Treasures in heaven.

by K.W. Leslie, 15 November

Matthew 6.19-21, Luke 12.33-34.

In Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, after he finished objecting to hypocrisy in giving to charity, in types of prayer, and in public fasting, he moved on to talk about wealth and money.

You’ll notice the three verses in Matthew I’m gonna point to today, don’t by themselves nail down precisely how we’re to stash our treasures in heaven. That, we actually have to pull from the parallel teaching in Luke: Give to charity. And if you know your Old Testament, you might remember this proverb:

Proverbs 19.17 KWL
Put the LORD in your debt: Be gracious to the poor.
He compensates you and gives peace to you.

Jesus’s first-century audience would’ve known that one… and Jesus’s 21st-century audience had better learn that one.

Matthew 6.19-21 KWL
19 “Don’t hoard wealth for yourselves on earth, where moths and corrosion ruin it,
where thieves dig for it and steal it.
20 Hoard wealth for yourselves in heaven, where neither moth nor corrosion ruins,
where thieves don’t dig for it nor steal it:
21 Where’s your wealth? Your mind will be there too.
 
Luke 12.33-34 KWL
33 “Sell your possessions and give to charity:
Make yourselves a wallet which never wears out.
Infallible wealth in the heavens, which a thief can’t come near, nor moth destroy.
34 “Where’s your wealth? Your minds will be there too.”

This passage has been greatly nullified by our culture. Y’see, we have banks and insurance. Nowadays, if our minds are on our money, it’s only because we worry we don’t have enough. Back then, it was based on the constant fear, Is my money secure? Because the ancients were responsible to secure their own wealth. Neither financial institutions, nor the government, would do it for ’em. Wasn’t their job. Wasn’t anyone’s job.

Americans tend to take property rights for granted. The ancients weren’t so naïve. If the king wanted your stuff, he’d have your stuff. Land, cattle, wives. You remember Abraham was regularly worried different kings would swipe his wife from him—’cause they did. Ge 12.12-13, 20.2 Even though Abraham was powerful enough to assemble his very own army and rescue his nephew.

God mitigated this by having, “Don’t steal” Dt 5.19 apply to kings and commoners alike. True, it’s way harder to get justice when the king’s doing the thievery, like when David ben Jesse stole his general’s wife, or Ahab ben Omri stole his neighbor’s vineyard. The LORD had to punish these kings personally. And in Jesus’s day, Israel wasn’t ruled by a proper king; it was ruled by Roman puppets. You could appeal to the Romans, but good luck getting justice if you didn’t have citizenship; the Romans would treat you just like Americans treat illegal aliens. (Well okay, crucifixion is worse than how we treat foreigners. But still.)

So if you had wealth, you had to secure it. Just like paranoid people do today. Better build a strongroom in your house, or find a clever way to disguise or hide it. Lots of people simply buried it in a hole in the ground, just like the worthless steward in Jesus’s story of the talents. Mt 25.25 Or that buried treasure in Jesus’s other story. Mt 13.44 Hey, if nobody knows where your hole is, thieves can’t dig it up. (The KJV decided to translate διορύσσουσιν/diorýssusin, “dig through” as “break through”—a common enough way to get into a flimsy wooden house in the 17th century, but much harder to do with the solid stone houses of the first century.)

And even so, after all the precautions they took to make sure nobody could find or get at their wealth, the wealthy would worry. ’Cause any disaster could destroy it. Invading armies, or some covetous noble, could grab your land. Earthquakes could flatten your buildings. Determined looters, or even just a fire, could gut your house. Any possession could be lost. Easily.

It’s the very reason we invented insurance. Pay a little each month or year, and your possessions are protected and guaranteed? Brilliant. Now the only thing we need worry about is whether we have enough money.

So we need to climb into the first-century mindset about money before we can really understand Jesus. Imagine you’re in a really bad neighborhood, you’re not carrying a gun or taser or pepper spray, and for some crazy reason you’ve got $5,000 cash in your wallet. How secure are you gonna feel about that money?

Got that mental picture? Good. Now imagine having that worry all the time.

God’s will isn’t complicated. But we sure make it sound so.

by K.W. Leslie, 12 November

When I was a kid, parents and pastors encouraged us to learn and follow God’s will. Wasn’t just a kid thing either. Churches encourage everybody to learn and follow God’s will. It’s what churches do.

How do we do this? “Read your bible!” we were told. So we did. And… we found it had a lot of interesting stories, good advice, confusing visions, super boring genealogies, clever advice, inspiring poems, commands which were sometimes startling (“Wow, look at all the weird stuff God made the Hebrews do. Wait, does he still want us to do this?”) and sometimes made total sense (“Don’t eat bats. Well duh.”).

But… we were still generally confused about where to find what God’s will is.

Ah, said our youth pastors: It’s in the biblical principles. Apparently once we read enough bible, we’ll notice certain common themes throughout, and realize, “This seems like something God cares about.” To hear our youth pastors explain it: Turns out this—the connecting the dots between verses to find the underlying philosophy—is how we deduce God’s will.

And we can totally do this on your own, but lucky for us young people, the youth pastors already knew a bunch of the principles. So that’s what they taught us: Things like tithing to your church, and obeying your parents no matter what, and courtship instead of dating, and only voting for prolife candidates. And various other things which oughta make us into good conservative churchgoing citizens.

If you wanna learn a bunch of these principles, we were told, Bill Gothard has seminars! So, in my early 20s, I attended one. Gothard has books full of biblical principles: Stuff he extrapolated from bible. Well, more accurately, already believed… but then Gothard went digging through his bible for proof texts, found ’em, and insists his principles are bible-based, not merely bible-compatible. (Okay, you gotta massage some of those verses to make ’em fit, but still!)

I already explained how these “principles” too often get deduced improperly, or get read into the bible instead of read from it. This article’s not really about them anyway. Lemme set ’em aside.

’Cause whenever newbies and kids come to me, or pastors, or any other mature Christian, with questions about God’s will, they’re not asking about biblical principles.

“You have not because you ask not.”

by K.W. Leslie, 11 November

James 4.2.

Here’s a phenomenon I come across a little too often: Someone’s in need. They bring up their need to fellow Christians. And the fellow Christians respond, “Have you asked God to help you with that? ’Cause if you ask, he’ll help. You’re in need because you haven’t asked God about it. ‘You have not because you ask not.’ ”

Me, I’m pretty sure the needy person has asked God for help. Whenever I’m in need, he’s my go-to. I go to other people second. And no, not because other people suck: I wanna see if I can achieve it myself first, or I can achieve it with God’s help first. I guess it comes from the American ideal of self-sufficiency… although I admit it’s not always the wisest ideal. Some burdens ought to be shared.

And likewise some people try to avoid burdens whenever they can. That, more often than not, is the real motivation behind Christians telling the needy, “So have you asked God about it?” They don’t wanna help.

But let’s set them aside for a moment, and deal with the fact the quote they’ve used, “You have not because you ask not,” is only part of a bible verse. It’s missing the other part. The whole of the verse goes like yea:

James 4.2 KJV
Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.

…Gee, that’s not all that encouraging of a bible verse.

Which is why people tend to skip the first part of the verse, if they know it. More often they don’t know it. They only know the “You have not because you ask not” part.

Pseudepigrapha: Influential ancient Jewish fanfiction.

by K.W. Leslie, 10 November
PSEUDEPIGRAPHUM su.də'pɪ.ɡrə.fəm noun. A document definitely not written by the author it claims, nor in the time it claims. Sometimes fraud; sometimes fanfiction.
2. A Jewish writing ascribed to one of the patriarchs or prophets of bible times, but actually written after 200BC.
[Plural, pseudepigrapha su.də'pɪ.ɡrə.fə noun; pseudepigraphic su.de.pɪ'ɡræ.fɪk adjective.]

The bible isn’t the only ancient Israeli book in history. Same as today—though certainly not in the same volume as today—tons of books were written, distributed, and became popular. And same as today, many were about God. Were they as Spirit-inspired as the bible? Nah. That’s why they’re not included.

For some, like the apocrypha, for a while they were included in the bible. Ancient Christians certainly thought they were bible, ’cause they were in the Septuagint and in the Vulgate, i.e. their bibles. In the article on the apocrypha, I went over why Protestants don’t include ’em in our bibles. It doesn’t mean they’re not still good ancient books about God; they’re just not on the same level as bible.

And then there are the ancient books about God which aren’t good.

Whenever I write about Jewish mythology, these books are where these myths come from. They were popular in ancient Judea. Popular even in Jesus’s day. Jesus’s followers grew up hearing about ’em, even reading them. There are even references to them in the bible. We have a full-on quote from one of ’em in Jude.

Jude 1.14-15 NRSV
14 It was also about these that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, “See, the Lord is coming with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15 to execute judgment on all, and to convict everyone of all the deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”

Jude wasn’t quoting the Old Testament, ’cause the OT has absolutely no Enoch quotes whatsoever. And no, Jude didn’t have any special revelation from God about what Enoch did or didn’t say. Jude was quoting a popular book, 1 Enoch, specifically chapter 1 verse 9. Which claimed it was written by Enoch.

Wait, Enoch wrote a book? No.

When you fast, keep it private.

by K.W. Leslie, 09 November

Matthew 6.16-18.

Believe it or don’t, some Evangelicals have no tradition of fasting. I run into ’em from time to time, and when I talk fasting, they’re quick to reject it: “That’s an Old Testament thing,” and “Jesus never told us to fast.”

True to both. The LORD never commanded fasting in all of scripture. Fasting has always been voluntary; nobody has to fast. But certain churches do promote it. Might be a Daniel fast at the beginning of the year, a Lenten fast before Easter, an Advent fast before Christmas, a partisan fast before Election Day. And peer pressure aside, nobody has to fast. They’re voluntary customs. You can opt out. Don’t even need special permission from the clergy… although every year when St. Patrick’s Day falls in mid-Lent, many a Catholic who wants to get plowed will beg their bishop for a one-day pass.

But the way Jesus talks in his Sermon on the Mount, he totally expects his followers to fast.

Bear in mind his audience was full of Pharisees. Pharisee custom was to fast twice a week… and Jesus may not have expected them to keep that same rate going, but he did expect them to fast once in a while. And according to the Didache, the ancient Christians totally did. 8.1

Jesus himself fasted in the desert. While he was notorious for ignoring customary Pharisee fast days, he never banned fasting. Never declared it a done-away-with custom. It’s in the Sermon on the Mount, remember? “When you fast” means sometimes you’re gonna fast.

And if you don’t—if you never engage in any hardcore prayer practices, which is precisely what fasting is—don’t expect your relationship with God to grow as quickly as it will among the Christians who do fast.

So yeah, Jesus never banned fasting. It’s just when we do it, doesn’t want us to be hypocrites about it. Really that’s his only rule about fasting. One we’d better make sure we follow when we do it.

Matthew 6.16-18
16 “When you fast, don’t be like the sad-looking hypocrites
who conceal their faces so they look to people like they’re fasting.
Amen! I promise you all, they got their credit.
17 You who fast: Fix your hair and wash your face,
18 so you don’t look to people like you’re fasting, except to your Father in private.
And your Father, who sees what’s private, will repay you.”

Sad to say, a lot of Christians don’t follow this rule, and do let everyone know we’re fasting. Like our families and fellow Christians. And sometimes pagans, like coworkers and waiters and anybody whom we tell, “Oh I can’t eat that; I’m on a fast.” Well aren’t you the holy one.

Jesus wants us to keep our mouths shut about it. Because it’s nobody’s business that we’re fasting. It’s a private matter, between us and God, and that’s it. You keep it as confidential as if you just soiled your pants: Tell nobody unless you absolutely have to. Got it?

Sharing Jesus patiently.

by K.W. Leslie, 05 November

For the sake of this article I’ll call him Uladzimir. He’s a pastor, and he was trying to teach me how he did street evangelism—where you stand in some public place, and share Jesus with passers-by.

Most of the time, street evangelists pick someplace busy, but not hurried—someplace where people might hang out, and therefore have a few minutes to talk. Like a park, a shopping mall, a town square, a main street, a parking lot. For this instruction, Uladzimir took me to a mall.

Pick a place to stand, he instructed, and watch the passers-by as they come your way. Look at their body language.

  • Do they walk quickly, eyes straight ahead, pretending you’re invisible (like they do with beggars and pollsters), pretending they have somewhere to be? Skip them.
  • Do they walk slowly, nodding or saying hello as they approach, seemingly willing to listen if you distracted them with a conversation? Talk to them.

Still, Uladzimir pointed out, don’t forget to listen to the Holy Spirit throughout. If he interrupts us in our assessment, and says, “Go talk to that one”—even if they look outwardly hostile, and look like maybe they wanna hurt you—obey your Lord. Likewise if he says, “No, not this one,” then no, not this one.

Simple idea. So I stood at an empty spot in the mall, my evangelism clipboard in hand (looking for all the world like a pollster, I guess) and watched people walk past.

The first two wouldn’t even make eye contact. I even said “Hello” as they passed. I do that ordinarily; it’s not a trick to make people start a conversation. They didn’t break stride. The next few were likewise too busy to slow down.

Uladzimir grew impatient.

“Is the Spirit telling you no on all these people?” he said.

“They’re all giving off the ‘uninterested’ vibe,” I pointed out.

Ordinarily Uladzimir is a patient man. (I know from personal experience; I’ve tested his patience a bunch of times.) But this day he didn’t feel like waiting. Two power-walkers later, Uladzimir simply stepped in front of the next person and said, “Hello!” and began his spiel.

“I’m sorry,” said the man, “I really have to be somewhere.” And off he went.

I resisted the temptation to ask Uladzimir whether the Holy Spirit had said yes to that guy.

Uladzimir proceeded to break his own procedure three more times. We got nowhere.

To be fair, he really wanted to teach me his evangelism technique. And not with somebody else who was pretending to be pagan; he wanted a real-life example. But today he was just gonna be frustrated. The fish weren’t biting. Hey, sometimes it’s like that.

I think Uladzimir’s guidelines are entirely valid though. If you ever find yourself doing street evangelism, remember: Holy Spirit and body language. If they don’t look interested, don’t force Jesus upon them. And if the Holy Spirit overrides our impressions, follow the Spirit.

But my point of this little story is to make a bigger point: Patience.

Impatience is fruitless evangelism.

Patience is a fruit of the Spirit, and if we’re sharing Jesus, we need to exhibit his character. Need to. I suspect a big reason Uladzimir and I weren’t getting anywhere on that day at the mall, was because he was losing his patience, and the Spirit wanted him in a much better headspace.

Part of the reason I changed Uladzimir’s name is because he ordinarily is a patient man. It’s just that day, he wasn’t. And sometimes we’re all gonna have bad days. That’s life. When that happens, lean on the Spirit harder. Uladzimir didn’t, and tried to force the situation—and any other day he’d be the first to tell you to never force the situation. We gotta work with the conditions we have.

Other evangelists don’t agree at all. Neither are they patient at all. They always try to force the situation—“Now is the day of your salvation!”—and push as hard as they can. They think they have a mandate from the Spirit to do so.

  • They dress outrageously, to get attention.
  • They get a bullhorn, or a working sound system, and get loud.
  • They make signs. Some of them are even legible. (Some are even Christian. The “God Hates Fags” signs aren’t.)
  • They have giveaways. Like free food, cold water, free clothes, coupons, tchotchkes… but you gotta listen to their message before you can have the freebies.
  • They write what they consider clever tracts, which are “guaranteed” to get read. Usually ’cause the tract looks like it’s about something other than Christ, just to get you reading. Sometimes there’s shock value involved: They condemn something, like another religion (whether it be Mormons or Muslims or even fellow Christians) or certain things in the popular culture (like Harry Potter books or reality shows). Or they threaten you with hell and mayhem. Whatever gets you to start reading… and then put it down in about two minutes, and mutter to yourself, “Oh, it’s Christian. Feh.”

You see the general theme though: They’re not willing for things to happen naturally. Hey, the rest of the world doesn’t work that way: We have to seize the day. Make our opportunities. Go out and get that job, or make that sale, or drive that bargain, or whatever it is we have conquer. We can’t passively sit around and wait for things to fall out of the sky. So they presume the same is true of evangelism: Go into all the world and make disciples, Mt 28.19 right? Don’t just expect them to wander into our churches.

Ordinarily I agree: We Christians should be active, not passive. But “active” means actively obeying the Spirit. It doesn’t mean, “Well, I don’t see anything happening, so I’m gonna go make things happen.” Sometimes God’s time has not yet come:

  • Christians aren’t obedient enough yet, and need rebuking.
  • Christians haven’t prepared enough yet, and need training.
  • Christians are too unfruitful to lead others, and need maturing.

Could be any number of reasons.

The answer to all our maturity problems is not to bypass them with a six-week evangelism seminar, a slew of gospel tracts, a citywide campaign, and zealots willing to verbally assault passers-by. It’s not to co-opt the methods of multi-level marketing in order to share Jesus. That works great for selling a consumable product, but we’re trying to get people to totally surrender their lives to Jesus, and that’s a way bigger commitment level than 10 bottles of overpriced essential oils. Jesus is not a product. He’s our Lord.

The impatient route appears to win people to Jesus, but how many of them stick around? How many of them turn out to be just as impatient as their evangelists, and quit Jesus the instant things get difficult? (Or forget him as soon as they leave the evangelist’s presence, and never go to church nor read a bible nor pray?) How many of ’em were just saying “Yes” to everything in order to make the evangelist shut up and go away? And if only we were patient, we’d notice all these things—but we’re not, and don’t.

Stuff to bear in mind while evangelizing.

Back to Uladzimir’s instructions:

WATCH FOR BODY LANGUAGE. If people look interested or open, approach. If not, not.

LISTEN TO THEIR RESPONSES. As you’re sharing, pay attention to how they’re reacting. I know from experience lots of people just wanna talk spirituality, or wanna debate religion for the fun of it, so they’re not actually listening, and you’re getting nowhere.

So. When you talk about spiritual things, are they open and interested, or anxious and wanna get away now that they know what you’re about? Are they willing to hear what you have to say about Jesus, or do they wanna correct you with all their ideas about Jesus? Are they open to repentance, or do they think they’re just fine with God as long as they don’t sin too much?

Force nothing on anyone. But when they’re willing to talk, talk.

FOLLOW THE SPIRIT. Regardless of what we observe, we don’t know the whole picture. But the Holy Spirit does.

If he tells us to ignore what we observe and share Jesus anyway, do it. If he tells us to ignore what we think is an open door—because it’s not really—and shut up, do it. He knows all; we don’t. It’s idiotic to ignore his warnings simply because “God’s word won’t return void,” so go ahead and play leapfrog in that minefield.

BE PATIENT! Lastly, don’t force “opportunities” by creating set-ups and scams and shock. Watch your environment carefully for the opportunities the Spirit actually has set up for us. They’re already there. We just have to ask him to show us where they are.

Our job is simply to share our experiences (assuming we have any; get some!) with others. Tell them who Jesus is, what he’s done for you, and what he’s gonna do for everybody. Not to “seal the deal”; that’s the Spirit’s job. Nor to apply pressure; that’s his job too. Just share. And when it’s not time to share, wait—and get ready.

It’s not about racking up souls; it’s not about numbers, speed, immediate decisions for Christ, or any of that. It’s about letting people know Jesus loves ’em, and inviting them to new life. And how we demonstrate that new life is by sharing Jesus patiently.

Bummed your candidate lost?

by K.W. Leslie, 04 November

After Mitt Romney lost the American presidential race to Barack Obama in 2012, I wrote an article, “Bummed your candidate lost? Bad sign.” I didn’t update it much when I posted a similar article in 2016, after Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump. The sentiments were the same; the only difference was which political party lost. And y’know, if it’s not partisan gloating nor gloom, the sentiments should be the same.

This election year, the day after Election Day, the results are still up in the air, ’cause for once the states are taking their time to count everything, instead of declaring a winner as quickly as possible. It’s agitating the impatient, including the president. But eventually we’ll know who won… and one side or the other is gonna mope about it.

Because same as every year, the losing side is gonna put on a brave face, say the usual platitudes—“God’s will be done,” and “God is in control,” and “God works out everything for our good,” et cetera, ad nauseam. God’s on the throne, even though their candidate won’t be. They’re very bummed, but they put their trust in Jesus.

Oh now they put their trust in Jesus.

See, this “God’s in charge” stuff is what people say after they’ve been putting their trust in an idol… and God just smashed that idol. As he does.

But not all of ’em go with the “God’s in charge” line. A number of them still rage about election results. And insist God’s will has been frustrated… and what comes next now, is God’s wrath. I heard quite a lot of rightists talk about wrath during the Obama years. Yeah, it’s projection; they’re thinking about their own wrath, and how they’re gonna get sweet vengeance once they’re back in power. Broken idol or not, they’re still idolaters—coveting and worshiping power.

Some of us are just that dense. I sure was.

Vote! But bear in mind what your vote really does.

by K.W. Leslie, 03 November

God’s kingdom is not a democracy.

True, when we talk about repentance, turning to Jesus, voluntarily following him, and our free will, it sounds like our choices have a lot to do with Jesus’s reign as king. And they do… for now. ’Cause for now, Jesus lets humanity choose sides.

Once he returns, it’s to take possession of a world he’s already conquered, and finally run it right. People at that time will no longer have the final say about their rulers; Jesus will. And they definitely no longer get to choose the man in charge: Every knee’s gonna bow to Jesus. Pp 2.10-11

If that sounds disturbing or terrifying to you, it’s probably because you don’t know Jesus. Don’t worry; he’s awesome. We his followers suck, and definitely don’t represent him properly. And his partisan followers, of every political party round the world, are the very worst of us.

Every election year, these partisans try to get out the vote. Everybody tells us to vote. Even churches who absolutely won’t endorse candidates (and rightly so; that pulpit is to promote God’s kingdom, not earthly ones) will still endorse the act of voting: “Christians need to get to the polls and vote our values.” We’re encouraged to vote for all the candidates which “stand with God.” We’re told our votes make a difference; that when we Christians vote, we’ve contributed towards making our country more Christian.

But once again: God’s kingdom is not a democracy. And God doesn’t endorse any other ruler but Jesus.

Christians will point to the bible and claim God did so endorse human rulers, like Abraham, Moses, the judges, certain kings, and certain head priests. But we fail to recognize God’s leadership structure is entirely different from our democracies. When God appointed or backed a ruler, it was with the understanding God’s the real ruler, and this human on the throne was his employee. (All things considered, pretty messed-up employees too.) But in democracies, our rulers work for us. They’re to do as we want.

This belief our democratically elected leaders will work for God, is pure campaign rhetoric. They will not. Even the most earnest of ’em will work for what they think God wants… which conveniently seems to be exactly what the party wants, which means they’ve been projecting an awful lot of their politics upon God. So whenever we get a politician who claims to be on God’s side, we’ve either got someone who doesn’t really know God, or is a giant hypocrite. The non-hypocrites in politics will recognize from the very start, “I work for you.” (Now, whether that “you” is the voters or the lobbies, is another thing.)

Unfortunately many Christians have totally fallen for the hypocrites. Remember when Jesus talked about fakes fooling people?

Matthew 24.24 KJV
For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

I used to think, “How are they ever gonna fool us Christians?” But Christianist politicians fool us every election year. Fooled me for a lot of years.

So am I telling you not to vote? No. Vote. It’s your civic duty to vote for leaders who will do the most good… or, as it typically happens, the least evil. And as Christians who are called to love our neighbors, vote in the national interest; don’t just vote for your own interests, as far too many always do. Much of the reason for our messed-up culture is because it’s based on selfishness instead of selflessness, and our votes reflect this all too well.

But don’t delude yourself into thinking your vote, your candidate, our leadership, and our government, is our salvation. We have one savior, and it’s Jesus. Put your hope in him, not whichever yutz the electorate picks this time around. And if your particular yutz loses the race, stop acting like the world’s gonna end! It was always gonna end. But Jesus makes all things new.

Prayer’s one prerequisite: Forgiveness.

by K.W. Leslie, 02 November

Mark 11.25, Matthew 6.14-15, 18.21-35.

Jesus told us in the Lord’s Prayer we gotta pray,

Matthew 6.12 BCP
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.

He elaborated on this in his Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 6.14-15 KWL
14 “When you forgive people their misdeeds, your heavenly Father will forgive you.
15 When you can’t forgive people, your Father won’t forgive your misdeeds either.”

And in Mark’s variant of the same teaching:

Mark 11.25 KWL
“Whenever you stand up to pray, forgive whatever you have against anyone.
Thus your Father, who’s in heaven, can forgive you your misdeeds.”

He elaborated on it even more in his Unforgiving Slave story.

Matthew 18.21-35 KWL
21 Simon Peter came and told Jesus, “Master, how often will my fellow Christian sin against me, and I’ll have to forgive them? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus told him,
“I don’t say ‘as many as seven times,’
but as many as seven by seventy times.
23 “This is why heaven’s kingdom is like a king’s employee who wanted to settle a matter with his slaves. 24 Beginning the settlement, one debtor was brought to him who owed 260 million grams silver. 25 Having nothing to pay, the master commanded him to be sold—and his woman and children and as much as he had, and to pay with that. 26 Falling down, the slave worshiped his master, saying, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back everything.’ 27 Compassionately, that slave’s master freed him and forgave him the debt.
28 “Exiting, that slave found his coworker, who owed him 390 grams silver. Grabbing him, he choked him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe!’ 29 Falling down, the coworker offered to work with him, saying, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back everything.’ 30 The slave didn’t want to, but went to throw him in debtor’s prison till he could pay back what he owed.
31 “Seeing this, the slave’s coworkers became outraged, and went to explain to their master everything that happened. 32 Then summoning the slave, his master told him, ‘Evil slave: I forgave you all that debt, because you offered to work with me! 33 Ought you not have mercy on your coworker, like I had mercy on you? 34 Furious, his master delivered him to torturers till he could pay back all he owed. 35 Likewise my heavenly Father will do to you—when you don’t forgive your every fellow Christian from your hearts.”

The “delivered him to torturers” bit Mt 18.34 makes various Christians nervous, and gets ’em to invent all sorts of iffy teachings about devils and curses and hell. As if our heavenly Father is gonna hand us over to torturers too. No; he’s gonna leave us to our own devices, and without his protection it’s gonna feel like torture.

But fixating on this torture stuff misses the point. God shows us infinite mercy. What kind of ingrates are we when we don’t pay his mercy forward?

Reformation Day.

by K.W. Leslie, 31 October

31 October isn’t just Halloween. For Protestants, some of us observe the day as Reformation Day, the day in 1517 when bible professor Dr. Martin Luther of the University of Wittenberg, Saxony, Holy Roman Empire (now Germany), posted 95 propositions he wanted to discuss with his students. Specifically, about certain practices in the Catholic church—in which, at the time, they were all members—to which he objected.

Technically it wasn’t 31 October. Y’see, in 1517 Europeans were still using the Julian calendar, which was out of sync with the vernal equinox by 11 days. That’s why they updated it with the Gregorian calendar in 1582. Once we correct for that, it was really 10 November. But whatever. Reformation Day!

Luther didn’t realize this was as big a deal as we make it out to be. It’s dramatically described as Luther, enraged as if he just found out about 95 problems in his church, nailing a defiant manifesto to the school’s Castle Church door. Really, the door was the school’s bulletin board, and Luther may not have personally thumbtacked ’em to the door at all; he might’ve had a teaching assistant do it.


Joseph Fiennes playing Martin Luther, tacking up the theses. From the 2004 film Luther—not to be confused with the Idris Elba cop show Luther, which is… actually much better. I’m gonna watch that now.

He posted his propositions (or theses, as we tend to call ’em), then sent a copy to his bishop and archbishop, ’cause he did still answer to them you know. But in January 1518, Luther’s friends translated the theses from Latin to German, printed copies for the general public… and now they got controversial. Because instead of a controlled classroom discussion about whether these theses were true or false, now you had people in pubs throughout the Holy Roman Empire (I’m just gonna shorten it to HRE now) raging about how the bloody Church had no biblical basis for what they were up to. Now it wasn’t just an internal debate among clergy-in-training. It was everywhere.