Where’s God’s justice in an unjust world? (Matthew 10:26-31)

Your heavenly Father knows when even a sparrow falls.

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Open Matthew 10:26-31.

We all have filters that shape what we hear. That’s true of how we understand our closest friends. It’s even more significant when we want to understand what Jesus said 2000 years ago in a very different setting.

For example, we in the western church tend to think of souls as immortal. After your body dies, your soul lives on, either in heaven or hell. It would make no sense to us to talk about bodies going to hell. Yet that’s precisely what Jesus did to: he said it’s better to lose an eye than to lose your whole body in hell (Matthew 5:29-30, 22). Something that doesn’t make sense is a hint that we’re not hearing it right, that we need to reframe the way we think. Continue reading “Where’s God’s justice in an unjust world? (Matthew 10:26-31)”

Careful how you judge (Matthew 7:1-6)

How you judge Jesus determines how you judge others.

Open Matthew 7:1-6.

Before being judgemental of others, judge yourself. Jesus’ teaching is as relevant as the day he first gave it.

But there’s more going on here. Why did Jesus need to say this? Who did he have in mind? Why did his followers need to be aware of this? And who are the “dogs” and “swine” Jesus warned about?

As always, we need to ask what it meant for them before we ask what it means for us. Otherwise we’re likely to apply this text in inappropriate ways (e.g. to undermine investigative journalists). Continue reading “Careful how you judge (Matthew 7:1-6)”

Ripping out an eye? (Matthew 5:29-30)

Gruesome! Why would Jesus suggest gouging out an eye or chopping off a hand?

Open Matthew 5:29-30.

Dick Johns was a carpenter and family friend when I was growing up. He was a bit of a loner, but had such a generous heart. He spent countless months constructing buildings for missionaries in Papua New Guinea. One day, Dick lost an eye. We were never sure, but his friends believed Dick took Matthew 5:29 literally and plucked out his own eye.

If you asked Dick what he thought this text meant, he would have told you something like this. Your soul is much more important than your body. Your body is temporary, but your soul is immortal. The most important thing in life is that you end up in Heaven, not Hell. Better to lose an eye from your body now than for your soul to suffer torment forever.

But read the text again: Continue reading “Ripping out an eye? (Matthew 5:29-30)”

If you’re angry, are you a killer? (Matthew 5:21-22)

Is it so bad to feel angry? Why did Jesus condemn the angry?

Open Matthew 5:21-22.

This verse scared the life out of me as a young teen. I understood Jesus to say that, if I ever felt angry, I would be consigned to hell. So, I was never angry! No matter how I felt, I wasn’t angry! If my emotions could damn me, I would damn them. I would become a purely rational being, like Spock from Star Trek.

Only later did I discover other verses like, “In your anger do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26). So, anger wasn’t sin? Eventually I found some verses where God was angry, and I guessed he wasn’t sinning. I couldn’t imagine God sending himself to hell for being angry.

So what was Jesus saying? There had to be more to this text than I understood. Continue reading “If you’re angry, are you a killer? (Matthew 5:21-22)”

Why was Sodom destroyed? (Genesis 19:1-29)

If God wants to rescue people, why did he destroy Sodom?

YHWH’s attendants are checking out Sodom, in the guise of travellers. How they are treated will indicate whether this place is as bad as reports have claimed, whether the rot has permeated and corrupted everything.

Continue reading “Why was Sodom destroyed? (Genesis 19:1-29)”