The conversation with my Outlier Gospel Reader continued  as he moved on to Matthew’s Gospel.

M writes:

Matthew’s Gospel was a tougher read than Mark!

It makes it seem that awakening is a TALL order! I remember some of this making me feel like a pretty bad actor. It is fitting therefore that there is such an emphasis on repentance. 

For me, an over-emphasis! I’m more of a redemption guy in the heart of Love. Would you say that the whole repentance thing is a main element of what non church goers resist?

Christopher:

Thank you again for your candid and insightful thoughts.

I think “awakening is a TALL order.” I find an endless number of ways to put myself to sleep. I can fall so easily, quickly, and regularly into unconsciousness. I need constant reminders to awaken.

And this really is what “repentance” is about. Repentance is not about feeling bad, beating yourself up, or having low self-esteem. The Greek word is metanoia. It is made up of two words meta – change and noia – mind. Repentance is a change of mind. It is about looking in the mirror and doing a serious reality check. Repentance means being honest with myself and acknowledging that, if I am to have any hope of waking up, I am going to need help.

I certainly agree that repentance is one of the things “non church goers resist.” But, I think the resistance is first of all to a misunderstanding of the concept. Repentance is simply a recognition that on our journey we need to make constant course corrections.

I think the second resistance to the idea of repentance is to a healthy and life-giving practice of humility. We want to be able to manage life on our own. Repentance means acknowledging that there are forces at work in our lives, in the world, and maybe even in the cosmos, that we are powerless to control, and that we need help, divine help, to navigate.

Repentance is not against redemption “in the heart of love.” It is the path to opening to “the heart of love.”

M:

It’s interesting to view the anonymous authorship aspect ‎. This gospel seems like it was written by a journalist. Big on sensationalism and dramatics for punch. Big on the punitive and wrathful. Scary! 

Christopher:

I do think that the teaching of Jesus wants us to take our spiritual lives seriously. In fact it is a little bit “Scary!” what happens to the world when people live as if there was no reality beyond the time-bound, material, physical realm. It is “Scary!” to see what happens in my own life when I fall into the unconscious sleep of living on automatic and failing to heed the depths of my true being.

M:

Mark seems  more raw and direct. 

Christopher:

This is a great insight about Mark and one of the reasons it is such a good place to start reading about Jesus.

M:

Right in the middle of Matthew of course, the most stunning beatitudes, for me the revolutionary foundation for the Judeo-Christian world . So moving really.  There are a lot of contrasts in this gospel. In the popular church today, how much  is this gospel  referenced compared to the others. Is there a “most popular “? 

Christopher:

I do not think there is a “most popular” Gospel. There are probably “most popular” parts of each Gospel. And certainly the Beatitudes are foundational for Christian life and practice.

Again your insight about the importance of the Beatitudes is so crucial. When my little book came out dealing with the Beatitudes, Richard Rohr said on the back cover, “Christopher Page returns the Beatitudes to their central teaching position.” The Beatitudes are “central” to the Christian faith because in them, Jesus gives his mandate for Christian living.

It is important that Jesus is interested in living much more than dogma or eternal destiny. To take Jesus as my teacher means to seek to live a Jesus-life which is a life of truth, peace, gentleness, and love.

M:

The last lines… I command you to go make disciples of all nations…. is that a big part of what the church subscribes to? That has got to be a political time bomb?

Christopher:

No doubt Matthew 28:19 is a bit tricky and has been seriously misused.

I have a whole blog post that tries to deal with this at: https://inaspaciousplace.wordpress.com/2014/06/10/discipling-matthew-2816-20-2/

It is always good, whenever we come upon a difficult chunk of the Bible to remember, we are reading a translation of an ancient text. Translation is not an exact science. All translation involves interpretation.

I do not believe that “go and make disciples” is good interpretation. I believe this verse is really about how followers of Jesus live their lives on a daily basis, how we embody Jesus’ Beatitudes teaching. Jesus encouraged his followers to live authentically wherever they are, bearing witness by their lives to the faith that is in them. He understood that this kind of living would have an impact on the world.

I think whenever we run up against something like this verse that causes us to hesitate, we need to ask ourselves whether there is a chance we may not have understood it properly. If the way we are reading a particular verse seems to contradict, or in any way go against, Jesus’ primary teaching of love and compassion, we can be pretty sure that our understanding is not entirely accurate. We may need to do some more investigating. This is also why the Bible is intended to be read in community. We need to presence of other minds and hearts in order to help refine our reading of these ancient texts.

Understanding these texts is a tricky business. But, I believe if we put in the effort, we will find rich spiritual rewards.

M:

On to Luke!

Christopher:

I have great admiration for your tenacity. Bless you.

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