, asking Him to forgive them and honor their seeking Him. People did something contrary to His command, and He accepted it.

    The only way, in my mind, to reconcile these differing scenarios is to look at what was different between the two. Unfortunately, we’re not given all the details. The only explanation I have is that God knows the hearts of men. He knew that Hezekiah and His people were truly seeking Him. Is it possible that Nadab and Abihu were not??? We’re not given that information (though I’ve heard more than one commentator suggest that there’s a possibility that they might’ve been drunk, given God’s instructions to Aaron in Lev. 10:8-11.) I think perhaps a small portion of insight is gained in what is said of the Lord right after Nadab and Abihu were consumed with fire. Moses points out that the Lord said, “Among those who approach me I will show myself holy. In the sight of all the people I will be honored.” This gives me the impression that Nadab and Abihu, God’s priests charged with the task of teaching the people the Lord’s decrees, were not seeking to honor the Lord .

    Now the question remains, why doesn’t the Lord treat everyone in this manner? I know I’ve done my share of being self-centered and self-seeking, rather than seeking to honor Him. I can’t begin to have an answer for that one. I only know that I’m forever grateful that our God, Who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, still remains slow to anger and abounding in love.

    (That might’ve been more than two cents’ worth…sorry.)

  19. reborn, I just got home from my daughter’s sixth grade graduation. I can understand why you’d want to group a bunch of questions behind the number 2, what with the cost of pixelating extra numbers skyrocketing these days!

    If by question one you mean, “Should we act as God wants us to act?” I’d say absolutely yes. If you mean, “Should we act as Jesus did with God’s own authority?” I’d have to say that I’m not aware of anyone since Jesus who has the chops to do that.

    2a. (I’ll handle the expense for these extra numbers; it’s okay.) “Did God intend through the OT Law for Jews to relate to Him only in terror?” No. (< HREF="" REL="nofollow">Deuteronomy 6:5<> <>et al<>)

    2b. “Did God intend to give a Law no one had the capacity to obey?” Don’t have the chops to answer that. Don’t know what God knows, or His intentions fully. Did He give a Law that no one could fully obey? Yes. (< HREF="" REL="nofollow">Romans 3:23<>, < HREF="" REL="nofollow">5:12<> <>et al<>)

    2c. “Did Jesus fail to obey the Law?” No. (< HREF="" REL="nofollow">Hebrews 4:15<>)

    2d. “Did Jesus teach people to disobey the Law?” No. He taught people to love, and therefore fulfill the law. (< HREF="" REL="nofollow">Romans 13:8<>)

    2d-prime. (My question:) “Did Jesus change the law?” Yes, as exemplified above. [Jesus said the Sabbath was made for man, not vice-versa (Mark 2:27) and He was Lord of it (v. 28). ] He has the chops.

    2e. “What ought we (NT Christians) to learn from stories like Nadab and Abihu?” Well, specifically from that story: “Don’t disobey God. Don’t show contempt for God by doing something you know He does not approve of. Don’t lead worship while drunk.” I think those are all reasonable conclusions we can draw from that story. From the epilogue of the Nadab-and-Abihu story we’re all familiary with, we can infer from the Eleazar-and-Ithamar story (< HREF=";&version=31;" REL="nofollow">Leviticus 10:16-20<>) that God does not always immediately punish disobedience with fire from His presence. In this case, perhaps, a period of mourning for their two disobedient brothers made it permissible to let the entire sin offering be consumed by fire when perhaps they didn’t feel much like eating it. Personally, I think it possible that their brothers’ sin was in their disrespect; that Eleazar and Ithamar’s forgiveness (Moses’ satisfaction) resulted from their respect for God, who alone was worthy of the entire sin sacrifice. They “got” what worship is about.

    That’s pure opinion, though.

  20. Well, golly, AW … if you can’t state your opinion on your own blog, where can you?

    (I do try to label my opinions with “I think” or “I believe,” rather than just stating them as fact that should be accepted without question.)

    I just got the feeling that you and I weren’t arguing toward a mutual understanding … we were just arguing. I apologize for that.

  21. Thanks for the interesting thoughts. I find the concept of spiritual “risk” particularly facsinating. I grew up being taught the dangers of “moral relativism” and “situational ethics” — you know, it’s NEVER acceptable to lie, kill, etc. So I would hear stories about things likie heroic escapes from E to W Berlin…all involving lies & deception, and my little mind could only wonder about the rightness of such actions juxtaposed to the “rule” logic that was ingrained in me. Can it ever be “right” to do “wrong”?

    And then there’s Jesus. Unquestionably willing to disregard the “rules” that were intended to foster goodness in order to do better (& best) for others. Hmm…sounds “situational” to me! “Oh…but it’s a slippery slope”, comes the warning. By what standard can one make such deviations from the rules? In Jesus’ example, the motivation seems to have been selfless (a critical key, I think). Are there instances in my own life where I might be called to break the proverbial Sabbath in order to save another? Like the Good Samaritan, would I be willing to make myself unclean in order to give the dying a chance at life? Surely the One who cleaned me the first time will judge my motivation justly…and cleanse me again.

    There is a great scene in the movie “Last of the Mohicans” that illustrates the principle for me. A British officer has just given himself to a native tribe for the release of other prisoners. As those who have been released escape the camp, the British officer is tied up and is being burned alive at the stake. Hawkeye, the Daniel Day-Lewis character, runs into the woods, where he immediately gets a musket, takes aim, and puts the British officer out of his misery. Is this a justified kill? There is only One who can judge. I hope that as I am challenged to pull the spiritual trigger, I’ll rise to the occassion with courage. In the meantime, I’ll continue to pray that my heart would be supple in His hands…molded/transformed into His image so that my motivations will be pure when put to the test, and that my actions will bring Him all the glory.

  22. Murry, I hope none of us is ever forced to make a Hawkeye choice – the kind of risk I really had in mind is the more everyday kind: the risk of professing Jesus at the loss of your personal credibility or status, the risk of worshiping God in an extravagant way.

    For instance, Jesus’ criticism was not for the woman who anointed his feet with expensive fragrance, but for those who cared only about the cost of it, or her reputation sullying His. No one <>authorized<> it, yet it was beautiful and prophetic.

    Eighteen hundred, nineteen hundred years ago … followers of Christ made risky decisions to honor God. Rather than call Caesar “Lord,” they would forfeit their jobs, wealth, homes, families and lives – because the prophets and servants of God before them had been so persecuted (< HREF=";&version=31;" REL="nofollow">Hebrews 11:32-40<>). Now <>that’s<> risk.

  23. I think any hermeneutic that does not deal responsibly with the person, mission and purpose of Jesus is suspect. Good call for keeping Jesus at the center.

  24. Thanks for the response, Keith. I used the “Hawkeye” example because it is stark. I remember seeing that movie and wondering, “Would I have the courage?”

    As to everyday courage to risk our own sense of standing, position, reputation, etc for “His sake”, I think we can all agree that we should be willing. Just as in the example you cited, over & over we see Jesus abandon the norms by which his standing would likely be judged in order to serve, seek, & save. At a minimum, we understand the principle intellectually, though actually living it out sometimes proves to be more difficult.

    I guess I’m wondering if there is an even greater level of Christ-like risk. Let me use another example to illustrate it.

    I’m a Firefighter/EMT. Some of the guys on my department have gone on to become Paramedics. There are certain skills an EMT can legally do, and a much greater set that medics can do. Let’s say that a medic can administer Epinephrine, but an EMT can’t. Now, imagine the following real-life scenario.

    You’re an EMT applying to medic school. Part of the application process is an oral interview. During the interview, you are asked what you would do (as an EMT) if you responded to a patient suffering an allergic reaction to a bee sting. You arrive to find the patient in shock & their airway almost completely occluded. The patient has a prescribed Epinephrine injector in his pocket. The responding medic is 12 minutes away, by which time the patient will likely be dead. It’s an 8 minute trip via ambulance to the hospital. What would you do? Would you support the airway as best you could and wait for the medic? Load & go to the hospital? Or would you give the Epi?

    Keep in mind, the question is posed as part of the application to get into medic school. Is the real question, “Do you know your protocols, regulations, and laws?” Or is the real question, “What drives & motivates you to want to be a medic…and if it is ‘saving lives’, are you willing to put yourself on the line (and crossways with perhaps everything you’ve been taught) in order to accomplish that task.”? An EMT CANNOT give Epi, and in doing so would become subject to all kinds of occupational and legal consequences. Still, believe it or not, I know of people who were denied entry into medic school because they stated they would have followed the rules and not given the Epi.

    It may just be a futile theoretical exercise, but is there any similar situation in the spiritual realm? Can there be an instance where I might be called to put at risk what by all accounts is my standing before God in order to accomplish His purpose? If there is, is that a risk I would be willing to take?

    In the case of Jesus: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor. 5:21 –> and THAT sounds like a pretty big risk!


    anyway i sure liked reading this post of yours.
    i don’t get out of j.m.h. blog much though…. 🙂
    blessings my friend
    rich constant

  26. Pingback: A Jesus Hermeneutic: Looking Again | Blog In My Own Eye

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