Rarely is the world moved by a teenager in the way it was moved yesterday by the words of Greta Thunberg. Having travelled by sailboat across the Atlantic (she refused to fly) in order to attend the UN Climate Summit, one might say she’d had plenty of time to rehearse her speech. And when her moment came, she delivered it, fully loaded and without restraint. She was emotional, she was angry, she was fearless. In Thunberg, the world has seen the future - and there is hope.
It’s a courageous thing to speak truth to power but this young lady has it in shed loads as she looked to her prepared script as she spoke. "This is all wrong. I shouldn't be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you! "You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I'm one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”
Now anyone can get angry and shout out ‘How dare you!’ I get that. But this was different. Only 12 months earlier, as a 15 year old she took a lone stand against climate change (one of the three major challenges of next generation) and now she’s witnessed a mass movement of people across the globe with the same cry. We are witnessing a seismic cultural shift and in Thungberg, have seen one of the global leaders of tomorrow.
Futurist Patrick Dixon tweeted: ‘An astonishingly passionate wake up call to humankind with tremendous integrity - and vulnerability. True Leadership is not about position or power but about moral authority.’
In a world where the young are criticised for their apathy and entitlement here you have a young person whose passion has been channelled to global change. She is the voice of a generation of activists who are not prepared to just sit by and do nothing. It’s their future - and they can see where its heading. "For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you're doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.”
Each generation is set apart by the passionate oratory of a lone voice speaking out against injustice. What we witnessed yesterday in Thungberg’s speech will go down amongst the greats. "You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And that I refuse to believe.”
History teaches that the world is changed by people like Greta Thungberg. People mobilise around vision and leadership - we are moved by a cause and as a causes go this is as big as it gets. Anger in the face of injustice; tears at the lack of concern; resolution in the face of fear - these are the levers that turn the world - and yesterday the world was moved by the passion of a young woman who refused to be silenced. ‘"We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not. "Thank you."’
Should Prosperity and Gospel ever be used in the same sentence? Well according to one prosperity gospel preacher - the answer is no. Or at least it is now. For years Preacher Benny Hinn had been urging his followers to part with their hard earned cash. Well no more. The 67 year old has received a revelation that it’s all wrong. “I think it's an offence to the Lord, it's an offence to say 'give $1,000'. I think it's an offence to the Holy Spirit to place a price on the Gospel.”
Now there’s much that could be said at this juncture, but I’m not sure how helpful that would be. Suffice to say that in a world where, according to the Food Aid Foundation, “Some 795 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life. That's about one in nine people on earth. The vast majority of the world's hungry people live in developing countries, where 12.9 percent of the population is undernourished.” Something needs to be done and the ‘prosperity gospel’ certainly ain’t helping.
Better late than never, you might say - but legacy, the desertion of his nephew from his ministry, and the greater scrutiny through social media has, I imagine, all paid a part in Pastor Hinns change of heart. This is good thing for the church and helps to redress a terrrible imbalance that gives over exposure to a distorted message by those able to purchase air time on some of the Christian media channels around the globe. There’s a long way to go but one feels a change in the air and with such a prominent voice of the prosperity movement making such a public confession - I expect there is more to come.
News broke earlier this month that prolific song writer and main stay in the Hillsong Worship team, Marty Sampson has lost his faith and further more, according to his since removed Instagram feed, ‘he couldn’t be happier.’ It’s challenging news from someone who penned the lyrics to ‘O Praise The Name’ with the words, ‘I cast my mind to Calvary where Jesus bled and died for me’, and serves to remind us all that faith is very far from fixed - even for those whose platforms extend the globe.
His decision to go public comes off the back of another major influence in the evangelical world Joshua Harris whose book ‘I Kissed Dating Goodbye’ was a mainstay for youth leaders seeking to lead their kids along the path towards marriage as part of the purity culture during the 90’s. He shared via social media both his decision to split from his wife and has stepped away from his faith in Christ and apologised that he ever wrote the book after numerous people spoke of the emotional and spiritual harm it brought them.
For Marty Sampson, it was in part the silence of the church to tackle issues he believes are very real that contributed to his doubts. In his Instagram account he wrote:
Time for some real talk. I’m genuinely losing my faith, and it doesn’t bother me. Like, what bothers me now is nothing. I am so happy now, so at peace with the world. It’s crazy.
This is a soapbox moment so here I go … How many preachers fall? Many. No one talks about it. How many miracles happen. Not many. No one talks about it. Why is the Bible full of contradictions? No one talks about it. How can God be love yet send four billion people to a place, all ‘coz they don’t believe? No one talks about it. Christians can be the most judgmental people on the planet—they can also be some of the most beautiful and loving people. But it’s not for me.
I am not in any more. I want genuine truth. Not the “I just believe it” kind of truth. Science keeps piercing the truth of every religion. Lots of things help people change their lives, not just one version of God. Got so much more to say, but for me, I keeping it real. Unfollow if you want, I’ve never been about living my life for others.
All I know is what’s true to me right now, and Christianity just seems to me like another religion at this point. I could go on, but I won’t. Love and forgive absolutely. Be kind absolutely. Be generous and do good to others absolutely. Some things are good no matter what you believe. Let the rain fall, the sun will come up tomorrow.
A lot has been said of the ‘falling away of Sampson’. For my part I have to start by thinking of him as being brave. I mean consider what he’s given up to live true to himself? Security, platform, opportunity, community - he may of course find these in other places, but for now that is all part of the loss.
It’s true that we do no favours in not dealing with reality. When we don’t allow space for doubt and close down all conversations as a ‘lack of faith’ we only store up problems for the future.
The high profile confession of Sampson does however raise challenges within the evangelical community to do with fundamentalism and how we understand it, and why we must speak with maturity borne of humility into areas where we don’t carry all the answers. Apologetics has its part to play but the issue is deeper. Faith should not be cited alongside reason as if to set one against the other. If the evidence is strong enough then the pendulum will swing in favour of faith - if not then unbelief. The travelling companion of faith has never been reason but mystery. As the Apostle Paul wrote, ‘Beyond all things, the mystery of godliness is great.’
The themes of Sampson’s leaving are repeated time and again for those with ears to hear: science, sexuality, the miraculous - ‘we don’t talk about these issues’ he says. Well I do think that depends where you are positioned. To be honest, I like very many others, think about these things all the time!
There is a genuine challenge here and in a church that is giving more time to music (and I’m not against this and love many of the Hillsong songs) drawing deeply on emotion, we do well to pause and think because the person we are becoming is not found in the music as much as in the silence. We can easily feel like mountains have moved, giants have been conquered and miracles made when we are surrounded by 100 decibels - but what we need is living presence when we rest our head on the pillow and stare into the dark night of the soul. And I”m not sure we always do this well.
Emotion can be beautiful and music enthusiastically played in an intentionally created environment uplifting, but if it is not borne out in every day experiences then we create a disconnect that’s going to trip people up. The gap between the emotion of what is said should happen and the realities of what is happening leads to a disingenuous situation that challenges the integrity of good people that can become the breeding ground for doubt. For all of us faith has to be owned and refined, in a life that will test it. Doubt will always be part of this and somehow we need to create Christian communities that speak about it and help support people to process it well. My prayers are with Marty and for all of us when we are confronted with our doubts that we won’t see them as simply the antithesis of faith but rather the breeding ground of it.
There’s nothing like bad language to divide opinion. Back in the eighties when American Pastor and Professor of Sociology, Tony Campolo, took to the stage of Spring Harvest his audience were not prepared for what was coming. ‘Tonight,’ he said, ‘thirty thousand children are going to die of starvation, and you don’t give a shit. And more importantly, you are more offended by my use of the word shit than you are of those children who tonight will die.’ Campolo had made his point - but he’d also caused havoc for the organisers of the event!
Last weekend Stormzy, a 25 year old grime artist was the first British black solo artist to headline at Glastonbury. His performance electrified the audience and has gone down as one of the most notable performances in the history of the Festival. He started by saying, ‘We’re going to take this to Church and we’re going to give God all the glory now,’ before singing his hit song, Blinded By Your Grace. The performance has over 1,300.000 views on YouTube and it’s clear he is worshipping God and looking on in wonder as the crowd joins with him. It’s a rare moment in UK Pop Culture - and one that’s captured many emotions.
Later in the set he went onto to sing his latest song, Crown, where he suggests that standing for issues of social justice carries its own burden as the refrain: ‘Heavy is the head that wears the crown’ suggests. Now all this would be great: standing up for young black men; speaking out about the Grenfell tragedy; challenging institutionalised injustice - if he’d just stop cussing. His language causing him to connect with some and disconnect from others.
But we need to take a step back before rushing in, it's easy to step in and find fault but there were 100,000 people part of his congregation that evening.
Stormzy's music is making a connection with a new generation where many in the Church are not. Speaking as a Pastor I readily acknowledge we are living in a post Christian context and here we have half of Somerset singing:
Lord, I've been broken
Although I'm not worthy
You fixed me, I'm blinded
By your grace
You came and saved me
There in the midst of Popular Culture you have the echoes of grace reverberating across a field full of people. And he's not just dropped there - his platform has been borne out of his craft. The commitment to practising his art, of building his audience, of walking contemporary culture with all its challenges and opportunities. Perhaps in that world were cussing is a normative way of speaking we shouldn't be looking at his F bombs as much as his intentions. For sure the Faith Community to which his God songs align should be praying for this young man. Praying that fame won't spoil him, temptation won't ruin him, and success won't isolate him. What's for certain is we need people who are angry enough to speak up to the injustice around us and this is the role of the social prophet. He has his eye on a bigger goal - of speaking truth to power. Will he get it all right: no. Will his take always be correct: no. But at least he's coming across as some who does give a shit - and in this world of apathy and self-interest that has to be something to applaud.
A brief forage into the world of technology and it’s easy to feel daunted by the pace of change. In fact, if you are anything like me you probably feel like change is something that happens around you and your challenge is to simply keep up. A bit like sitting an exam that never quite ends. Futurist Ray Kurzweil wrote in 2001 that every decade our overall rate of progress was doubling but of the current century wrote, “We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century—it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).” Now that's a lot of change - but from what we witness it feels closer to truth than fantasy. This is the technological age - we'd just better get used to it.
But technology is not the only thing evolving - so are you. Think about it. Are you the same person you were twenty years ago? Of course not. How we think about things has changed - evolved into a new normal, a way of viewing reality that adapts to the environment. Some people protest this - especially, but not exclusively religious people. I think it’s borne out of fear more than anything else. When I was a kid growing up in church some adults in the congregation believed video recorders were the work of the devil. A few years later and the vehicle of the devil was in the hands of the church playing the Cross and the Switchblade to its youth groups. Things change. As do attitudes.
I read the profile of Lyndon Bowring recently in Christianity magazine. Lyndon is a statesman within the Evangelical World, a campaigner of note whose contribution has been channelled through the Christian charity CARE which has been his life's work. Now, at the age of 81 he reflects on how he has changed - especially in relation to issues of sexuality. Of abortion he says, ‘But I think it’s compassionate caring that’s going to win hearts more than our campaigning. Thirty-one years ago, I marched through London with a banner that said: “Abortion kills”. I would never do that again.’ Regarding the LGBT community he commented, ‘I think we have changed our attitude. I think we were harsh in those days... somehow, we have got to show them that they are welcome and loved. And certainly, I’m longing to learn how to do that without changing my views.’ He continued, ‘If you are of that point of view, you think of the extremes of homosexuality and promiscuity. But when you encounter people who’ve fallen in love with someone of the same sex, and you remember what it was like to fall in love with someone of the opposite sex.... it’s not so much about sexual activity, it’s about tenderness and kindness towards each other.’
Attitudes change because life is not static. Perceptions are challenged often by new evidence coming to light. If things don't work in the way you were told they would - or should then you can only hold the position for so long before your integrity is compromised. At that point you have to either change or simply drift off into irrelevance wrapped in the shroud of naivety known as self-righteousness.
I've found much of this to be true in my own life hence the title - Embrace Your Evolution. We need to recognise that things change - you change, biblical interpretation changes, the way we see and understand the world evolves over time. The concern is if we don’t recognise this you have a higher chance of derailing faith - possibly your own and certainly the faith of those whom you lead and particularly your children. You may consider this to be a terrifying prospect, but the reality of the alternative is already well documented. You can only live consistently with what you believe to be true otherwise you will kill your soul.
To thrive you must enable people to handle complexity well. Of holding what might appear to be opposing positions in tension. If you fail to achieve this then you create untenable dilemmas, and I fear my own world of Christian fundamentalism has in many ways served to fuel this. To my mind there are several things that have contributed. Biblical literalism, consumerist Christianity and the explosion of the internet, to name but three have created environments in which Faith has been challenged in ways not experienced in my lifetime, but it’s not only these.
We must learn to engage with the world as we find it not as we would like it to be and that means developing faith that is robust, righteous and real. We all display our best side - the superficial aspect of our achievements, possessions, the way we are present in public, but this is not the real you or me. Our lives are lived in the grey areas of doubt and fear. We ponder on mystery, and yet wonder why there is so much suffering the world. Those we love lose jobs they have worked hard for or fail in business; are wrecked by an affair or broken marriage. We pray for those close to us only to see them die. If we don’t pastor well through complexity and pain, then we fail to create enough safe space for people to find redemption in their own brokenness. A robust faith that gives context for suffering and opens the pathway to mystery is what we need. This needs to be reflected in the songs we sing, the sermons we preach and the communities we create. We must do better.
In part two of Embrace Your Evolution we will look at the things I consider keys to a developing a faith that provides a pathway to navigate the complexities of the modern age and how we can evolve in our journey.
At least these are my thoughts! As usual the comments section is open!
Consider me sentimental but I always feel sad when something comes to an end. It might be my personality that I feel this way - or the fact I grew up in a stable environment, I’m not sure. I lived in the same house until l left home at 19 and cried when I did. I always feel choked when someone I am close to leaves, and often have to hold back the tears during a moment of change. I’m the guy you don’t want to take to see a sad film! I failed miserably in mastering the art of the stiff British upper lip. For me, change can be unnerving or unsettling – or perhaps both. And yet change is an inevitable part of life – we change, we need to change – and if we don’t embrace it – then change embraces us. We don’t live in a static universe.
In truth I have undergone my fair share of change and despite my reservations have worked with it to move on and forward in life. Something of which I was reminded this week with the demolition of the old St Francis Church Complex where we worshipped as a congregation for fifteen years. I remember negotiating the lease to take on the old hall and the long hours of refurbishment to get it fit for purpose. I was inducted into ministry in that place, married Jo there and dedicated our three children – all in that one hall. It has some history for us. I preached at least 40 sermons a year for 15 years there – we go back a long way with Franny’s. And now it’s all gone. Demolition has put an end to what served us well for all that time. That’s why I had to rush and get some photos – perhaps for posterity, maybe for memories and certainly as a record of history. It serves as a reminder that nothing lasts forever.
Yet that’s not all, for death is an important part of embracing something new. Would I go back there – no: but being there helped shape what and who we are now. Franny’s is part of the journey, chapters wrapped up in the mystery of what it is to be alive; to have hope and dreams, to work for what we believe in. It’s all rubble now. Broken bricks and twisted steel waiting to be recycled into what will come next. Photos hold our history – capturing memories of how things were, and how over time they pass away. They shaped us those bricks, those steel girders and wooden floors. They are part of us and in the letting go, in the moving on, space is given for something new to emerge. It is part of the circle of life.
At a deeper level it serves as a reminder that resurrection lies on the other side of death. ‘Unless a seed falls into the ground it remains a single seed,’ said Jesus. Sometimes we must let go to arrive at a new place. We can all be guilty of holding on too long, of staying put and letting life pass us by rather than learning to seize the moment. There can be sadness in seeing something pass that has existed for a long time – but on the other side of sadness is the opportunity of what is yet to be.
When it came to the final session of the recent blog series - What is the Bible? On reflection it made sense to present it as a podcast rather than a blog post since it flowed better that way. So that's what I've done. You can find it in the podcasts on my side or directly from Podbean via the link - https://stephenhackney.podbean.com/ Hope you enjoy it!
We carry our doubts, fears, worries and concerns - the shackles that bind and blind. But Good Friday arrives, and all are absorbed into the mystery of Christ.
This is Good Friday.
It’s called Good Friday for a reason. It’s good because the badness of the world was dealt a comprehensive blow - good because this was the day death died. Christ dealt with sin that he might conquer death - to take victory from him who held the power of death: the devil. As it says, ‘Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death - that is, the devil and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.’
The Apostle Paul writes, ‘The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.’ But the law only has power over those who can't keep it. To deal with death, sin must be extracted and for sin to be extracted the law must be upheld. So here comes the one who has ‘been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin.’ The law is kept so the power of sin can be broken. And finally, the sting is removed, absorbed through Christ on the cross. The absorption of sin renders death powerless. The cycle is broken: ‘The death he died, he died to sin once for all.’
What’s more, ‘we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.’ The seed of death sown through sin - over which the devil held power is dealt its final blow and all heaven cries Hallelujah. The serpent is surpassed, his scheming ways crushed by the mystery of Christ. John exclaims: The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.’
'It is finished'.
This is Good Friday.
It’s good not simply because it’s an historical event - but because it’s a living experience. Christ's death offers new life - the old has gone and the new has come. We enter this as someone passing from death to life. As those leaving slavery and walking into freedom.
In the final triumph its exclaimed, ‘He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’
All things are being made new. The story continues - Good Friday is not the end, only the beginning of God's intention. Death's power is broken – whilst we still live under its' shadow as we wait the fulfilment of all things. 'When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’
This is Easter's cry. Hope emerging from the tomb, rising, declaring – shouting:
‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?'
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is GOOD Friday.
(Bible References in order: Hebrews 2:14-15; 1 Corinthians 15:56; Hebrews 4:15; Romans 6:10; Romans 6:9; 1 John 3:8; Revelation 21:5; 1 Corinthians 15:54-57.)
Millions of us watched yesterday as the the great spire of Notre Dame fell prey to the flames of the fire that reduced it to ashes. And this on the second day of Holy Week that time when traditionally we recall Jesus entering the temple courts at Jerusalem and clearing out those selling proclaiming, “It is written,” he said to them, “ 'My house will be a house of prayer' ; but you have made it 'a den of robbers.'” You can imagine the doomsayers and what their blogs will be filled with today.
Jo and I visited the great Cathedral some years back and in truth I left feeling less inspired. But then for someone who came to faith in an overgrown shed, the architecture was somewhat lost on me at the time which feels rather like sacrilege today! So my feelings caught me by surprise when I saw the flames engulfing the the great Gothic House of God, and not least because Jo had pointed out the model version of the Cathedral on our visit to Legoland with the kids when some ten minutes later I received the BBC notification on my phone to say it was ablaze.
There’s something quite moving about an old, historic building consumed by flames. The destruction is so palpable - so quick and permanent. That which has stood for centuries crumbles before our eyes and suddenly we’re all bothered because it carries a clear message: How fragile life really is. Here one minute and the next gone. Something which we’d expect to remain for ever is taken in a moment and we are shocked.
Our inner longing for permanence and certainty is carried in buildings like Notre Dame. We may feel indifferent towards them; moved by them or simply neutral but their loss speaks its own message that resonates with the soul. All things are passing away and for life to have any semblance of meaning we have to dig deep into the heart to make sense of the temporal. Great architecture should inspire and move us beyond the aesthetic to stir our spirits. That’s why these places were built in the first place - to point us towards God; to remind us there is something bigger and greater than any one of us.
For generations the great architecture of the Church has inspired millions; people find peace, tranquillity and hope inside their beauty and consistency and we take this so much for granted until it’s taken away from us. Today as we look upon the destruction of Notre Dame we might find our hearts strangely moved and wonder why. Albeit from a very different context the Apostle Paul pondered such realities when he wrote, ‘For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Notre Dame will rise from the ashes to once again remind a generation of the value of what can so easily be lost. No doubt Jo and I will be amongst its visitors and next time I am sure to view its beauty through different eyes.
A total of 613 laws made up the Torah and the job of the Rabbis was to interpret them to the people, so they could live holy lives before God. They were split into positive and negative commands as we are reminded here ...
The Talmud tells us (Tractate Makkot 23b) that there are 613 commandments (mitzvot) in the Torah; 248 Positive Commandments (do's) and 365 Negative Commandments (do not's). However, the Talmud does not provide us with a list of these commandments.
The burning question of the day was, of all the commandments: What is the greatest? Do they all carry equal validity? The nature of the debate was to get to the meaning of these rules and discover what lay at the heart of the commandments: What was their purpose?
So, they would debate them. And they were debating them when Jesus came. The two principal schools of rabbinical teaching during the time of Jesus came from Rabbi Shammai and Rabbi Hillel.
Rabbi Shammai was active in 1st Century BC and known for his strict approach to interpreting the laws of the Torah. Rabbi Hillel lived slightly later and he was known for his gentleness and moderation in the interpretation of the law.
Let’s notice how Hillel summarized the law to the way Jesus summarized it 40 years later. One day an impatient Gentile asked Hillel to explain the entire Torah while standing on one foot! Hillel's response was: ‘Whatever is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. This is the whole Torah and the rest is commentary, go and learn it.'
When Jesus came, he said, ‘So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.’
This, the Golden Rule as it was known was a paraphrase of Leviticus 19:18.
18 ‘“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.”
Which we will come back to later….
When Jesus came, he exposed the hypocrisy of the system that had built around the Pharisees and the religious system by showing how readily they missed the point.
Here’s a prime example from Mark 7
He pointed out how they were using a religious term Corban to justify not looking after elderly parents.
7 The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered round Jesus 2 and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the market-place they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)
5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, ‘Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?’
6 He replied, ‘Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
‘“These people honour me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
7 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.”
8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.’
9 And he continued, ‘You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, “Honour your father and mother,” and, “Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.” 11 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God) – 12 then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.’
Thus… Using the Oral Torah (their own Traditions) to allow people to devote to Temple worship what they should have been using to care for their elderly parents.
…. And you do many things like that.
Many things - like - that.
They were missing the point.
Not only did Jesus point out but also entered into the debates of the day like around divorce for example when he sided more with Rabbi Shammai in terms of his own interpretation.
Jesus' Own Interpretation of the Law
Jesus seeks to take his followers back to the heart of what Torah was all about and he does this by rewriting parts of it. Like in this example here…
21 ‘You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.
27 ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
And by highlighting how they were missing the heart of what Torah was all about ....
23 ‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices – mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practised the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
25 ‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
And so to Matthew 22
The Greatest Commandment
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’
37 Jesus replied: ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’
So, there we have it - the whole 39 books of the Hebrew scriptures hang off two hooks - and both are based around love. Which Paul points out here:
14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’
8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ 10 Love does no harm to a neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfilment of the law.
1 John 4:7-12
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
So, what does love look like and what does it mean to love well? For us all 1 Corinthians 13 would be a good place to start!