The Not-So-Nice Jesus, Part 2

Bible Christian Society




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General Comments

Hey folks,

I hope all is well with you and yours as summer winds down (or winter for the folks south of the equator).  Wanted to let you know that I have posted another video in the "Questions Protestants Can't Answer" series on YouTube.  This one is about essential vs. non-essential doctrines.  Hope you enjoy it:



Wow!  The last newsletter, "The Not-So-Nice Jesus," really hit home with a lot of people.  I received close to a hundred responses to it - I don't think I've ever received so many responses to a newsletter.  98% of those responses were generally along the lines of this one:

"Thank you for writing on this topic!!!!  I'm passing to all my friends!!!!  We don't know the meaning of 'Love'.  People forget that Jesus loved us to HIS death.  And, if he was not a challenge to they ways of the day, they would have never put him to death!!!! So he must have said something they found offensive..." Pax, Kristi 
I apparently tapped into a lot of pent up frustration out there about the state of our culture and especially about how we've gotten to where we are with so little resistance from so many Catholics - especially so many of the clergy.  So many of our clergy either remain silent, or are exceedingly tepid when they do speak up, or have outright bought into the lies of the dark side.  Just remember folks, we are at war, not with flesh and blood, but with principalities, powers, the world rulers of this present darkness, and the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (Eph 6:12).  So don't let up on the prayers.
Anyway, thank you for all of the feedback - good, bad, or ugly.  And thank you for all of the kind words you shared with me...they are greatly appreciated!
Which brings me to this week's topic.  I want to follow up on "The Not-So-Nice Jesus" by printing one of the emails I received that was critical of what I wrote.  This email is from a gentleman named Josh.  I always say that I have no problem with folks who disagree with me, as long as they're disagreeing with what I actually believe.  I think the main problem with Josh's critique of what I wrote in my newsletter, is that he really didn't pay close attention to what I said.  So often people will pick out a word or a phrase or two and then just assume what is being said, without actually listening to - or in this case, reading - what is actually being said.  They just run with their interpretation - based on those few words or phrases - without actually considering the entire context.  I believe that is a big part of what has happened here.  Either way, though, Josh's email gives me a chance to clarify what I said so that it makes it tougher on folks to assume what I mean vs. what I actually mean. 
So, below is Josh's email, with my responses interspersed amongst the various parts of his email. 





     Well, my reaction (to the newsletter) is mixed.  I agree that there can be a time and place for even rudeness, and that we need to oppose evil laws and sometimes other people's personal sins, but I feel John is taking this battle into dangerous territory.  Let me explain what I mean.

     John misinterprets some of the actions of Jesus rather badly, such as the supposed "calling out" of the Samaritan woman.  It was not at all like that, if one reads the context.  Jesus and the Samaritan woman had a very reasonable and friendly conversation, and Jesus didn't condemn the woman's sins when he brought them up.  

     Regarding the Canaanite woman, Jesus was testing her faith through his initial silence and then comparing her to a dog.  He wasn't having a go at her; he goes on to speak to her kindly and heal her loved one.


My Response

       Well, Josh is missing the point here.  I was not doing an exegesis on these passages as to what Jesus' intent was or what He was trying to accomplish with what He was saying.  My focus was on how what He said in these passages simply would not be tolerated in today's politically-correct (PC) environment.  If anyone reading this right now were to say to a guy who is "married" to another guy, "Hey, he's not really your husband," or anything along those lines, you would be excoriated.  You would be called homophobic, judgmental, evil, and all sorts of other things.  You would be accused of not being very nice.  How dare you meddle in someone else's affairs!?  That was the point of my using this example.  Although, Josh is wrong about Jesus not calling the woman out.  He did.  Do you think that woman continued to live in sin after she came to believe in Jesus?  He didn't bring up her living situation and her 5 past husbands just so she would go, "Oh, you must be a prophet!"  He was doing it to make her realize that things in her life needed to change in order for her to receive the "living water" He talked to her about.

       And, regarding the Canaanite woman, if Jesus were living today and called a woman who came to Him to beg for a healing of her daughter a dog, He would never be able to finish making His point.  He would be sliced and diced for having the gall to call a woman a dog.  There would be such an uproar at how impertinent and rude and misogynous He was.  Again, the point being that Jesus was saying things that would not be considered very nice, regardless of how things turned out in the end.  And He was indeed testing her faith.  But He did it in a way that would be considered "not-so-nice" today. 



     I feel that John's email contains a lot of content directed toward justifying rudeness and (what in reality is) meanness.  It's dangerous both because it's damaging to the Church in practice, when most people try to put it into practice in evangelism, and also because the so-called evangelists who try to use this approach limit their own ability to grow in holiness.

     Rudeness was far from Jesus' first weapon of choice when trying to bring others to a knowledge of the truth.  John's email singles out almost every Biblical instance where Jesus criticizes others severely and uses it to try to back his point that we should be ready to be sharp and rude with those who don't think like us, to make them think.  Or at least we shouldn't criticize our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ when they engage in rude and insulting "evangelism."


My Response

       He "feels" that "a lot" of what I wrote in my newsletter is directed toward justifying rudeness and meanness.  I always say that the tone people get from my newsletter says more about them than it does about me, because no one can actually "hear" a tone when they're reading something.  I'm generally in a very good mood when I write these newsletters and my "tone," as I see it, is usually a tone of humor, lightheartedness, and irony, with a good dose of Mr. Spock - "It was simply logical, Captain" - thrown in.  But what is he really saying here?  He's saying, since I used Jesus as my example, that he apparently believes Jesus was, at times, rude and downright mean.  I would never say such a thing about Jesus.  I would say that Jesus was always - 100% of the time - being charitable, and that sometimes charity called for Him to be blunt, direct, and painfully honest.  Since we are called to imitate Christ in our lives, then that leads me to conclude that there may be times where we are called to do likewise.

       And notice how he completely ignores lines that I used such as, "We all need to be more like [Jesus]," which includes being "kind, generous, and loving," and "that there may be times when the charitable thing to do is to simply be blunt, bold, and painfully honest..." and "sometimes, just sometimes, people have to be given a little bit of a order to plant a seed with them," and "we each need to determine the best approach when speaking to others...about the truth...And we cannot be afraid to speak the truth."

       In other words, nowhere do I say anything about being rude and mean, and nowhere do I say anything about using rudeness as the "first weapon of choice" when engaging someone.  "Sometimes, just sometimes" we might have to be blunt and painfully honest.  Everything I'm saying here is essentially about not being silent in the face of evil.  About not being afraid to speak the truth even if someone's feelings might get hurt or they might get offended or any such thing.  For example, if someone comes out of the closet and announces that they are "gay and proud of it," our response should be one of sadness, disappointment, disapproval, and prayer, as well as loving correction, rather than a response of, "Good for him!" 

       The goal is not to offend or hurt, rather the goal is to speak the truth.  If Josh believes that hurting someone's feelings or offending them is a priori "rude" or "mean," then he is saying exactly what society is saying: The only mortal sin one can commit is to tell someone they are wrong - i.e., to speak the truth to them when they are in error.  The truth offends a whole lot of people, Josh, so quite often the choice is to either speak the truth to evil and to error and thereby offend someone - or a lot of someones - or to remain silent in the face of evil and error.  Which would you have a person do?



     Here are some quotes from The Introduction to the Devout Life, by St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church, which I feel are very important, here 

"Most emphatically I say it, If possible, fall out with no one, and on no pretext whatever suffer your heart to admit anger and passion.  Saint James says, plainly and unreservedly, that "the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God."Of course it is a duty to resist evil and to repress the faults of those for whom we are responsible, steadily and firmly, but gently and quietly. Nothing so stills the elephant when enraged as the sight of a lamb; nor does anything break the force of a cannon ball so well as wool. Correction given in anger, however tempered by reason, never has so much effect as that which is given altogether without anger; for the reasonable soul being naturally subject to reason, it is a mere tyranny which subjects it to passion, and whereinsoever reason is led by passion it becomes odious, and its just rule obnoxious . . .

Depend upon it, it is better to learn how to live without being angry than to imagine one can moderate and control anger lawfully; and if through weakness and frailty one is overtaken by it, it is far better to put it away forcibly than to parley with it; for give anger ever so little way, and it will become master, like the serpent, who easily works in its body wherever it can once introduce its head . . ."


My Response

       Do you see how he has inserted "anger" into what I said?  Never, not once, in my newsletter did I say you should angrily confront someone and that you should use anger as a means of correction.  But Josh saw anger in my newsletter.  As I said above, he didn't pay attention to the entirety of what was said, and the tone he was "hearing" says more about him than it does about me.  He "heard" what he wanted to hear.  You need to understand this in your dialogues/debates with others - the folks you are talking to will hear whatever it is they want to hear.  As a result, they will accuse you of all sorts of things.  You just need to stay the course and offer explanations to clear up any misunderstandings, but if the people you are talking to demonstrate over and over that they really don't want to understand what you are saying, that they prefer their understanding of things to the truth, then shake their dust from your shoes and move on.

       By the way, I agree with what St. Francis de Sales says in these quotes, but these quotes have absolutely nothing to do with the point I was making.  Although, I think it is entirely appropriate to have "righteous anger" at times, as Jesus did when He cleared the Temple of the merchants and money-changers. 



     I agree with Archbishop Fulton Sheen that an "intolerance" of sin is necessary and sadly lacking among many of the faithful.  But being able to contradict what is wrong when the time is right does not justify rudeness or making other personal attacks.  Nor should Jesus Christ's occasional sharp words be used as justification for personal meanness.  Jesus did not use harsh words toward other people often, and when he did, he had very good cause and undoubtedly tried far gentler means first.  For example, we know that with the Pharisees and teachers of the law, he instructed them a great deal about the mysteries of God when he was 12 years old, teaching them in the Temple at Jerusalem, and they were the FIRST people he addressed in this early episode of public ministry.  He spoke to them in a very humble, wise and gentle presentation.  He also visited the house of Simon, a Pharisee, and others, and taught them during his adult ministry.  The religious hierarchy was quite familiar with his teachings but very resistant and hostile.  It's WRONG to just go up to unbelievers and accuse them of sin.  This isn't about being politically correct, it's about living the love of God and GENTLENESS of God truly.


My Response

       Again, he sees things in my newsletter that I never wrote, nor did I even imply.  "Justify rudeness?"  Make "personal attacks"?  "Personal meanness?"  Nowhere do I recommend such things.  Again, the whole point of the newsletter is that being Christ-like does not necessarily mean being namby-pamby and not speaking truth for fear of appearing not very "nice."  Jesus spoke the truth in season and out.  Jesus spoke the truth to sin.  Jesus spoke the truth to error.  We, as Christians, should not be afraid to do the same, even if it means we will hurt someone's "feelings" or that we will "offend" them. 

       There are so many Catholics today who either do not know, or have forgotten, that two of the spiritual works of mercy are to admonish sinners and to instruct the ignorant.  Well, as many of you know, when you set out to "admonish" sinners, sinners don't necessarily take too kindly to that.  They will get "offended."  And when you take to instructing the ignorant, quite often their "feelings" will be hurt.  No matter how gently and respectfully you do it, when you speak the truth to those in error, people will - more times than not - have an adverse reaction to it.  The only other option is to let them remain in their ignorance and/or sin.  Well, how loving is that?

       And this thing about how Jesus " undoubtedly tried far gentler means first," before saying something harsh to someone, I was wondering where he got that from?  So, before Jesus said to Peter, "Get thee behind Me, Satan," He first said to him: "Peter, c'mon man, it's not very nice to contradict Me, ya know?"  Or, before He called the scribes and Pharisees liars, hypocrites, sons of murderers, and all those other things, Jesus first said to them, "Hey guys, could you stop with the negative waves?"  Or, before He got a whip out after the merchants and money changers and tossed their tables over He said to them, "Hey, would you guys mind moving all of this outside?"  Don't think so.  Josh is seeing things in the Bible that just aren't there, as he is seeing things in my newsletter that just aren't there.



     I would say that a Christian who has a record of successfully winning souls to God through gentleness and love may after this be qualified to speak "rudely" and address others in terms of God's wrath, for this person has already demonstrated that they have the Spirit of God.  Therefore this Christian will be better able to discern the right time to use harsh words, if they find there ever is true need for such an approach.  On the other hand, I would say that a Christian who cannot and has not won God any souls through gentleness is typically unfit to confront others with his wrath.  They risk simply alienating others from Christianity through such conduct, and I know what I'm talking about.  I've seen the fruits of this kind of aggressive, "confrontational Christianity," and this is Christians losing faith, non-Christians staying away from the faith, and lack of spiritual maturity and grace in the lives of the so-called evangelists who go after people this way.


My Respoonse

       Here Josh is demonstrating a lack of prudence.  He is judging me as a "Christian who cannot and has not won God any souls through gentleness" and that I have a "lack of spiritual maturity and grace in my life."  Well, I'm not saying whether I have or I haven't "won God any souls," or whether or not I am "spiritually mature" - God alone truly knows the score on those things.  But the point is, Josh has no clue because he knows nothing about me.  He is judging someone who he has never met, never talked to, and never corresponded with.  He is making a rash judgment based on a minimal amount of information.  Folks, don't ever do something like that.  That's what happens so often on Facebook and other such social media venues.  That's why there is so much nastiness going on through those mediums.  In this case, I think the clue to his harsh words towards me - harsher than anything I said in my newsletter - will be seen below.



     Regarding St. Francis de Sales again, this Doctor of the Church converted 40,000 souls to the Catholic faith.  However, St. Francis wrote that only three times in his entire ministry did he ever speak to souls sharply and without his customary gentleness, and each of those times did not bring forth any good spiritual fruit, and he regretted them all afterward.

      Some saints, like Padre Pio, have had a gift in this area, but Padre Pio obviously was also very well versed in the gentleness of God and lived that on a regular, consistent basis.  His harshness was more of an aberration than a rule and it came from a very spiritual mature man, with clear spiritual fruits.

     The Curé d'Ars was short-tempered by nature and was sharp and exacting with people in his earlier years of ministry, but he ended up becoming entirely affable and gentle in his later years, and much kinder to his flock, as he neared perfection.

     I really hate it when I hear conservatives justify their harshness, rudeness and critical judgments of other people's sinful lifestyles by pointing to the example of Christ.  I feel that when people speak that way, it's usually a direct insult to Jesus and points to a lack of understanding of him.  Jesus was a beacon of peace, mercy, charity and gentleness.  He was someone that multitudes of sinners were ATTRACTED to and felt they could comfortably turn to in their needs.  He was not quick to accuse, contradict or confront.  He was "meek and lowly of heart."  People loved him for it.  One doesn't see that happening for conservatives who try to follow his "angry" example


My Response

       And there you have it.  I'm a "conservative."  I would be willing to put money down and give odds that this one judgment of me by Josh is at the core of all the meanness and judgmentalism and rudeness and not-very-niceism that he sent my way.  He apparently felt it okay to hurt my feelings - I'm a very sensitive kind of guy ya know - because he has judged me a "conservative."  Again, though, upon what does he base his judgment?  I'm a "conservative" because I believe there is no such thing as a same-sex "marriage"?  Or am I a conservative because I believe abortion and contraception and sex outside of marriage are wrong?  Or, am I a conservative because I believe the Catholic Church contains the fullness of the Christian faith, while none of the Protestant denominations do?  None of those things make me a conservative, Josh, they make me a Catholic. 

       I don't recall saying anything about my political or economic leanings, which is how one could judge if I were a conservative or not.  Yet, Josh has branded me a "conservative."  And, finally, I got a kick out of how Josh brings out nice Jesus to close his arguments with: "Jesus was a beacon of peace, mercy, charity, and gentleness."  Well, Jesus was indeed always a beacon of peace, mercy, and charity - as I essentially said in my newsletter - however, He wasn't always gentle.  And that is something that folks like Josh just can't seem to get around.  Jesus was also a beacon of truth, correction, and righteousness, and sometimes that called for Him to be "not-so-nice."   

       So, what is the point of all of this?  Why take off after what Josh said?  Two reasons: 1) To show you, if you haven't already experienced it, the kind of responses you will get when you start telling people about the truth - whether that be in the areas of faith or morals.  Josh essentially launched a rather vicious personal attack against me in his email, although he tried to disguise it from being such.  You will be attacked when you tell people the truth, that's just the way it is.  Jesus told the truth to people and it upset them so badly that they crucified Him.  Did they crucify Him because He was a "beacon of peace, mercy, charity, and gentleness?"  Indirectly, yes.  But, directly, they crucified Him because He pissed people off.  No matter how gentle and respectful you are when you correct someone, or when you admonish someone, you will, more times than not, be cussed, villified, called all sorts of names, and so on.  That is why I always say that evangelization is a tough business.  Do not go out and evangelize, do not speak the truth about Jesus with others, if you think that when you do, people are just going to thank you and fall to their knees and kiss your feet.  Ain't gonna happen, folks.  That is also why I say that your job is not to convert anyone, your job is just to plant the seeds.  And, quite often, in order to plant a seed, you need to first stick that hoe into tough dry soil to break it up.  But, once you've broken up the soil - even if it causes anger, pain, and hostility - then the Holy Spirit has a chance to get in there and do what He does. 

       2) The example Josh's email gives is one of a person who didn't really pay all that much attention to what I actually said.  That, too, is going to happen a lot when you engage others about the Catholic faith.  Do not let it deter you.  Look at a response like his as an opportunity to repeat and clarify what you said.  Josh's email gives me a chance to clarify that I was not saying we need to be harsh and mean and rude and all the other things that he accused me of saying.  What I was saying, was that we need to be like Jesus.  Many times Jesus was humble, meek, kind, gentle, etc.  However, there were times where He wasn't so gentle.  We need to each look at the particulars of a given situation to decide the best way to handle things, but we cannot be afraid to come across as being "not-so-nice" or intolerant or judgmental or mean when it comes to sharing the truth with others.  That is how others are going to see it regardless of how you present yourself, but the truth needs to be told, regardless. 


Closing Comments

I hope all of you have a great week!



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Apologetics for the Masses