He sure taught a lot of wise things.
Jesus was a great teacher and philosopher, the world would be a better place if we lived out what he taught.
Do any of these sound familiar? I've heard those responses, or variations thereof, countless times when talking about the deity of Jesus Christ. My favorite is when someone responds that we should follow his teachings, like to love your neighbor or to turn the other cheek, but that doesn't mean he's the Son of God. My response is usually to turn it right back on them- do you love your neighbor? How about your enemies? Do you really turn your cheek when someone is mean to you?
It is easy to pick and choose favorite one-liners from Jesus' teachings and turn those into a philosophy of how we should live. But no matter how many may say so, few really do. Even among the ranks of Christians are few who can honestly say they are living out every one of Jesus' commands. I haven't sold everything I have and then gave it all to the poor, have you? If we take out the hard teachings (eat Jesus' flesh?) we are usually left with something that looks an awful lot like the Sermon on the Mount.
I guess if we cling to something from the life of Jesus, it might as well be this, right? But even these instructions are hard to keep (cut off my hand?). So Jesus' teachings are usually boiled down even further to the Beatitudes. Even before I took the Bible seriously, I could recite every one of these. But to live them out? A.W. Tozer writes in A Pursuit of God:
"In the world of men we find nothing approaching the virtues of which Jesus spoke in the opening words of the famous Sermon on the Mount. Instead of poverty of spirit we find the rankest kind of pride; instead of mourners we find pleasure seekers; instead of meekness, arrogance; instead of hunger after righteousness we hear men saying, 'I am rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing'; instead of mercy we find cruelty; instead of purity of heart, corrupt imaginings; instead of rejoicing in mistreatment we find them fighting back with every weapon at their command." (pgs 77-78)
Let's check our attitudes against the beatitudes: poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hunger and thirst for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, persecuted because of righteousness. If I were to measure myself against these I could confidently lay claim to two; on my best days. I'm not going to go into detail defining each of these and writing up a mini-sermon supporting it. Instead I encourage you to check your heart. Do Jesus' descriptions of a blessed heart match yours, or do you more closely resemble what Tozer describes above?
Do not be discouraged by your conclusion. Instead be inspired by the rewards, the blessings, Jesus promises: the kingdom of heaven, receive comfort, inherit the earth, be filled, be shown mercy, see God, and be called sons of God.
Now can a mere philosopher promise such blessings or can these only come from the Son of God himself?
This blog is part of a book club reading The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer. Please join the discussion here and at our hosts, Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter. Need a copy of the book? You can get it for free on Kindle.