If anyone declares publicly that he belongs to me, I will do the same for him before my Father in heaven. But if anyone rejects me publicly, I will reject him before my Father in heaven.
[Jesus’ 12 disciples are sent out on a mission trip with these instructions. For background see Days 83-84.]
Jesus is starting to wind up his commissioning instructions to his disciples as he sends them out on their first mission trip. As with the Sermon on the Mount, he starts with very specific instructions and ends with some very broad conceptual statements that summarize the intent of the mission.
As for this scripture, I’m getting some red flags. There’s that little voice again saying, “Question everything.” OK – so what does “belongs to me” mean? It sounds a little like enslavement, but this is inconsistent with the Jesus who said to “follow” him (See Day 76)? Does he really want to “own” us? Like pets or something? It also sounds a little menacing, like a threat. Something a gangster would say. Or a little narcissistic.
So when something seems a little off, it’s good to get back to the Greek word for “belongs to me”, which in this case is homologeó: to speak the same, to agree. The word root is from homoú, “together” and légō, “speak to a conclusion”) – properly, to voice the same conclusion, i.e. agree (“confess”); to profess (confess) because in full agreement; to align with (endorse) (http://biblesuite.com/greek/3670.htm).
OK this makes a lot of sense. He isn’t saying he wants to enslave his disciples. Jesus is telling his disciples that when they go out on the mission trip, they should faithfully deliver his message based on their own sincere belief that Jesus is right and that he is speaking for God. They have to be good salesmen. They have to accurately represent the one who sent them. They must fully endorse him. Jesus says they have to be all in if they want to speak for him, because he is speaking for God.
This is where my minds starts to wander and I start thinking about examples of this in today’s society. Hmm…..talk about low hanging fruit. Easy pickin’s on this one.
On May 22, 2013 the supposedly infallible Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, believed by Catholics to be St. Peter’s representative here on earth, issued a statement, as Popes often do. The statement was this:
“The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us. ‘But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can… “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!”.. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”
Pretty clear. The Pope said all are redeemed by Christ and we will meet in heaven. Throughout history, this has been one of the major “atonement theories” so it is not totally out of left field. He is not the first person to believe in this theory. However if you were raised Catholic you probably never heard about it because it is not the theory endorsed by the Roman Catholic Church. This Pope clearly believes that heaven is not a private club for Roman Catholics, contradictory to the teachings of his church. He gave a whole sermon about it. He knew what he was saying. Here is an example of a priest who stands behind his pope:
Responding to the leader of the Roman Catholic church’s homily, Father James Martin, S.J. wrote in an email to The Huffington Post: “Pope Francis is saying, more clearly than ever before, that Christ offered himself as a sacrifice for everyone. That’s always been a Christian belief. You can find St. Paul saying in the First Letter to Timothy that Jesus gave himself as a “ransom for all.” But rarely do you hear it said by Catholics so forcefully, and with such evident joy. And in this era of religious controversies, it’s a timely reminder that God cannot be confined to our narrow categories.”
Father Martin affirms what the Pope has said. He does not interject his own personal opinion. He shows respect for the Pope and his theology.
The official Vatican spinsters were not nearly as supportive. Just one day later Vatican spokesman Rev. Thomas Rosica issued an “explanatory note” with a “clarification” about what Pope Francis “really meant:”
“All salvation comes from Christ, the Head, through the Church which is his body,” Rosica wrote. “Hence they cannot be saved who, knowing the Church as founded by Christ and necessary for salvation, would refuse to enter her or remain in her.”
Paraphrased, you can’t get into heaven unless you are Catholic. Or unless you don’t know what a Catholic is. In other words, they reversed the Pope’s statement. They quoted the catechism to the Pope, as though he is too ignorant to know what it says or too stupid to interpret it.
Here are some responses quoted by the Washington Post:
After the Vatican issued its “explanatory note,” noted British scientist and atheist Richard Dawkins wrote on Twitter: “Atheists go to heaven? Nope. Sorry world, infallible pope got it wrong. Vatican steps in with alacrity.”
And author Neal Donald Walsch, who wrote “Conversations With God,” said to UPI that “it was regrettable that the hidden hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church chose to officially retract the recent statement on eternal damnation bravely made by its new leader, Pope Francis.”
The Pope knew what he said. He is a bright guy, a good communicator. He didn’t ask for anyone to “clarify” his remarks. He said what he meant and he meant what he said. I am amazed at the blatant disrespect the Vatican showed to the new Pope by issuing what is essentially a retraction. They are Roman Catholics and they are supposed to respect their Pope. I guess they are really Protestants at heart, rejecting authority. The Pope is more concerned about being faithful to God than he is about what’s good for the Roman Catholic Church. Maybe the Pope is really a Protestant. Heresy!! Excommunication for all of them!!! “No heaven for you,” in the tradition of the Seinfeld soup Nazi.
Jesus wants disciples like the Pope’s supporter Fr. James Martin (quoted above). He wants people who will represent him well. Jesus doesn’t want his disciples to be like the Vatican guys who change what Jesus says to serve their own purposes or conform to their own theology. He wants his disciples to be in full agreement with him in their hearts and minds. Jesus wants them to be competent spokesmen for him, not to feed his own ego, but because his goal is to disseminate accurate information about God’s will for humanity and it needs to be done precisely and without unnecessary editorial input, contexualization, or filtering.
Finally, in the second scripture, Jesus warns them that he will not back them up if they start going off on their own. As long as they accurately represent what Jesus has shared with them, he will support them before God. However, if they stray and become false prophets, he will not defend them. In other words, Jesus keeps it real. Jesus is telling them he’s a snitch. He will tell the truth. He will not cover up for them. They have to be responsible for their own actions on that Judgment Day that Jesus often talks about.
Just for fun I looked this one up in The Message (a contemporary translation of the Bible that paraphrases for clarity) and I think it really does a good job capturing the essence of this scripture: “Stand up for me against world opinion and I’ll stand up for you before my Father in heaven. If you turn tail and run, do you think I’ll cover for you?”
Jesus wants his disciples to be fully committed and excited about all that he has taught them. He wants them to be all in, just like he’s all in. He wants team unity. He doesn’t want anyone putting words in his mouth or saying with “he really means.” He wants them to have respect for their coach. Team Jesus, standing up for love, kindness, peace, faith, and the eternal nature of God’s truths.
What does this scripture say to you?