The heart-warming, feel-good statements of Jesus to "love your neighbor as yourself", "forgive your enemies", and "turn the other cheek" are always the ones that people focus on, they're the ones that get all the attention. And with the emphasis today by Christians on "Family Values", you would think that Jesus made statements very much in favor of close family relationships, strong family bonds, and family loyalty.
However, as the skeptics like to point out, Jesus also seemed to say and do some rather nasty things. And instead of speaking in favor of family values, Jesus seemed to say just the opposite, that people should abandon and forsake their families in order to follow him. Any religious leader today that demands followers reject their family is considered a cult leader.
Here are the most common and compelling charges of the skeptics:Jesus said to hate your family and abandon them in order to follow him:
"If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Luke 14:26
And He said to them, "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life." Luke 18:29-30
"And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name's sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life. Matthew 19:29 & Mark 10:29Jesus wouldn't even allow a follower to bury his father first, or another to first say goodbye to his family before leaving:
And He said to another, "Follow Me." But he said, "Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father." But He said to him, "Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God." Another also said, "I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home." But Jesus said to him, "No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." Luke 9:59-62
Then a scribe came and said to Him, "Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.".... Another of the disciples said to Him, "Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father." But Jesus said to him, "Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead." Matthew 8:19-22Jesus said he didn't come to bring peace but a sword!
So much for him being the "Prince of Peace"? And he came to set and divide family members against each other, and demanded that people love him MORE than their own family members:
"Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. "For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; and A MAN'S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD. "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me." Matthew 10:34-37
"Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. "They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law." Luke 12:51-53
"Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. Matthew 10:21Jesus denied his own family in favor of his followers:
While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. Someone said to Him, "Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You." But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, "Who is My mother and who are My brothers?" And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, "Behold My mother and My brothers! Matthew 12:46-49
Then His mother and His brothers arrived, and standing outside they sent word to Him and called Him. A crowd was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, "Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You." Answering them, He said, "Who are My mother and My brothers?" Looking about at those who were sitting around Him, He said, "Behold My mother and My brothers! Mark 3:31-34
And His mother and brothers came to Him, and they were unable to get to Him because of the crowd. And it was reported to Him, "Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, wishing to see You." But He answered and said to them, "My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it." Luke 8:19-21Jesus was rude to his mother:
And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come." John 2:4
Did Jesus say that its good to castrate yourself?
Notable Christian father Origen apparently thought so, as he literally followed Matthew 19:12 by having himself castrated, see here.
"For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother's womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it." Mathew 19:12
Jesus ignored the pleas of a Canaanite woman to heal her daughter of demon possession, showing racial/cultural bias/discrimination in saying that he was there only for the people of Israel, and not for the "dogs", the Canaanites. Only when she persisted did he grant her wish, impressed by her faith.
And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, "Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed." But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, "Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us." But He answered and said, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, "Lord, help me!" And He answered and said, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." But she said, "Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus said to her, "O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed at once. Matthew 15:22- 28
Then there is an incident often touted and criticized by the skeptics, where Jesus curses a fig tree for not having figs, causing it to wither and die. This seems like a rather irrational act, to lash out in anger at an inanimate object, expecting the tree to have figs even though it is out of season, not to mention that it doesn't say much for Jesus' omniscience:
Now in the morning, when He was returning to the city, He became hungry. Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He said to it, "No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you." And at once the fig tree withered. Seeing this, the disciples were amazed and asked, "How did the fig tree wither all at once?" And Jesus answered and said to them, "Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' it will happen. "And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive." Matthew 21:18-22
On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He
became hungry. Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see
if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found
nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it,
"May no one ever eat fruit from you again!" And His disciples were
listening. Then they came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple and began to
drive out those who were buying and selling in the temple.... As they were
passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. Being
reminded, Peter said to Him, "Rabbi, look, the fig tree which You cursed
has withered." And Jesus answered saying to them, "Have faith in
God. "Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up
and cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what
he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. "Therefore I say to
you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them,
and they will be granted you. "Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you
have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also
forgive you your transgressions. "But if you do not forgive, neither will
your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions." Mark
Note: there is a side issue with this incident in that there seems to be a contradiction between the Mark and Matthew accounts, but I put that in the "so what" category so I don't really get into that here.
So in conclusion, why is it that we have these questionable sayings and events in the gospels, things that seem to completely contradict the feel-good love and forgiveness saying of Jesus? Can each one really be satisfactorily rationalized and explained away? Or is there a better explanation? Could it be that in the 30 or 40 years that elapsed between Jesus' life and the writing of the gospels, these stories and sayings developed in various places and among various people, with lots of time for the stories to have evolved and become embellished? Could it be that its just a matter of different people with different opinions putting different words into the mouth of Jesus? I think so. But hey, that's just my take on it, what do I know?
Family Values: Communions, Cults, and Home-wrecking Christs from "Things We didn't Find Out in Sunday School"
Why Jesus? from the Freedom from Religion Foundation
Honor Thy Parents by Joseph Alward
The Personality of Jesus from "Rejection of Pascal's Wager"
Should We Admire Jesus? by Jim Walker, from nobeliefs.com
Cult Leader Jesus by Brad, from "The Agnostic Review of Christianity
The Fig Tree Incident:
The Fig Tree Enigma by Cliff Walker
Jesus versus Family Values? from the Christian Think Tank
Eunuc Uniqeness J.P. Holding doesn't think the castration issue is much of an issue, since he says "If the Kingdom of God is real, is it not worth giving up any part of yourself? I think so". Go for it J.P.!
Even Jesus Needed to be Reminded to be Inclusive A sermon dealing with the Canaanite "dog" woman by the Reverend Timothy Browning Safford, from Christ Church Philadelphia
On...why was Jesus so mean and insulting to the Canaanite woman? from Glenn Miller of the Christian Think Tank. Glenn really blows some smoke here, saying "They (the disciples) decide to approach Jesus about her, and ask him to grant her request and send her away (Mt 15.23)[Notice that this is the kind of behavior God wanted the Jews to have--to intercede for Gentiles (although it might likely be motivated more by their desire for 'quiet')!". Cmon, Glenn, they implored him to send her away, not to grant her request! Aren't you being dishonest here?
Is Jesus Mean? An essay by a Christian student trying to come to grips with the difficult Jesus sayings presenting a different picture than "his" Jesus, the Jesus of love. He wonders "If I cannot see in the gospels the wondrous grace of God — even after I have believed in it fully and experienced it excitedly for over a year — then something must be wrong with me." No pal, there's nothing wrong with YOU!
The Fig Tree Incident:
Why Did Jesus Curse the Fig Tree? from the Christian Courier
Why did Jesus curse the fig tree and miraculously cause it to wither? from Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries
Jesus and the Fig Tree from Rational Christianity.net
Why Did Jesus Curse a Fig Tree? from Bible Questions and Answers
Reader Essays on the Subject
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Note: These verses (unless otherwise noted) are from the New American Standard Bible
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
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