Youversion sends me a verse every day. Sometimes I read it more carefully and thoughtfully than others. This morning’s caught me off guard a little.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)
Maybe I should explain how it caught me off guard. After all, this is one that I’ve had committed to memory for almost 40 years. Why would it jump out at me today?
Because for most of the first half of those 40 years, I weaponized this verse.
I pulled it out of context and used it to support my particular understanding of whatever it was I wanted “Jesus Christ” to be about for whichever argument I was in.
As if Jesus has always been a spiritual trump card to play on other people, to quash their arguments. And if “Jesus” means what I say he means today, then he’s always meant that. Because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Except Hebrews 13:7. Which says:
Remember your leaders who spoke God’s word to you. Imitate their faith as you consider the way their lives turned out.
This is very important: Hebrews 13:8 wasn’t written primarily as a debate tool that makes Jesus eternally agree with me. Rather, it was written to encourage each reader and hearer to trust Jesus to work in his/her own life the same way as Jesus worked in the lives of their teachers and mentors.
And I’m sure it’s no coincidence that this follows not long after the “Hall of Faith” listing in chapter 11.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So are the ways we misuse his name.
and the Grass Burrs won.
Recent rains mean the churchyard grass is due a good mow. But before that, I realized last night, I could pull ALL the grass burrs that were going to seed and stop their proliferation.
I started last night ( arriving early for a meeting, I had some time on my hands). I picked up this morning where I had left off. I pulled quite a few of those lawn mines, and was feeling pretty good about myself.
But they just kept coming. The more I pulled, the more I saw. But they’re just grass burrs! Do grass burrs even have a brain? They best they could do to fight back was grab at my fingers, but these were still green; they didn’t even hurt all that much!
Then, with visions of victory flooding my mind, I deposited another handful in the bag, returned to the battlefield, and started again.
And there was another whole section of them! As if they had gone to seed during my brief visit inside!
I gave up and moved on to the list of Other Things I Came to the Office for This Morning.
And as I walked inside, I was reminded of this:
24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like someone who planted good seed in his field. 25 While people were sleeping, an enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 When the stalks sprouted and bore grain, then the weeds also appeared.
27 “The servants of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Master, didn’t you plant good seed in your field? Then how is it that it has weeds?’
28 “‘An enemy has done this,’ he answered.
“The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and gather them?’
29 “But the landowner said, ‘No, because if you gather the weeds, you’ll pull up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow side by side until the harvest. And at harvesttime I’ll say to the harvesters, “First gather the weeds and tie them together in bundles to be burned. But bring the wheat into my barn.” ’” (Matthew 13, CEB)
It’s as if Jesus knew the way we thought!
And I don’t think it’s really about weeds.
I just can’t take it anymore. The next time I hear someone say “Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship,” well, I don’t know what I’ll do, but I won’t remain silent any more.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve said this myself! I’ve said lots of things. only some of them have been recorded.
But I’m a paid religious professional. You could assume I am responding defensively. I don’t think that’s it.
This last time I heard the “relationship, not religion,” talk, a few days ago from a Christan band member at a concert, I finally realized what’s wrong with the comparison.
They’re getting religion wrong.
The word “religion” occurs famously one and only one time in the Bible. That’s once in the King James Version, the NIV adds a few more. But the KLV, NIV, and NRSV all agree that James 1:27 includes the word “religion,” and the verse – I’ll share the NRSV – says this:
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
The band man – I didn’t catch from the video exactly who was speaking, defined religion as being about rules and laws and guilt and shame.
If that’s religion, I’m against, it too!
Oddly, the same person who prefers to think of being a Christian as about relationship, not religion, recognizes that relationships can be harmful, but not that religion can be good.
Maybe he hadn’t read James?
That’s more likely than that he is opposed to caring for widows and orphans and learning to keep oneself unstained by the world.