What is the gospel of Jesus Christ?
The gospel taught by Jesus of Nazareth was so fundamentally simple that he evidently felt there was no need to write it down (obviously, Jesus could read the Hebrew scriptures that were available in his day). His gospel was simply this:
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all our soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. AND THE SECOND IS LIKE IT: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." (Matt 22:37-40).
So what does that mean? To understand the meaning of this, you must first accept the fact the all human thinking is inherently relative (relative to a person's past thoughts and experiences). As Adolph Hitler demonstrated, this inherently relative nature of human thinking can sometimes be manipulated to produce very UNGODLY results (perpetrated by people who often believe at the time that their ungodly acts are "morally necessary"). As you will see, the original authors of Genesis recognized this inherent weakness in human nature, and they showed us what needs to be done to solve such problems. They called it "The Tree of Life." Jesus called it "The kingdom of God."
Given that all human thinking is inherently relative, the original authors of Genesis (as did subsequent Biblical prophets including Jesus) taught in their own way that the most important question we should be asking is "relative to what?" And the answer to that question which they taught was that human thinking (man-made concepts) should always be evaluated relative to the commandment to "LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." The kingdom of God, as taught by Jesus Christ, is a spiritual kingdom of people who seek the truth (commandment 1) relative to the comandment to love your neighbor as yourself (commandment 2) and who seek to fulfill those two commandments whenever they reasonably can. This is what Jesus meant when he told Pontius Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world". (John 18:36) In his parable about the good Smaritan (Luke 10:25-37), Jesus made it clear that we are not to apply any restrictions on our definition of neighbor (he also indicated in that parable what he thought about religious leaders who do put restrictions on their definition of neighbor). Eveything that Jesus taught and did throughout his ministry was to illustrate and fulfill God's two most fundamental commandments.
If you seek the truth relative to the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself, you will find yourself being "guided" into learning things and fixing things which you would otherwise not have bothered with. Is this guidance being provided by a "supernatural" God or simply the result of one's own quests for the truth? Most of us will probably never know that answer to that question for sure. Either answer is sufficient for me. What I do know is that there's no need to believe in anything "supernatural" in order to believe in (and reliably put one's faith in) the kingdom of God as taught by Jesus Christ.
There is one more fundamental aspect to the kingdom of God as taught by Jesus Christ that is very important. The third of the Ten Commandments states:
"You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain." (Exodus 20:7)
This commandment is often trivialized by creating the false impression that it simply refers to acts of "swearing" or "cursing." In fact, it means a whole lot more than that. Anyone who claims to represent God (claiming to be "Christian" or whatever) while advocating violations of God's commandments (especially the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself) is in fact using the Lord's name in vain. For example, suppose somebody claims
"I am a God-fearing, ordained Christian minister with a Doctor of Divinity degree in ancient Greek and Latin writings, so you can believe me when I tell you 'blah blah blah hate your neighbor blah blah blah'".
Jesus would refer to such a person as a "wolf in sheep's clothing" (Matt 7:15-20), someone who does NOT represent God and who is in fact using God's name in vain. People who do such things SHOULD have their Christian credentials challenged, and if they respond by saying "Who are you to question my credentials as a Christian?", you can legitimately reply "I am a servant of God" or "I am one grain of salt" (Matt 5:13-16). The fact that you are acting in behalf of God's commandment to love your neighbor as yourself is the only "credential" you will ever need to legitimately represent Him according to His standards!
It's important to note that Jesus did not define people as his enemies. Instead, he defined popular man-made concepts that were producing ungodly results as his enemies (Biblical writers often referred to such concepts as Satanic "spirits"). Sometimes, Jesus severely criticized the Scribes and Pharisees (Matt 23) for their ungodly acts and policies, but he never advocated that should be killed. He was basically trying to shame them into obeying God's two most fundamental commandments. The Pharisees, on the other hand, found Jesus' teachings in this regard to be highly embarrassing, so they attempted to censor his observations and teachings by arranging to have him crucified. It didn't work! Christ's observations and teachings live on to this day, and as predicted in the second and third of the Ten Commandments, many of the DESCENDENTS of those who arranged for the death of Jesus have suffered dearly over the centuries since then largely because of that single ungodly attempt at censorship (newspapers take note!).
It's also important to note that only God is "holy" in the kingdom of God as taught by Jesus Christ. All man-made concepts, no matter how popular or "sacred", must be subject to continual review and evaluation relative to the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. Some may say "you shouldn't be applying the teachings of Jesus Christ to that--it's a matter of political concern". Wrong! Nobody can honestly put their faith in an religion (or ethic) that "cops out" the moment a sin becomes labeled "a matter of political concern". I've included a letter which I wrote last month regarding Bob Dole's foreign policy for two reasons:
1) To show how Christ's teachings have some powerful "teeth" when applied to matters which violate God's two most fundamental commandments, even when they are "matters of political concern". Such techniques are referred to in the New Testament as using "Christ's double-edged sword of truth."
2) And more importantly, even if Bill Clinton gets re-eletected as President, unless the damage which Bob Dole has inflicted on the United Nations is reversed, at least THREE MILLION MORE PEOPLE WILL DIE from war, starvation and/or disease in the next four years than would otherwise be the case!
With regards to scriptures, if you make it a rule to interpret the Bible only in ways which conform to the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself, you'll be amazed at how the originally intended interpretations of those scriptures "pop out" at you as if they were written in an ancient form of hypertext! What's more, you will find that you have a way of interpreting the Bible that works CONSISTENTLY throughout at least 98 percent of the Old and New Testaments (keeping in mind that not all those who claimed to represent God in the Bible did in fact represent God--look at the results of their actions). The few exceptions that I've found so far appear to have been added to the text at a later time, probably in response to "political pressures". I've included a commentary on the first nine chapters of Genesis to help illustrate this these points.
Last modified on Friday, May 03, 2002