This being the start of a new year, I thought it might be appropriate for us—Christians and non-Christians alike—to recall a few things Jesus of Nazareth said, as recounted in the New Testament.
You don't have to be a churchgoer to find value in his wisdom. Listening to him could remind us all of what's truly important, ease disparities within our society and help heal our battered relationships and bruised hearts.
These quotations are from the New American Standard Bible.
It's an intrusion, I imagine, but I've added a commentary of my own after each passage:
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous."—Matt. 5:43-45.
How any Christian can make the leap from this commandment to justifying the torture of prisoners utterly dumbfounds me.
"When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full."—Matt. 6:5.
Public prayers and other flagrant expressions of piety always should be suspect, including my own.
"Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye."—Matt. 7:1-5.
We battle few compulsions as strong as our need to feel superior to others. This isn't a wise or healthy compulsion.
"'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."—Matt. 22:37-40.
Jesus concisely defines all worthwhile religion.
"Then [the Lord] 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.'"—Matt. 25:41-45.
Every addled homeless person, every illegal alien, every AIDS patient, every lifer in a state penitentiary, might be Jesus wearing stage makeup. What a sobering thought.
"It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."—Mark 2:17.
The Lord has a soft spot for losers.
"Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man's table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores.
"Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.'
"But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.'"—Luke 16:19-25.
Jesus rarely (OK, never) says nice things about rich people.
"He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."—John 8:7.
Jesus doesn't like rock throwers, either.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."—John 13:34-35.
Wouldn't it be wondrous if his followers actually managed to love each other, much less love those of other (or no) faiths? What a testimony that would be.