Saturday, November 28, 2015

Repent, The Kingdom of God is at hand.

“Repent, The Kingdom of God is at hand.”

This was printed on the front and back of the sandwich board the doomsday fanatic was wearing. Few paid him much mind. Fewer still understood the message.

When most people hear the word repent they think it means to be sorry for one’s wrongs.

Kingdom usually implies a geographical location like the United Kingdom or King Author’s lands, or it means a political way of rule, as in a monarchy. A Christian usually sees "Kingdom of God" as being synonymous with heaven.

“Be sorry for what you have done wrong because heaven is almost here.” That is the general translation from what is written on the sandwich board.

This passage is taken straight out of Holy Scripture – Matthew 3, 2. John the Baptist was preaching about the coming of the messiah. Being part of the New Testament it was written in Greek and the Greek words used have much different meanings from what we understand today.

The Greek word used in scripture for repent is “metanoia” – μετάνοια. It is one of the worst translations in the bible. Metanoia does not mean to be sorry for one’s wrongs. Metanoia is the turning of the will and mind to that of God’s. Metanoia is what Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night he was betrayed.

“And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.”

Luke 22, 41-42

In Greek a verb can take two forms. The first denotes a onetime action. The second form means to do the verb and to continue doing the verb unceasingly. In almost every instance in Holy Scripture where metanoia is used as a verb it is in the later form. Change your mind and your will to that of God’s unceasingly.

The Greek word used in Holy Scripture for kingdom is “basileia” – βασιλεία. It is from this word we get words like basil and basilica. As with metanoia, basileia is also incorrectly translated as heaven. Basileia correctly translated means kingship, sovereignty, or rule. It is the royal nature of God.

“The Kingdom of God is at hand” does not refer to Jesus’ second coming or the institution of heaven on earth as many believe it to mean. It meant that God’s royal nature was now among us in the person of Jesus. Anyone who follows Jesus inherits this royal nature when they are adopted as brothers and sisters of our Lord and become children of God.

I have inherited God’s royal nature when I accepted Jesus as my Lord and became his adopted brother. I am called to live a life worthy of that royal nature by conforming my mind and my will to that of the Father’s unceasingly.

λέγων , Μετανοεῖτε  : ἤγγικεν γὰρ ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν .

Conform yourself to God for his royal nature is among us.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Let Us Not Shrink From Our Responsibilities

“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. “All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. ‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? ‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ “Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ “Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Matthew 25, 31-46

There is a multitude of people in the United States who do not believe we should give aid to the Syrian refugees fleeing persecution and fighting for their lives. People are proud that their government and their governors have declared, “Not in my backyard!” Memes are running rampant on social media likening the refugees to a bowl of M&Ms or gumballs with a few “poisoned” ones in the bowl. How many are willing to try one? We are constantly reminded that many of the terror attacks in our own country have come at the hands of “refugees” we have let in.

Do you think Jesus will accept the excuse that we failed to give aid to the Syrian refugees living in crisis because there were vipers among them? Do you think he will understand that we did not help “them” because of increased danger to “us”?

Christians all over this country have feigned outrage with President Obama because he once stated that this is not just a Christian nation anymore. Many of the same Christians now feign a similar outrage with the President because he wants to come to the aid of those in desperate need. So are we still a Christian nation that does as Christ taught? Do we feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty? Do we invite in strangers and clothe the naked? Do we tend to the sick, the suffering, the persecuted, and those in prison or do we only give lip service to those things as long as not much is required of us and there is no danger imposed on our way of life?

When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,

            “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

             “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

             “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

             “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

             “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

             “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

             “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the   kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Matthew 5, 1-12


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Divinely Human, Humanly Divine

Jesus was fully human and fully divine. This has been a root of much confusion which has caused countless heresies through the ages. Sabellianism, Docetism, Adoptionism, Nestorianism, Apollinarianism, Socianism, and Arianism are just a few of the heresies the early Church had to deal with concerning the dual nature of Jesus Christ. These heresies come about from many different beliefs but all wrestle with the belief that a person cannot have two distinct natures at the same time.

Think of a nature as if it were water for a moment. If I have a cup of red water and a cup of blue water and I try to pour them both equally into a one cup glass the best I can do is 50%-50%. The water in the cup would also become mixed to the point that you couldn’t tell them apart anymore. This concept has lead people to believe that it is impossible for Jesus to have a 100% human nature and a 100% divine nature at the same time. That equals 200% and isn’t possible.

Now imagine a room that has a red light in one corner and a blue light in the other. If I turn on the red light the room is filled 100% of the way with the red light. If I turn on the blue light the room is filled with 100% blue light. If I turn on both lights at the same time an interesting thing happens. The room is filled 100% with the red light. It is also filled 100% with the blue light. The red light does not displace the blue light and the blue light does not displace the red. They coexist in harmony with one another.

Another interesting thing happens. If we place an object in the center of the room, equally between the two lights, and look at that object from the side with the red light the object will appear red. If we look at the object from the side with the blue light the object will appear blue. If we look at the object from any angle that both lights shine on it the object will appear purple. We can see each light individually as well as both lights combined at the same time.

No metaphor is perfect but this one can help us to better understand the great mystery of how a divine nature and a human nature could coexist in the man Jesus totally, equally, and without diminishing the other at the same time. There are times in scripture where we see Jesus’ human nature shining through, like during his agony in the garden. There are other times when we can see his divine nature shining through, like when he is forgiving sins and healing people. Through most of scripture Jesus is seen with the perfect mix of the human and the divine.

Lost in Translation

So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.

John 21, 15-17


There are only two times in Holy Scripture where a charcoal fire is mentioned. The first is when Peter denies the Lord three times on the night he was betrayed. The other is when Peter affirms his love for Jesus after his resurrection. In the above passage it appears that Jesus gives Peter a chance to redeem himself from his denial by asking him three times if he loves the Lord. Peter answers that he does love the Lord and yet the passage says that Pete was grieved by this. For someone who only reads an English translation of the bible this passage can never make sense. The true meaning of it has been lost in translation.

English is a vocabulary rich language. We have many different words that can be used to express the same thought in a slightly different manner. I can walk through the woods. I can also hike, amble, stagger, skip, wander, journey, stride, stroll, saunter, meander, mosey, roam, and high tail it through the woods. Each of those hold the same basic meaning but express it in a way where someone can understand what type of “walk” occurred. English is a vocabulary desert when it gets to the concept of love. We have one word with a dozen different meanings. I love my wife. I love my pet squirrel. I love this town. I love this pencil. I love the smell of napalm in the morning. In each of those the word love was used but each held a distinctly different meaning.

Greek (the language of the New Testament) has four words for love that have distinctly different meanings. The first is “Éros” from which we get words like “erotic”. It refers to a love of a physical nature. The second is “Phillia” from which we get words like “Philadelphia” or “pedophilia”. It refers to affectionate regard, friendship, or brotherly love – usually between equals. The third is “Storge” and refers to the love usually felt between a parent and a child. The greatest type of love is “Agápe”. For a Christian this is a sacrificial love, a love above all others. It is the love God has for man and the love we are called to have for each other.

When you read this passage in Greek you come away with an entirely different understanding of it. The exchange between Jesus and Peter goes like this;

Jesus: Peter, do you love me above all things? (agápe)

Peter: Yes, Lord. You know that I love you like a brother. (phillia)

Jesus: Simon, son of John, do you love me above all things? (agápe)

Peter: Yes, Lord. You know that I love you like a brother. (phillia)

Jesus: Simon, son of John, do you love me like a brother? (phillia)

At this Peter became upset for he knew that he had failed once again. He did not love Jesus with the perfect, sacrificial love but as a brother.

Peter: Yes, Lord. You know all things. You know I love you as a brother. (phillia)

Jesus knew Peter did not yet have the love he needed to have but he was willing to meet Peter where he was on his spiritual journey. He trusted Peter to teach his people in his place and knew that he would eventually come to love the Lord with agápe.

Each of us will stand where Peter did. Each of us will be asked before a charcoal fire if we love the Lord above all else, with perfect sacrificial love - agápe. I suspect that is what purgatory is for. For those of us, like Peter, who answer that we love the Lord like a brother, phillia love, we will be given time in purgatory to perfect our love until only agápe remains. Hell is reserved for those who have no love at all for the Lord.