If one is to believe everything one sees about Jesus, one might come away with some very dangerous views about Him. Take, for example, the picture above, citing definitive “proof” from the Bible that Jesus supports the homosexual lifestyle. I’ve heard people make the assertion that Jesus overturned the moneychangers’ tables in the temple to fight economic injustice. I once read a pamphlet that portrayed Jesus as a dualist when He says, “I and the Father…” In my recent blog about the women’s march, more than one person challenged my “narrow-mindedness” by claiming that Jesus would have marched beside those women in support of women’s rights in America. And when all else fails, there’s always the “Judge not, lest ye be judged” card people can play to tell others, in effect, to mind their own business. The problem with all of these claims, however, is that they are blatantly untrue.
The tactic of twisting God’s Word is not a new one. It’s been around since the Garden of Eden, when Satan asked Eve, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1) He’s introducing doubt, trying to trick her into questioning God. But he’s doing something else at the same time- he’s misrepresenting God’s Word by adding the word “any.” He’s making God out to be harsh and unfair. Not to be outdone, Eve added to God’s Word herself- “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” (Genesis 3:2b-3) God never said anything about not touching it; just not eating its fruit. Ah, now Satan has Eve right where he wants her, because she’s confused, so he boldly defies God’s Word- “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5) Do you see what he does here? He tantalizes her by holding the carrot in front of her that she could be “like God.” She can determine for herself what’s right and wrong! She can impose her own will upon her life. She doesn’t have to follow God’s stuffy old rules. She can be free to live as she pleases! Sound familiar? Satan tempts people today in much the same way. Unfortunately, his crafty ways worked on Adam and Eve. They ate the fruit and their eyes were opened, but not in the way Satan had promised. They knew the shame and guilt of sin now. And so do we. So has everyone in the history of the world. With one exception.
Fast forward about 4000 years from the Garden of Eden, and we find that Satan is still at his same tricks. He hasn’t really added anything new as he tempts Jesus in the wilderness. He’s still tempting people to indulge in instant gratification (filling an empty stomach, in this instance); he’s still appealing to human pride. He’s still twisting God’s Word and taking it out of context, trying to trick Jesus into sinning. Only Jesus doesn’t fall for the devil’s lies, because He knows the Word. Actually, He IS the Word made flesh. And so it is only fitting that after each temptation, Jesus answers by quoting Scripture: “It is written…” (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10) Even when Satan tries to use Scripture himself, Jesus knows his ulterior motive. On the surface, Satan’s use of Psalm 91 might seem very logical to the casual observer. Why yes, God does promise that His angels will guard us. “On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.” (Psalm 91:12) So Jesus could indeed throw Himself from the pinnacle of the temple as Satan suggests and He’d be just fine, right? Jesus answers that for us- “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'” (Matthew 4:7) Jesus could combat the devil’s tactics because He knew the Scriptures inside and out. He knew how to rightly use those Scriptures. And He knew when they were being used improperly and out of context.
If one intends to quote or represent the Savior of the world, one must be extremely careful while doing so. Why? Because the consequences are eternal. Downplaying sin by quoting the “judge not” line is not in keeping with Jesus’ purpose in coming to the world. Why did Jesus come? He came to die. For sin. That’s how serious sin is. We aren’t doing anyone any favors by downplaying it or ignoring it. Nor did Jesus ignore it while He walked this earth. Yes, He taught that we are to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44) and forgive our brother without limit (Matthew 18:22). But He also preached seven woes to the Scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23), even calling them “hypocrites,” “blind guides,” and “whitewashed tombs.” Whoa, Jesus. That’s kinda harsh, don’t you think? Actually, no, because these so-called religious “experts” were leading people astray by emphasizing the Law over God’s grace in the Gospel. “You shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in” (Matthew 23:13). Jesus was ultimately most concerned about people’s spiritual condition.
You see, Jesus didn’t come to be a social reformer or radical. He wasn’t a feminist as some have tried to claim. He didn’t come to fight the injustices or inequalities of this world. If He had come for such purposes, He would have led the Jewish people to revolt against their cruel Roman oppressors. But He didn’t do that. He came to win freedom, yes, but not in an earthly sense. He came to win freedom from sin for all people of all times. That includes you and me. By living the perfect life we could never live, by taking the punishment we deserve, by dying and rising again, Jesus won our freedom. Satan no longer has power over those who believe in Jesus. We can point to Jesus and say, “See, my Savior took my sins from me. You have no claim on me anymore.”
So what does that mean for us today? How are we to apply Jesus’ words from 2000 years ago to issues in the 21st century? How should we answer those who ask us: So what would Jesus do?
Rather than answering that, let’s tweak the question slightly. What did Jesus do? We can’t presume to answer for Him, but we can let Him answer for Himself. How? By knowing the Scriptures. And I’m not just talking here about the words of Jesus in red in your Bible. Yes, we need to know those. But “All Scripture is breathed out by God…” (2 Timothy 3:16, emphasis mine). Know what God says when He gives His commandments to Moses in the Old Testament. Know the warnings He gives Israel through the prophets. Know what Paul teaches in his God-inspired Epistles. You cannot properly reflect Jesus’ meaning if you don’t truly know what the Bible as a whole teaches. Rule number one in basic biblical interpretation is this: Let Scripture interpret Scripture. In other words, don’t just go through and pick and choose random verses to tweak them to fit your purposes. And when others quote Jesus in support of a certain position, look back to the Bible to determine the proper context.
Returning to the opening paragraph, what about those Bible references that Jesus supports the homosexual lifestyle? For one, the Bible never claims that David and Jonathan were gay, nor were Ruth and Naomi. They simply had a close friendship that baffles the minds of 21st century Americans who equate “loving” someone else of the same gender with homosexual connotations. (See this post by Dr. Peter Scaer, especially 6th paragraph in, for an example of deep male friendship still in place today in some parts of the world, such as David and Jonathan had with one another.) As for the eunuch passages in Matthew 19 and Acts 8, eunuchs cannot be confused with homosexual or transgender individuals. A eunuch was a castrated male, but not one who was gay or transgender. (See a more detailed explanation of a biblical eunuch at gotquestions.org.) And I’m still struggling to see the connection with Jesus affirming a gay couple in Matthew 8:5-13, where Jesus heals the centurion’s servant. Moving to the moneychangers in the temple (John 2:13-22), Jesus wasn’t protesting economic injustice. He was mad that they were defiling His Father’s house by making it a marketplace rather than a house of prayer. The claim that Jesus was a dualist? Finish the sentence and you’ll see that Jesus was in fact claiming the exact opposite of dualism–“I and the Father are one” (John 10:30, emphasis mine). And what of the women’s march? Would Jesus have participated? Again, let’s look to the Bible. What did Jesus do? The only march Jesus took place in was the march to His cross. For you. For me. For all.
Photo is What Would Jesus Do? by ItsJessicaHoney