Jesus: The Compassionate Liberal

“The Jesus You Know” series (post #4)

It is remarkable how Jesus can be so many different things to so many different people. Thus far in this series, we’ve seen Him as the white supremacist’s sanction for segregation and the black Christian’s historical deliverer. Now, with this post, we’ll see Him as the liberal’s perfect example of compassion. And, by the way, please let the record show that I use the term “liberal” not in a derogatory way but simply as an expression of the individual’s beliefs. Truth be told, I’d hate to live in a world that only consisted of conservatives. We need both groups — liberals and conservatives — to keep us balanced.

America is currently fraught with hot-button political issues that are centered around individuals who don’t typically fit into the template of the mainstream. I’m talking about issues ranging from welfare reform and illegal immigration to the rights of homosexuals and transgenders. And while there are scores of conservatives who quote the Bible to support their positions on these issues, there are also plenty of liberals who evoke the example of Jesus to support their positions.

As these liberals view Jesus, compassion is His singular characteristic and tolerance is His driving motivation. As such, Jesus the compassionate liberal would freely give money to every poor person regardless of the individual’s work ethic or current circumstances. He would never force an immigrant who had entered America illegally to return to his or her native country. He would never pass a law that limited the rights of the homosexual or the transgender person. He would never side against any individual who was in any way somehow in the minority. Basically, Jesus the compassionate liberal is the great defender of the underdog, champion of the persecuted, and fighter for the bullied.

As for scriptural quotes from Jesus concerning America’s social issues, liberals are certainly not lacking. Here is a list of some of their go-to passages (all quotes from the N.K.J.V. unless otherwise noted):

  • On the subject of war, Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.”
  • On the subject of capital punishment, Matthew 5:21: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment.” (Liberals have to quote the classic King James translation on this one because all the modern translations use the more precise translation “murder” rather than “kill.”) 
  • On the subjects of homosexuality and transgenderism, Matthew 7:1: “Judge not, that you be not judged.”
  • On the subject of illegal immigration, Matthew 7:12: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
  • On the subject of showing compassion to one and all, Matthew 22:37-40: Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God will all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
  • On the subject of programs for the poor, Matthew 24:34-36: “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.”
  • On the subject of excess wealth, Mark 10:25: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
  • On the subject of health care, Luke 14:13-14: “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
  • On the subject of the separation of church and state, Luke 20:25: And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
  • On the subject of mercy shown to anyone caught in sin, John 8:7: So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her (the woman caught in the act of adultery) first.”

Obviously, each of these quotes has merit and should be a part of any discussions concerning these issues. No one is trying to water down Christ’s words. But what liberals willfully overlook is the fact that the same Jesus who uttered each of these quotes is the God who inspired the entire Bible (2 Timothy 3:16). That means that any quote from Jesus that is found in the four gospels must walk hand in hand with the totality of scripture. Putting it simply, it’s wrong to use Jesus’ own quotes against Him as if they are outliers that might seem to contradict the rest of the Bible.

And so, when we come at our list of quotes in this way, we are able to correctly interpret them, understand them, and apply them in a balanced, God-approved way. Let’s take them one at a time:

  • The Jesus who spoke Matthew 5:9 is not only the same God of Israel who sanctioned multiple wars fought by Israel in the Old Testament, He is the same Warrior King who will put to death all of the armies of the world at the Battle of Armageddon that ends the coming tribulation period (Revelation 19:11-21).
  • The Jesus who spoke Matthew 5:21 is not only the same God who deemed several sins to be “death penalty” offenses under the Old Testament law (Exodus 21:12-17; Exodus 22:18-20; Leviticus 20:1-27; etc.), He is the same God who inspired both Paul and Peter to teach the concept of capital punishment in their writings (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14).
  • The Jesus who spoke Matthew 7:1 is the same God who: laid waste to Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone (Genesis 19:1-29); made homosexuality a capital punishment offense under the Old Testament law (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13); verified the spiritual legitimacy of the Old Testament law (Matthew 5:17-20); reaffirmed the male-female concept of marriage (Matthew 19:4-6); cited the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah as examples of people who are eternally judged by God (Matthew 10:15); and inspired Paul and Jude to write against homosexuality (Romans 1:26-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Timothy 1:8-11; Jude 1:7). As for transgenderism, the Old Testament law, which Jesus authored and confirmed, said: “A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 22:5).
  • The Jesus who spoke Matthew 7:12 is the same God who: commanded Noah’s descendants to spread across the earth and replenish it after the flood (Genesis 9:1); judged the builders of the Tower of Babel because they were trying to settle down into one region and build a localized kingdom (Genesis 11:1-9); has historically determined the appointed times and boundaries of nations (Deuteronomy 32:8, Nehemiah 9:22, Daniel 2:21; Daniel 4:17,25; Acts 17:26); and ordains governments to enact and enforce laws for the protection of the peoples they represent (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14). Therefore, while the Lord commands us to treat immigrants with compassion (Exodus 22:21; Leviticus 19:33-34; Deuteronomy 10:19), that doesn’t mean that breaking the law in regards to the national borders that He has set should go unchecked. Neither does it mean that the Lord expects a nation to extend all its rights and privileges to immigrants who haven’t entered the nation legally and followed proper procedures to obtain legal standing in it (Ruth 2:10).
  • The Jesus who spoke Matthew 22:37-40 is the same Jesus who didn’t hesitate to twice run the money changers out of the Temple (John 2:13-22; Matthew 21:12-17); referred to those who refused to receive spiritual truth as “dogs” and “swine” (Matthew 7:6); pronounced “woe” upon the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum (Matthew 11:20-24; Luke 10:13-16); called Herod Antipas a “fox” (Luke 13:32); pronounced “woe” upon the scribes and Pharisees and called them “blind guides,” “fools,” “serpents,” and a “brood of vipers” (Matthew 23:1-36); said that He had come to bring a sword to the earth and set family member against family member (Matthew 10:34-37); and preached that those who wouldn’t repent and believe in Him would perish (Luke 13:1-5; John 3:16-20). Obviously, Jesus’ idea of loving others was a bit different from the mush-and-gush definition that liberals usually attach to it.
  • The Jesus who spoke Matthew 24:34-36 is the same Jesus who said, “For you have the poor with you always” (Matthew 26:11; Mark 14:7). He’s also the same God who inspired Paul to teach that if someone will not (not cannot) work, that person should not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10). So, while it’s certainly true that the Lord commands us to care for the poor and the needy (Galatians 2:10; James 1:27; James 2:1-16), it’s also true that He expects us to show wisdom, spiritual discernment, and good stewardship in not only who we help but in how we help them.
  • The Jesus who spoke Mark 10:25 is the same God who gives individuals the power to get wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18; 1 Samuel 2:8). Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Job, Solomon, and Joseph of Arimathea were all wealthy and used by God. For that matter, even many liberals are very wealthy.
  • The Jesus who spoke Luke 14:13-14 is the same God who inspired Paul and Peter to describe the role of government (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 1:13-16), and it’s noteworthy that neither of them mentions health care as being part of that role. Both teach that a government’s primary role is to protect its citizens, even if that means resorting to the extreme of capital punishment if the situation calls for it. Summing up the Bible’s teaching on the subject, God’s plan is that individuals (especially individual Christians) should voluntarily handle caring for the sick and needy. Of course, I’m not living in a fantasy world where people (and that includes Christians) always do what they are supposed to do in regards to caring for others. Still, though, using Jesus’ words as proof that God wants our government to be in charge of a national health care system that provides services to all is really taking things too far in terms of the context, interpretation, and application of those words.
  • The Jesus who spoke Luke 20:25 is the same God who had a blank slate with which to work in regards to ancient Israel. And what did He initially establish in ancient Israel? He established a theocracy. And what is a theocracy? It’s a system of government in which God Himself is recognized as the supreme ruler over the nation. That’s about as far from a separation of church and state as you can get. Furthermore, Jesus Himself taught His followers that they are the “salt” and “light” of the earth, and that their salt must not lose its flavor or their light be hidden (Matthew 5:13-16). Certainly that teaching extends to the political arena. Actually, if Christians completely abandoned the political arena, America’s moral decline would be much, much worse than it already is.
  • The same Jesus who spoke John 8:7 also told the woman to “go and sin no more” (John 8:12). Clearly, He did not wink at her sin or excuse it. He called it what it was: sin. Yes, in Christ there is forgiveness to be found, but that forgiveness comes with the expectancy that the forgiven will repent of the sin.
This entry was posted in Balance, Capital Punishment, Current Events, Extending Forgiveness, Money, Politics, Scripture, Series: "The Jesus You Know", Stewardship, The Bible, The Death Penalty, The Sermon On The Mount and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Jesus: The Compassionate Liberal

  1. Malcolm Woody says:

    Excellent. Having led a homeless ministry in downtown Jackson, Mississippi – I can attest to the tension between liberal or social justice Christians and more conservative Christians. Not until we clearly defined the ministry’s purpose did that tension subside. We just decided to go love the unloved. Simple, right? Let God do the fixing, saving, convicting, etc. We would just consistently keep coming back and loving them, give a guy a sandwich, a pair of socks, a blanket, a hot cup of coffee or cold bottle of water. We found our homeless friends had all heard the gospel, but they had never seen it. Even simplified by purpose, it was a grueling ministry and unlike mowing your yard… it was hard to see where we’d made progress. But, as Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 13:8, love never fails… so never fail to love. As we built relationships with the unloved and homeless, doors where opened where we could share hard truths about situations and the future. We were no longer Christians judging them, but friends caring enough to show them a better way than living on the street. Jesus was full of both grace and truth (Jn. 1:14), and therein lies the tension, for all grace and no truth is hypocrisy, and all truth and no grace is brutality. Thanks for a great post, and rekindling my emotions where they have not been properly struck in a while.

    • I love the thought “We found that our homeless friends had heard the gospel, but they had never seen it.” And you’re spot on about the tension between grace and truth. The advantage that Jesus had over us is that He instinctively knew who was a sincere seeker and who was just looking for a free lunch. He knew who was real and who was fake. He knew who could truly be helped and who couldn’t. In the end, though, the gospel record is clear that He went ahead and helped a lot of people who didn’t respond correctly to that help. The case of Him healing the 10 lepers is a perfect example. Only one, a Samaritan, took the time to come back and praise Him.

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