Monday, August 23, 2010
FOUR GOSPELS FINAL ESSAY
Rev. Michael Babb
Before taking the course on The Four Gospels, I had been exposed to them through Sunday School and Church Sermons. Having attended several different churches, I was confounded by the different interpretations that ministers put forth to their congregations. I started to read the scriptures on numerous occasions, but without common sense guidance, I was always left wondering about the meaning of various parables and examples of Jesus' teaching. I have listened to sermons that taught everything from the universal message of peace and love to eternal damnation as the center point. It always confused me how the teachings of one gentle and loving man could have so many divergent meanings, each preached with equal conviction. I now understand that these different viewpoints of Jesus' message are largely dependent upon which gospel one focuses upon. The book of John for example, lends itself to those who strictly interpret the only way to heaven is directly through Jesus, otherwise an eternity of damnation awaits he who is not "born again". As the supplemental material points out, this is the only book where Jesus gives himself credit for the miracles he performed as opposed to attributing these to the father God and he being the vessel that channeled the event. The real path follows the lessons and deeds of Jesus that lead us home to the father. As Jesus points out time and again, the kingdom of God is within us all. He shows us the way to reconnect with our heavenly father. Therefore, I have a real problem with a gospel that not only portrays Jesus as somewhat egocentric, but places himself above his own teachings. Love and harshness cannot dwell in the same house. The differences are evident, however, the important points seem to be fairly consistent.
There are lessons that I learned as I read and re-read the gospels and supplemental material, but the one I want to focus on is the idea of doing good in an anonymous way for the glory of God. This is opposed to doing good deeds for one's own sense of ego and outward goodness. This thread of teachings contains a real modern day lesson, to commit "acts of random kindness." In other words, Jesus sets the example of showing us how to help others without having to take public credit, but to attribute that credit to God. That it is his glory, not ours that the act is intended to honor. This first becomes evident when Jesus descended from the mountain and healed the leaper who asked to be healed. After the leaper was made whole, Jesus told him not to speak of the healing to anyone. As Jesus proceeded to heal people and drive out demons that plagued the mentally infirm, the evidence overwhelmingly shows that he gives the credit to God and down plays his role. When the woman who was plagued with continual bleeding touched his robe, he told her that it was her courage and faith that healed her, again refusing to take credit for the act. A final example is of the blind man/men, dependent upon which gospel recitation one uses, begged for his mercy and to give them sight. It was their profession of belief that restored their sight, the unequivocal belief that Jesus could perform such a miracle. Again, he told them to be silent about how they gained sight. These are all living examples of how Jesus demonstrated unbelievable kindness toward others without having to take credit for the deed. I believe his message to us here is to follow his example and perform our good deeds, but to give credit to God for blessing us with the opportunity to serve rather that pat ourselves on the back and say how righteous we are.
My personal favorite parable that exemplifies this concept concerns the leaders and wealthy members of the church outdoing each other with their monetary contributions to the church, beating their chests and bragging to each other about how much they gave. Then comes the poor widow who gives little in monetary value, but it was all she had. Jesus points out that she gave more than all of the church leaders combined because she gave all she had. The true measure of any deed is not in and of itself, but by the purity in which it honors God.
May you be blessed with love, abundance, and peace.
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