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By Their Fruit You Will Recognize Them

Posted by Roberta Grimes • June 06, 2015 • 10 Comments
Afterlife Research, Jesus, The Source, The Teachings of Jesus

Jesus in the Gospels warns us that wrong religious teachings can be recognized by the evils they bring. He says:

Turtle“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” (MT 7:15-20)

Christianity is based in a very long book called the Bible. The entire Christian Bible, composed of ancient Jewish and early Christian writings, is considered by Christians somewhat magically to be the Inspired Word of God. Given the way the books of the Bible were assembled by the early Church, this seems to me to be a dubious claim. Who are we to be putting words into God’s mouth? I once asked a fundamentalist friend how he could be so sure that a canon put together by a committee in the equivalent of smoke-filled rooms was absolutely all inspired by God. He told me confidently that God had worked through all the participants in those synods. No doubt! His answer reminded me of what had been said by a priest of a religion whose certain belief was that the world rides on the back of a turtle. When asked what the turtle was standing on, the priest had said confidently, “It’s turtles all the way down.”

In the same way, the Christian Bible is said to be God’s Word all the way down. And this seems to me to be the fatal flaw of modern Christianity.

I have read the whole Bible from cover to cover perhaps a dozen times. For decades I would read two or three pages every night, beginning with Genesis and going through to Revelation. Then I would go back to Matthew and read the New Testament through a second time before I began again with Genesis. It is this exercise of having actually read the Bible repeatedly that makes me confident that the entire Bible could not possibly be the Inspired Word of a loving and internally consistent God. Or even of a sane and rational God.

The fact that the Christian Bible doesn’t hold together as a coherent unit is a problem that Christianity could have addressed by declaring as a fundamental tenet that the Gospel words of Jesus are primary. Where there is a conflict – and there are many! – the teachings of Jesus should control. But perhaps because the Inspired Word of God cannot be seen to have inconsistencies, and because the teachings of Jesus are post-legal and require a Old-Testamentlifelong personal commitment, Christians have solved what should have been a big problem by making the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels no more than suggestions about how we should live. To Christians, Jesus is not their Teacher, but instead Jesus is the Lamb of God, sacrificed to redeem us from God’s judgment for our sins.

This distortion at the root of the Christian tree has stunted its growth in peculiar ways:

  • No one who actually reads the Gospels can believe that Jesus meant his teachings to be mere suggestions. By treating them that way, Christians betray the life’s work of the Teacher upon whom the religion is supposed to be based.
  • The core Christian doctrine of sacrificial redemption paints a terrible picture of what God is. Would you enjoy watching the murder of your own child? Of course not! What on earth kind of a monstrous Father could require the brutal murder of His beloved Son?
  • The Old Testament Books are full of a wrathful and often petty Jehovah God. Calling the Old Testament the Inspired Word of God teaches Christians to fear the genuine God. Since fear is the opposite of love, this emphasis makes it difficult for Christians to develop the loving relationship with God that is essential to a life of spiritual growth. Christianity distances its followers from the infinite and perfect love of God. For a religion to do that is inexcusable.
  • The Old Testament contains a host of cultural commands that Christians do not follow. From not wearing clothing blended of two kinds of fibers and not eating pork and separating meat from milk right through to the rules about how men can wear their hair and beards and harsh punishments for what we see as trivial infractions, a lot of the Old Testament is not followed by Christians. And indeed, it should not be followed now. These were rigid cultural rules for a harsher time thousands of years gone by. But by calling the Old Testament the Inspired Word of God and then not following parts of it, Christians are disrespecting their Deity. If it’s okay to disrespect God by ignoring parts of the Divinely-Inspired Old Testament, then what is to keep us from disrespecting God in other ways?
  • Catholics and Fundamentalist Christians take some of the Bible’s cultural rules as God’s Inerrant Word. For example, Fundamentalist Christians insist that creation has to have happened over only six days, that homosexuality is a grievous sin, that sexual contact outside marriage always is sinful, and that women must submit to men. Catholics historically have not allowed divorce or the use of birth control, and they have required priests to be celibate males and women to cover their heads in church. In being so adamant about enforcing these lesser and arguably outmoded cultural rules, Christians are ignoring the warnings of Jesus against enforcing unloving religious rules and also against self-righteously judging others.

I would argue that the religion that was founded in the name of Jesus bears so little relationship to what he taught that it is time either to change it radically or to begin to cProphets-150x150all it something else.

The greatest proof that Christians are wrong in building their religion around the whole Christian Bible is that – as our beloved Teacher warns us – Christianity today bears some terrible fruit:

  • Rather than spreading the teachings of Jesus about love and forgiveness, Christians battle only for cultural views. From the fight against homosexuality to the insistence that only the death of Jesus on the cross can get us into heaven, Christians share their religion’s misshapen fruit. In doing this, they give Jesus a terrible name before a world that badly needs his Gospel teachings.
  • Rather than demonstrating Jesus’s perfect love and forgiveness in their own lives, the most devout Christians try to live their lives by Old Testament rules. The Duggars of the longstanding TLC TV reality show, “19 Kids and Counting,” live by Biblical commands that require them to have as many children as possible becauseChildren are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” (Psalm 127:3-5) Other elements of the Duggars’ lifestyle, so peculiar to modern-day people, are similarly based in Biblical cultural rules. Their living this way does not advance God’s truth. Instead, it teaches modern people that Jesus must be outmoded, too.
  • Rather than focusing upon spreading awareness of the perfect love of God, the strictest Christians instead teach only their own culture-based beliefs. When it was lately revealed that the oldest Duggar son had years ago sexually molested his own sisters, there was another misshapen fruit of Christianity plain for us to see. But because their religion is not based in the teachings of Jesus, the Duggars exhibit no awareness of this core problem. Indeed, the news about Josh Duggar brought to light the fact that other fundamentalist Christians have been caught molesting children and in other ways behaving despicably by modern standards. More disgusting fruit of the very sort that Jesus in the Gospels suggests that we watch for so we can avoid false prophets. In burying the eternal Teachings of Jesus inside teachings and behavior that modern people find repugnant, Christianity continues to deny to the world the most essential set of truths that God has ever given to us.

I am sorry to be so blunt. I still fondly remember all the comforts of that old-time religion that for most of my life was good enough for me. But I have come to understand Jesus in Contemplationthat for us to be comfortable in a religion that we believe gives us personal salvation while we ignore the Gospel words of Jesus that the afterlife evidence now show us are true, we betray God. And we cheat our fellow man. Until Christianity reforms itself and begins to follow Jesus – and only Jesus! – we continue to delay the heaven on earth that is possible only when we live by God’s truth.

Lovingly, patiently, Jesus still calls to us. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations… teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (MT 28:19)

 

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/91008793@N00/4474930728″>Turtle Batsto Wharton Forest NJ 4927</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/pelegrino/4610934992/”>Nick in exsilio</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a> (smite)

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/18909153@N08/5954223821/”>Cross Duck</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a> (prophets)

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/36829113@N05/3393763298/”>angelofsweetbitter2009</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a> (Jesus)

Roberta Grimes

Roberta Grimes is an internationally recognized expert on death and the afterlife. Learn More

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10 thoughts on “By Their Fruit You Will Recognize Them

  1. Interesting thought experiment from last week. A friend asked, “Do you think Jesus ever said ‘no?'” After saying that I thought he must have, we went to what Jesus was like as a toddler. Things went to comedy. Can you imagine Mother Mary saying, “Jesus, please eat your figs!” and Jesus shaking his little head from side to side? And then when he was a kid, we both heard his mother saying: “Jesus! Pick up your dirty togas! Were you born in a barn?”

  2. Heh. Hello dear Mary! Jesus did indeed often said “no,” and forcefully. He said “no” to the moneychangers in the Temple:

    “Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. ‘It is written,’ he said to them, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’” (MT 21:12-13)

    He said “no” to the people who were putting religious traditions over the Word of God:

    “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?… You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’” (MT 15:3-9)

    I don’t think any of us would have wanted to get on Jesus’s bad side… ;-).

  3. Go Roberta!

    I am so thankful for your exploration into both the Old and New Testaments. You go girl!

    There are so few voices out there willing to take on the Psychotic personality of what people think was God in the Old Testament. Surely there is a disconnect between the God in the Old Testament and the God of Love and Compassion that Jesus taught.

    I thank you for the fact that even though you are a former religious person, you are coming out and speaking about the fact that none of this sits well with one who has researched assiduously the “kingdom” that both Testaments speak of.

    Makes me think the “God” of the Old Testament was not Jesus’ God but either a powerful controlling being or a reflection of the darker impulses of the people who were meant to read that fantastical work.

    It makes me shiver to hear people in press reports say that “God hates gays” or like the Duggars that women need to be subservient, or that God hates anything for that matter when the God of Jesus simply does not hate, full stop. Which makes me think these people are talking more about themselves than anything else which is quite revealing.

    The moment anyone speaks of hate, they would do well to challenge themselves to look within and see where and whence that emotion is originates.

    There, they will find a kernel of amplified fear that once embraced, will bring peace. Once peace is brought to one’s darker impulses, we then have the kind of love for one another that Jesus speaks of and exemplifies – where he even displayed love and forgiveness for his tormentors and those responsible for the atrocity they have committed: “They do not know what they do,” he says.

    In our modern times, where even out government has been involved with torture and those who have been responsible for it have granted themselves immunity from their hideous acts brings home the fact that even educated people whose acts are unchecked can do hideous things in the name of “democracy” – which means all of us!

    Thanks for being fearless in rooting out the hypocricy inherent in those who espouse God’s word but have failed to hear Jesus’ true message and reason for being an example for us all.

    I love this quote you gave which to me is one of the greatest of Jesus’ quotes about the hypocritical nature of us all when we are not aligned with the beauty of Jesus’ true message but are embroiled with our own hatred which is always based in fear:

    ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’” (MT 15:3-9)

    Roberta, You rock!

    Love, Pavel

    1. Pavel, you are such a star! Thank you for your wonderful thoughts here. It’s simple: the OT and most of the NT are man’s search for God. The Gospels are God’s search for man. When you realize that, you understand so much!

      I have been amazed as I have begun to speak out about this to find that so many people – including many professed Christians – have been more or less thinking the same thing but have thought that they were alone. Well, we’re not alone. Jesus is calling many of us to come forth and at last teach God’s perfect truth to all nations!

  4. As a retired fully ordained elder in the United Methodist Church I can share with you from experience that there were many people in the two churches I served who struggled with the conflict between the Old Testament and the Gospel teachings of Jesus. I believe that Roberta is correct in stating that both testaments are reflective of the times and people as they struggled to understand the nature of God and how God relates to God’s creation.
    I told those who struggled with the conflicts and discrepancies in the scriptures that the Bible reflected our concepts of God as we humans grew in understanding and maturity as spiritual beings.
    The God of Abraham was a local tribal entity serving the needs of a nomadic people seeking a home land. Reading numbers and deuteronomy we see instructions on how to erect the traveling tents and the transport of the Ark of the Covenant. The rules of behavior reflect a primitive people maintaining their identities as a tribe as they moved from place to place. Over time as the Hebrews obtained a country (through aggressive conflict), the scriptures reflected a God that supported a new agenda of an established country including the rules of engagement for destroying the indigenous tribes and keeping the lands they occupied. Jesus was a product of the teachings of the Old Testament who became an enlightened being and taught dramatically against the status quo of the Hebrew religion. Amazingly enough, in the developing church of New Testament Jesus became that which he taught so vehemently against…. a sacrifice for a God who needed appeasement. And so we end up with the actual teachings of Jesus, some of it corrupted but still shining through, and the dogma of the developing church calling for a return of the Davidic king (the Messiah ) and the restoration of Israel. Bring in Roman Emperor Constantine to codify and deify these writings while suppressing all conflicting views of the early church and viola we have the inerrant word of God.

    1. This is wonderful, Michael – thank you so much for sharing these bits of history here! As a college religion major, I studied how the Bible was assembled, but that was lo-o-ong ago. The Lord needs all of our voices now to help to liberate him from the religion that bears his name but does not teach what he taught, so at last we can bring these eternal truths to a world that desperately needs them!

  5. I agree with the above people who replied. This is an excellent article, Roberta. Just wish it could get a wider distribution.

    And, right in line with what you wrote, there’s the news story yesterday and today about Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham and now head of that Christian Crusade org, taking the organizations’s money out of Wells Fargo Bank because of a commercial they ran featuring a lesbian couple. He says that Wells Fargo is going “against the will of God.” He’s calling on all Christians to boycott all businesses that support LGBT rights.

    Today he put the money into the BB&T bank, praising them. Turns out BB&T is sponsoring the Miami Gay Pride Parade this year! No word on his reaction to this latest development.

    http://www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/blog/2015/06/franklin-graham-wells-fargo-wfc-lgbt-equality.html?ana=yahoo

    Keep up the great work, Roberta!

    1. Thank you, Michael! And thanks for sharing that article – I saw it as well, but didn’t copy the link. That whole “God hates gays” business comes from the OT, of course, and nothing could be further from what is true of the genuine God of infinite and perfect love!

  6. A beautiful friend named Lorie McCloud has asked that I post her comment here:

    I really appreciate your posts about Jesus and his life and teachings. in my family, if you said Jesus was a master teacher it was putting him down a peg from Son of God, yet that’s why he came here, to teach and to demonstrate.

    I remember the cognitive dissonance trying to reconcile the Old and new Testaments as a youth and I remember the majority of people in the church whose lives never changed at all as far as I could tell. is it any wonder that churches are dying?
    My Youtube Channel: “www.youtube.com/LorieMcCloud

    1. Thank you for your comments, Lorie! Isn’t it wonderful how many people we are finding who feel as we do about Jesus?

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