Jesus would be a horrible Christian. Aside from the fact he was a 1st century Palestinian Jew, by today’s standards Jesus wouldn’t be “church” material. I doubt he could become an ordained a United Methodist Minister. His lack of experience as a youth pastor and his online rabbinical ordination surely would have disqualified him.
This passage from Mark 9 illustrates how poorly Jesus would have fit in with contemporary Christians. The disciples have come to Jesus with a complaint. “We’ve seen others doing things in your name, people casting out demons. But here’s the things Jesus. We don’t know the guy. He doesn’t hang around with us. He seems to be someone who’s simply heard about you and is now off doing is own thing.” Speaking like good church bureaucrats and keepers of the institutional flame, the disciples want to know why this man is doing Jesus-y things without going through the board of ordained ministry, our conference system, or a litmus test of theological orthodoxy. Maybe he bought his ordination over the internet? Who knows?
Jesus’ answer gives him away. It’s what tells me he wouldn’t be a good Christian or United Methodist. Jesus says, “Don’t stop him.” The United Methodist Church would have stopped the anonymous man. To preserve the integrity of the Book of Discipline, letters charging him with any number offenses would be sent to his district rabbi in Capernaum. He’s diluting the integrity of his own faith tradition by not upholding the sanctity of his own ministerial practice and tradition. It gets worse. Not only does Jesus want the disciples to refrain from hindering this man, he reminds them, “whoever isn’t against us is for us.” The apathetic masses, Jesus says, those millions who don’t go to church and don’t care about church or possibly do church in a different way are actually for us. How can those who are indifferent to us do any tangible good (for the kingdom) in the long run? People who aren’t against us may be for us, yet they don’t pay our apportionments or paint our sanctuaries. Now I’m certain Jesus would not make a good United Methodist.
Just when you think it can’t get any worse, Jesus makes a series of declarations concerning the mutilation of the human body. If you don’t know who said these statements, were you not aware I was reading the words of Jesus, you might believe these words came from someone describing the practices of Sharia law in distant Islamic country. In defending the actions of those who believe in him (beyond the traditional center of power) to be left alone, unmolested and unhindered by his team of “orthodox” disciples, Jesus says its best you let people who believe in Jesus “be”. We should let them “be” instead of forcing them to trip and fall in humiliation.
Here’s where Jesus takes a turn which might make those who stir up hatred against Islam and Muslim Americans a bit anxious. He calls for extremely severe punishments, similar to some in Sharia law, for those who “cause these little one who believe in me to trip and fall into sin.” First, he says, it’s better to have a stone hung around your neck and be dropped in a lake than to “cause someone to fall”. It’s better to be tortured to death by drowning than make the mistake the disciples just made. If Jesus wanted an extreme example to illustrate his point; I think he’s found one. Those words sound more like a radical ISIS imam than the Jesus we’ve come to know and love. What kind of Christian is Jesus after all?
Jesus doesn’t stop there. In an attempt to illustrate this example, Jesus tells a story about amputation. “If your hand causes you to fall into sin, chop it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than to go away with two hands into the fire of hell, which can’t be put out.” Again, if you didn’t know Jesus was speaking, who would you think I was quoting; the Holy Quran or the sections from the Holy Bible? I’m willing to guess not a Christian and certainly not the founder of Christianity.
Amputation is one of the punishments triggered by Hudud crimes. In Sharia law, Hudud crimes are crimes against God and certain punishments are mandatory for specific crimes. Amputation is usually reserved for robbery or theft. Is Jesus describing amputation as punishment for “robbing” someone of their joy, ability, or opportunity to witness? Even if this is an example of extreme hyperbole, how Christian does Jesus sound? How Christian would I be if I suggested such an option?
The amputation imagery doesn’t stop with the hand. Jesus moves on to the foot. If your foot causes you to sin, it’s better to cut your foot off than walk into hell with two feet. Personally, I think Hell would be equally loathsome as a one-handed, one-footed amputee. I believe the handicap facilities in Hell probably mirror those of Soviet-era train stations. Long story short, I don’t want to go to hell handicapped or with all my limbs.
In the words late TV pitchman Billy Mays, “But wait, there’s more!” Why go to Hell with just one hand and one foot when you can also go with one eye. “If your eye causes you to sin,” Jesus says, “tear it out because it’s better for you to enter God’s kingdom with one eye than be thrown into hell with two.”
Who is this guy talking about an orgy of self-mutilation? I’m having trouble recognizing Jesus amidst the blood and gore. He certainly doesn’t sound like a Methodist or Christian. I’ve never been told it’s better to have a mutilated body in heaven than be physically fit when I arrive in Hell. Has someone kidnapped my Jesus?
All of this because the disciples wanted to know, “how do we handle people who are different from us?” Does it take a journey through maiming our bodies for us to answer what should be a simple question? Too many of us are the walking dead, wandering wounded, and amputated spiritually. We’ve accepted the flawed premise. The simple questions are too hard to answer. So to guarantee my procession to an afterlife, I will live a spiritually mutilated existence. I would rather hobble on one leg, with one hand, and be blind in one eye than recognize the simplicity of Jesus’ message. It’s easier for us to hurt ourselves than to follow Jesus’ ordinary requests.
No, Jesus doesn’t sound like a Christian, Methodist, Catholic or anything else. He sounds like a Jesus. He’s none of those things. We can’t tell who he is because we’re in too much pain to listen. Shouldn’t we stop amputating and start living?