When I was in high school, our Baptist church had a speaker, Pastor Waltrop I believe his name was, came to speak to us during a revival. In the South, we’d every once in awhile have what is called a revival –a week of services to help revive and renew our faith. I will never forget that night because that was when I began to question my faith –my faith had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and it was on the critical list. Pastor Waltrop preached to us about how Proctor& Gamble, the soap company, was run by the Devil’s minions. He explained to us that the music group Queen (and others) recorded secret messages on LP records praising Satan (this was before digital CDs and you had to play the records backwards). He preached against Rock and Roll and everything in the world that he thought had an agenda to turn you away from Jesus. The church was packed. I sat there thinking what does this really have to do with Jesus. I looked around and saw folks that hadn’t been to church in ages and thought that they weren’t getting the real story about what Jesus wants us to do. Even in high school, I thought Pastor Waltrop had his own agenda, and that agenda involved following Pastor Waltrop and not Jesus. It wasn’t long after that I un-Baptisted myself and began to follow Jesus differently.
Every day I see another social media post by someone professing to be a Christian telling others what God or Jesus wants. Many advocate things I just can’t see relating to anything Jesus ever wanted. As Susan B. Anthony said, “I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires”. It started me thinking again about what being a Christian really meant and ultimately what we were supposed to do in our relationships with other people.
The simplest answer is that a Christian follows the teachings of Christ –we aren’t Old Testamentarians or New Testamentarians or Paulians or Augustinians or any other variation of document or early Christian father. Our ultimate allegiance is with Christ, everything else is a supporting or bit player and whenever they travel beyond the teachings of Jesus, in my opinion, they become null and void.
Most of my adult life has been asking this question: “What was the essence of what Jesus was teaching us?”. What did Jesus focus on in his teachings? Huston Smith, author of The World’s Religions, said most succinctly that “everything that came from [Jesus’] lips…focus[ed] human awareness on the two most important facts about life: God’s overwhelming love for humanity, and the need for people to accept that love and let it flow through them to others.” That quote summed it up for me. I later came across eight points in the book entitled The World’s Wisdom. I call them The Eight Jesus Rules. I hate to call them “rules”. It sounds like draconian demands when I use that word. I always hear my mind saying “Rules are meant to be broken.” –that’s from my arts education in college. The rebel in me hates rules. I had thought about calling them “commandments”, but there are already ten of those people don’t follow. The rebel in me hates rules and commands, but I think I could follow these rules pretty easily.
Jesus Christ’s teachings can be summarized into eight points (The Eight Jesus Rules):
1) Love one another.
2) Turn the other cheek.
3) Love your enemies.
4) The Golden Rule (In everything do to others as you would have them do to you.)
5) I was hungry and you gave me food.
6) Before all else, be reconciled (be at peace with others i.e. settle your quarrels with people).
7) Forgive seventy-seven times.
8) Let the sinless cast the first stone.
It’s really that simple.
NOTE: These eight points could serve as a litmus test for any post or person telling you what Jesus would or would not approve. A senator saying that cutting food benefits for the poor is a Christian thing (NO, see numbers 1, 4, and 5). A pastor calling for intolerance and hate (NO, numbers 1, 4, 6, and 9) A Christian demanding violence for something he doesn’t like (NO, numbers 1,2,3,4…you get the picture). Use that list, hang it near your computer, and, as Jesus also said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.”