A football coach from the University of Nebraska recently stepped into some hot water by speaking out at a Lincoln city council meeting. The meeting was a debate was over gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender protections, and the coach spoke out against progressive change. His position was guided by his deeply held religious beliefs. Aware of the controversy he had stirred he later went on to say, “To be fired for my faith would be a greater honor than to be fired because we didn’t win enough games.”
While I will reserve any judgment on the coach’s views, for I respect everyone’s right to have a misguided opinion, it does occur to me how much of world history has hinged on a simple collection of ancient sayings. As today’s celebrities can’t puke outside a nightclub without it ending up on TMZ, imagine how Jesus feels? Something he may have vaguely mentioned over two thousand years ago is now being taken literally as The Gospel by billions.
Then, that got me thinking. How radically different would the world be if wording had been changed just a bit?
In Mark 8:34-38, instead of saying, ““If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me” Jesus had simply added, “but hey, if you find another way to live a good life and get to the same place, go for it”, how many wars would not have happened?
In Luke 11:9-10 he said, “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives.” Think what the possibilities would be if he had just tacked on to the end, “And, lots of hard work and a little self-confidence doesn’t hurt either.”
Or imagine if Jesus had made just one comment moderately in favor of the recreational use of marijuana. Our country would be facing an even greater fight with obesity, but political debate would be much more civil. The Republican party would be unrecognizable, although the Democratic party would be pretty much the same. Global differences would melt away as world wars would be reduced to arguments over pizza toppings.
I guess all I’m saying is that in modern times, people take things a lot less literally than they did back in the day. And maybe Jesus, with a critical eye on the timelessness of his teachings, didn’t say those extra things because he didn’t think he needed to belabor the obvious. I spent years working in customer service, and I can tell you most of us look at furniture assembly instructions more as a guideline than a rule. Everyone is looking for that place to rest, and we need to accept that we all assemble our chairs in a different way.