The Meat of Human Kindness (The dangerous Revelation of John)

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“I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto you were not able to bear it, neither yet now are you able”.

For Christians the cross of Jesus Christ is the pivotal point of all history – no, of all time. The cross that Jesus asks us to bear with Him is usually that of having to love and forgive not only those who despise us but also those who despise Jesus. He loves them and we must also as well.

Contrary to what I used to believe, Jesus’ Gospel of love, compassion and forgiveness is the true ‘meat’ of the Gospel. This is what we have the hardest time digesting, the idea that no matter how repugnant the act or the actor, God allows us no option but to love that person as He would.

There is a fair amount of arguing going on over whether this image of God, as represented by Jesus in the Gospels, is the entire picture. Even though Jesus is quite adamant that He is a perfect representation of God the Father, many believers say that other parts of the Bible show a different side to His nature. Not everything in ‘red letters’ is about love, kindness, compassion and forgiveness.

As far as ‘red letters’ go (something we have had only since 1900), there is only one book other than the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles which uses them. Could that be where most of the problem lies? It would depend upon if you believe that Jesus actually uttered those particular words or not. Whoever John was, he admits that his revelation was not ‘real’, that it was probably a dream or an hallucination much like that of Daniel’s. He refers back to Daniel quite a bit, and both Daniel and Revelation use imagery first found in the Hebrew apocrypha, such as the book of Enoch. Little of what John tells us has anything relationally to do with the Gospels. As opposed to the Gospel of love and forgiveness that Jesus shared, John’s revelation is one of vengeance and wrath, encouraging many of the church’s historical excesses as well as (I would presume) much of modern fundamentalist theology

In fact, there is no mention of the cross of Jesus in the Book of Revelation. Nowhere in this book can we see God’s love and compassion displayed as we see it portrayed on Golgotha. For years there has been controversy within the church over whether or not this book should even be included in the canon, with Martin Luther saying that he could “in no way detect that the Holy Spirit produced it.”

The idea that the righteous will be avenged by God through bloody and violent campaigns, that there is some hyper-powerful created being who, in opposing God, is causing the world’s suffering, that those who have hurt us will someday get what’s coming to them – this is all ‘milk’. It goes down easy because it is how the world ‘works’. It’s what we are used to, it’s how Hollywood movies are staged and resolved and it puts us in the enviable position of watching the losers suffer the way we think they should. Even though John harangues various churches for becoming too comfortable with the prevailing cultures of the day, his revelation actually complements those cultures and does not run counter to them. Jesus’ Good News was the counter culture message of His time as well as all others. (It is ironic that ‘milk’ and ‘meat’ are the words used in the KJV as both these foods must be kept seperate according to Hebrew custom).

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No matter how much stock we may or may not put into the inerrancy and infallibility of scripture it must always be looked at through the lens of the Gospel. There is nothing ‘evangelical’ about the book of Revelation. Actions speak louder than words and what Jesus did with his life drowns out any arguments over what he said, red letters or not. With practice, the tough, chewy, hard-to-swallow ‘meat’ of the Gospel eventually may become the easy flowing ‘milk’ of human kindness

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  1. #1 by Steve on July 26, 2007 - 11:19 am

    Christian,
    You make an interesting point, but to push the analogy a bit too far, you can’t live on meat alone, nor is a dairy-only or vegan lifestyle entirely healthy. In diet as well as Scripture, you need a balanced and complete meal, milk and meat.

    This is the same problem the God-is-love crowd gets into – they focus on one aspect of the nature of God (His love) and neglect the rest of His nature (justice, righteousness, etc.).

    I come from a generally conservative evangelical background. One thing we evangelicals tend to get wrong is too enough emphasis on the eternal justice aspect of Scripture and not enough on the social justice side. Calls for social justice can be found the length and breadth of Scripture.

    I have no problem with John’s revelation or Daniel’s. But again, we need the whole of Scripture, with Christ as the central point. Bottom line – who is He, how then do we act, and what are the consequences of refusing His invitation to the table.

  2. #2 by Christian Beyer on July 26, 2007 - 11:56 am

    I agree. I wasn’t trying to encourage less than a ‘balanced diet’, but I did find it interesting that many people seem to think that the God-is-love message is so easy to swallow when in actual practice (just look at the world throughout history) it seems to be the least appetizing part of the Gospels.

    About your bottom line; how do you define a refusal of Jesus’ invitation- what does it look like? And what do you think those consequences are?

  3. #3 by Steve on July 26, 2007 - 1:15 pm

    I’m a heaven or hell guy. I have no problem with the notion that there are eternal consequences for refusing the invitation, and I don’t think that is inconsistent with God’s nature. Obviously related to the “who do you say I am” question is “Who do you say that God is?”

    I may be wrong and find out that all will be saved or that there is Catholic purgatory where sins are worked off, but I don’t see either of those options in Scripture.

  4. #4 by Christian Beyer on July 26, 2007 - 2:23 pm

    True, no one can possibly know, or even guess at what is awaiting us. I guess that’s my beef with the common interpretation of Revelation – it’s taken a bit too literally.

    But where do you see a biblical suggestion for the common idea of hell (or even heaven, I guess)? Hell, as the place of eternal torment and suffering.

    I know that Jesus uses many metaphors for an outcome that is far from desirable for those who are off the path, and conversly an eternity with Him in paradise would be indescribably desirable. But can you suggest anything that backs up what many Christians (and Muslims) have come to believe?

    You probably already know where I stand:

    https://sharpiron.wordpress.com/2006/09/06/who-are-all-those-damn-people/

  5. #5 by Steve on July 26, 2007 - 4:57 pm

    I would use Christ’s references in Matthew 3:12, Mark 9:44-48, as well as Isaiah 66:24 and others. I don’t see that any of these passages necessarily speak metaphorically.

    If God has righteousness and justice as part of His nature, why wouldn’t that imply that there are penalties for offending His righteousness, such as those described by Jesus (who would certainly know His father’s heart and nature)?

    God is not the God of Wrath or God of Love, but He has those traits as elements of His being. Christ came in love to show us fallen critters how to find eternal rest – and avoid eternal pain.

  6. #6 by Christian Beyer on July 26, 2007 - 5:43 pm

    Matthew, Mark and Isaiah all speak of unquenchable fire, (and of course both Gospels are referring back to Isaiah). Unquenchable does not mean eternal – you just can’t put the dang thing out until it burns itself out. Just like an unquenchable house fire. Plus, the “worm that does not die” is surely metaphor.

    So yeah, I can see that God’s judgment might very well ‘burn’ up the chaff – but that is nowhere near the legend of hell that is preached today.

    Wrath? Maybe. I find it hard to equate wrath with a person that could have no ego but I am certainly in the minority on this count. Punishment, sure. But a punishment that would be just and not so cruelly exceed the crime. After all, we are his children.

  7. #7 by inWorship on December 16, 2007 - 12:53 am

    Hey C, it looks like this Idetrorce is spam. this message by this user is on all sorts of blogs.

    So…Idetrorce, unveil yourself or be gone…

    that sounds so Hollywood 🙂

  8. #8 by inWorship on December 16, 2007 - 12:58 am

  9. #9 by Christian on December 16, 2007 - 3:47 am

    Thanks Brent. Probably have a few others. Usually my posts attract some disagreement so this one fooled me.

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