Christianity buries the eternal teachings of Jesus in first-century Jewish beliefs. The root of this problem lies in the councils which decided which books to include in the canon that became the Christian Bible. Having majored in early Christian history in college half a century ago, I can tell you that my study of the Council of Nicaea that was held in 325 A.D. felt like watching sausage being made.
The whole Christian Bible is not the Inspired Word of God. Thanks to nearly two hundred years of abundant and consistent afterlife evidence, we can independently confirm that fact. The dead uniformly insist that neither God nor any religious figure ever has judged anyone; that the death of Jesus on the cross has never made any afterlife difference; and that you don’t have to be a Christian to get into the highest heaven.
But we also can confirm now, wonderfully, that two thousand years ago Jesus told us things about God, reality, death, the afterlife, and the meaning and purpose of human life that the dead abundantly validate. So Christianity is wrong, but Jesus is right!
The teachings of Jesus are of extraordinary importance. I have been amazed to find how well they work in aiding our spiritual development, and it is only very recently that I think that I begin to understand why. In strictly following the teachings of Jesus, we are not learning anything new. Instead, we are un-learning cultural errors and beginning to remember who and what we are.
So it is time now for professed Christians to put the teachings of Jesus FIRST. If you love the Lord, then listen to Him! This should be simple common sense, but sadly, for most Christians the church fathers’ decision to call the whole Bible the Inspired Word of God makes our following the teachings of Jesus all by themselves a Christian heresy. Even eighteen hundred years later, Christianity remains stuck in the fourth century.
There is good evidence in the Gospels that Jesus intends His teachings to stand alone. Someone asks Him one day whether what He is doing with these new teachings is really just abolishing the Law and the Prophets, which is what the Jews of His day called the Christian Old Testament. With one eye on the listening Temple guards, Jesus says, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill” (MT 5:17).
What does Jesus mean by that? Different day, different guards, someone asks Him what is the greatest commandment. Jesus says, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (MT 22:37-40).
Do you see what He is doing here? He is saying that when He said earlier that He had come to fulfill the Old Testament, what He meant was that now that we have His teachings, we don’t need religious rules anymore. Jesus takes the entire Old Testament and replaces it with the beautiful directive that we love God and love one another.
The Lord begs us to keep His precious teachings separate from religious texts! “But no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and a worse tear results. Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved” (MT 9:16-17). He told the clergymen of His day that even though His teachings were a new philosophy, Jewish clergy still could be disciples of God’s law of love without abandoning their old religion. “Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old” (MT 13:52).
Sadly, though, few Christian leaders consider the Gospels to be uniquely important. Instead, for them the teachings of Jesus are equal to the other sixty-odd Bible books, which in many places contradict what Jesus says. And the result is a mess! It’s a mess on every level. Since this post is already overlong, I will give you just one example.
Jesus tells us that we must never judge anyone. “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you” (MT 7:1-2).
But since the rules-filled Bible beyond the Gospels is all seen by Christians to be God’s Inspired Word, Christians believe that they have been given a mandate from God to be highly judgmental. A fundamentalist minister whose blog I read gives a great example of how these folks get lost in a whole vast Bible forest and thereby miss the Lord’s precious trees. It is this fellow’s stern contention that Christians must judge Donald Trump because the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5, “I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler – not even to eat with such a one….”
Our fundamentalist friend blithely announces that this pronouncement by an Apostle who never met Jesus or heard Him speak modifies the passage from Matthew quoted above. He tells us that God demands that we judge a fellow Christian, and thereby he has God altogether negating the Lord’s Gospel teaching.
All of this has nothing to do with Jesus. Nor does it have anything to do with God. And for so long as clergymen continue to use the rest of the Bible to obfuscate the most perfect set of teachings that God has ever given to humankind, the whole world will continue to flounder.
Christians needn’t abandon Christianity in order to follow Jesus. We can keep the rituals and music that so many of us dearly love. But Jesus insists that we put Him first! We all pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” and indeed with His teachings we have the power to bring God’s Kingdom to all the earth. Jesus is saying to us, then and now, “If you hold to My teachings, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (JN 8:31-32)