YES, HE is Talking to YOU! (continued)
Love is the Fulfilling of the Law
In the gospels Jesus tells us that He teaches the people in parables “All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them” (Matthew 13:34) and that He teaches His disciples in proverbs “These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father” (John 16:25). There are times when His disciples did not understand a parable and the Master had to explain it as with the Parable of the Sower which the Master had spoken “And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable ….. And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?” (Mark4:10, 13) and again “and his disciples came unto him, saying , Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field” (Matthew 13:36). There also times when Jesus seems to be speaking in parable to His disciples, the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:23-34) is an example of this.
A parable is defined as: a comparison; a similitude; specifically, a short fictitious narrative of something which might really occur in life or nature, by means of which a moral is drawn* while a proverb is 1.an old and common saying; a phrase which is often repeated; especially, a sentence which briefly and forcibly expresses some practical truth, or the result of experience and observation; a maxim; a saw; an adage. 2.A striking or paradoxical assertion; an obscure saying; an enigma; a parable. 3.A familiar illustration; a subject of contemptuous reference*. We should see here that there is a fine line between these two terms with the idea of parable being contained in the definition of a proverb. For us we can look at the parable as a story and at a proverb as a more direct statement spoken to His disciples such as “Take heed , beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod” (Mark 8:15). We should also see that much of what the Master said to us was either in parable or proverb form which is likely why, after more that 2000 years, we are still debating what He meant. We must all put ourselves into the mix of those who hearing, claim to hear and understand and who seeing, claim to see and perceive but we can’t all be right as we are at time opposite. We should know that those interpretations that fulfill the intent and the spirit of the words of the Master are the ones that will triumph.
There is much uncertainty in the words of Christ and, from His telling us plainly that this is intentionally so and His citing the Prophet Esaias (Isaiah), we should come away with an understanding that we were meant to find out His sayings from the Path to the Kingdom. And, we should also know that the Path to the Kingdom in found in keeping His Word; the closer we get to actually being in His Presence the clearer His sayings will become. Do not mistake this as my saying that I am any closer than others for I do not know where I stand any better than anyone else can. In my heart I believe that I know the way and this is the way that I have been writing about. Is there another way? there likely is but from my perspective, and I hope from your perspective as well, all ways will involve and invoke the Love and the Brotherhood and the Forgiveness and the Mercy that Jesus taught about. For us, this should be the measure of any doctrine from any religion or denomination or sect. For us this should be the undeniable message of all scripture.
The clearest of all the teachings of the Master are in regard to Love and Brotherhood and Forgiveness and Mercy yet these are the very teachings that go most unheeded in the world. Two thousand years of wars and of strife, much of it within the so called Christian community, should be enough to show us that there is something wrong with the way we understand and the way we apply the teachings of the Christ. Holy Wars, the Crusades, the Reformation Wars are part of the history of Christianity and it may be that the only reason that we have stopped these type of conflicts is that government has become more secular, no longer being driven by religion. To this we should add the more recent threat of global annihilation. Secular governments have brought about their own share of wars as well and the struggles continue around the world. Why war? Why conflict? Most often because of hatreds and selfishness but never because of Love or Brotherhood or Forgiveness or Mercy. Let us look at these words and how Jesus brought them to us:
- Love; the clearest and boldest statement in the entirety of the gospels is given by Jesus when asked about the greatest commandment “the first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these“. When the questioner acknowledges that this is his understanding also and that do so “is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices“, the Master’s reply is “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:29-31, 33, 34). There is no parable here and the message is clear as a bell. Is it only because of the difficulty in performing this that we tend to bypass it and look to other, perhaps easier, scripture?
- Brotherhood; this too is a clear teaching by the Master and here we not only find much of the Christian world has ignored it but many actually deny that it is so. This teaching is at the heart of Jesus’ saying above and is found in the word neighbour. It is found too in the word brother and one of the clearest most poignant illustrations of the Jesus’ intent is found in this saying: “For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matthew 12:50). Is it not true that what Jesus says, we should say as well? If so, then there are no boundaries to brotherhood. The Master also frames doing the will of the Father as the key to the Kingdom of God “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). But He does go further too; remember the Parable of the Good Samaritan (In the Words of Jesus part 89) where Jesus defines for us who our neighbour is. Again, there are no boundaries. He says to forgive all and this is clear in the Parable of the Two Debtors where, referring to one’s being delivered to the tormentors, He says: “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses” (Matthew 18:35) and again here there are no boundaries.
- Forgiveness; this should be clear from the example above as this is a very clear part of this parable. But the Master also teaches forgiveness in most all that He says and does and this forgiveness is universal. He tells the Apostle Peter that he should forgive endlessly when asked if seven times was enough saying: “I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven“(Matthew 18:21-22) and with that great Christian verse for praying and believing to receive the Master adds: “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:25-26). We should notice here too that there are no boundaries; He says “forgive, if ye have ought against any“. In the great prayer that Jesus teaches to us the idea of forgiveness is clear in His saying “and forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us” (Luke 11:4). And in His telling us how we should act toward each other and how it effects our relationship with God, He says: “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven“
- Mercy; this is also clear in the Master’s teachings that we should have mercy. Starting with His proclamation that: “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7) we should see the clarity of this message and its importance. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan the questioner tell Jesus that “He that shewed mercy on him” was the neighbour to which the Master replied “Go, and do thou likewise“. This is not hidden in the parable as is the treatment of the injured man but is clearly said as evidence that this is what we should do. Finally, what can be more clear than this saying from the Master: “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6:36).
These highlights of the Christian life, Love, Brotherhood, Forgiveness and Mercy are not hidden in parables nor in proverbs but are enunciated by the Christ in clear everyday language. We should see that all of these are integral parts of Love, especially Love as the Master intended it and which we have tried to capture in our definition of the word. If these four ideas or virtues are practiced by man what would be the outcome in society? There could be no wars, no conflicts, no hatreds, no prejudices; there would be fairness and justice and harmony. But we wait for the next person to show these things to us before we endeavor to show these to them and this is not the message of Jesus. There are no ‘ifs’ in any of His sayings; there is no forgive if you are forgiven or Love if you are loved. So how do we miss it all and continue to miss it even when we know the Truth of what He says? Why do we change the intent of His message to one that suits our needs of the time. Why do we pick and choose what we will consider as making us Christians as if we were looking at an old Chinese menu and taking one from column A and two from column B.
We can make whatever case we want for the presentation of Jesus words and the intent of those words but any presentations and interpretations that minimize His teaching on these virtues cannot be right. The Apostle Paul, writing to Timothy regarding the duty of servants to their masters, tells us that: “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (1 Timothy 6:3-7). This is clear. When this was written only the words of the Master and of the Old Testament were known and taught. Today, there are likely some that can take this saying and turn it on our writing but that is of no matter. What are the “wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ” but words like Love and Brotherhood and Forgiveness and Mercy. What is the “doctrine which is according to godliness” but these same ideas and virtues and what do their opposites offer us but “questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings“. I go no further into this here but looking around at the world and, reading these words, we should each form our own ideas.
Repeating again our idea and our definition of Love:
In a general sense love is benevolence, good will; that disposition of heart which inclines men to think favorably of their fellow men, and to do them good. In a theological sense, it includes supreme love to God, and universal good will to men. Plus the ever important High Ideal as taught by the Christ: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matthew 7:12).
Do we not find in this the totality of Love and Brotherhood and Forgiveness and Mercy and lest we forget to add it, Truth.
We went a bit astray today and did not get to the next group of parables. It is important for us to understand that the parables and proverbs of the Master quite genuinely hide His message behind the words and the contexts of the stories and the sayings but this is not the case with these important virtues and our ability to see and to understand them. Although Jesus spoke in parable and proverb regarding eternal life, being born again and the Kingdom of God, we should be able to see that the answer to all of these and more lie in the virtues that we discussed today: Love, Brotherhood, Forgiveness and Mercy.
Note on the Quote of the Day
This daily blog also has a Quote of the Day which may not be in any way related to the essay. Many of these will be from the Bible and some just prayers or meditations that may have an influence on you and are in line with the subject matter of this blog. As the quote will change daily and will not store with the post, it is repeated in this section with the book reference and comment.
However many holy words you read, however many you speak, What good will they do you If you do not act upon them? Are you a shepherd who counts another man’s sheep, never sharing the way? Read as few words as you like, and speak fewer. But act upon the dharma (law). Give up the old ways – passion, enmity, folly. Know the truth and find peace. Share the way. Dhammapada (on Choices)*◊
Today’s Quote of the Day is again from the Dhammapada which is an accumulation of the sayings of the Buddha. The idea here should be clear; reading, speaking and studying the Word are folly if we do not act upon them. The Buddha says that it is not important what you read nor what you speak and study; what matters is how you act.
- *◊ The Dhammapada Translated by Thomas Byrom
- * Websters Revised Unabridged Dictionary, 1828 and 1913