Exploiting Scripture in the Name of Jesus | Sojourners

Exploiting Scripture in the Name of Jesus

As we debate the many troubling policy proposals coming from our current administration, Christians must focus on Jesus above everything else — even our government, leaders, and comforts.

When we approach Jesus in an honest and innocent way — like children — it’s obvious what type of actions Christ would be for and against. The Bible tells us so clearly what type of person he was, and gives us countless examples to solidify his loving character and perfect divinity.

But we find creative ways to excuse ourselves from following Christ, because we often find that his actions contradict our vested interests — our lifestyle, political views, and self-preserving worldview. But if we are completely honest with ourselves, after reading the life of Christ and seeing everything that he did, how can we not know the answers to the following questions:

Would Jesus accept or ban refugees?

Would Jesus embrace or deport immigrants?

Would Jesus — the Healer — give or withdraw health care to those who need it?

Would Jesus — the Teacher — provide or take away educational resources to the poor?

The problem for many Christians is that instead of asking themselves, “What would Jesus Do?” they ask, “What does the Bible say is permissible?”

At first glance these two questions don’t seem radically different, but the applications are often contradictory to each other.

Because instead of accepting refugees, embracing immigrants, providing aid to the sick and resources to the poor, Christians commit all sorts of theological gymnastics to rationalize doing just the opposite, propagating doctrinal arguments that successfully pretend to be Christ-like while in reality circumventing Jesus almost entirely.

Instead of emulating Jesus they prefer to “follow the Bible,” and for the questions that were previously asked above, they would respond with verses and spiritual principles justifying their actions — “ Well, the Bible tells us to submit to authorities …”

When this happens, theology becomes a tool to see how much we can get away with under the guise of “Christianity” instead of being a way to become more like Christ. And to do this, you usually need to be somewhat of an expert in the Bible to pull it off.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because we see this happening in the New Testament. The Pharisees — “experts” in their law and faith — constantly questioned Jesus about what was permissible:

Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife? Teacher, which command in the law is the most important? Can you show us a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority?

Unfortunately, we can become so devoted to studying Scripture in order to prove ourselves worthy and reinforce our own selfish agendas in an effort to validate superficial beliefs and opinions, that we ignore Jesus.

The Bible is pointing toward Christ, exalting Jesus as the ultimate essence of God — everything that is true, holy, and good. So we should never make the mistake of valuing any verse over Christ.

Here is what Jesus tells us to do:

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “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 first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 26: 36-40)

This is the foundation of our faith — to love God and love others.

The even better news is that Jesus is alive, and his Spirit is alive in us, so an even better question to ask ourselves is: What is Jesus doing? — through our lives?

We must never submit to any government or leader at the expense of following our ultimate authority, Jesus Christ — who loved the world to the point of being arrested and crucified on a cross for our sake. May God help us love just as fiercely.