As Jesus is the cornerstone upon which the Church is built, so are his teachings the unifying cornerstone of Christian doctrine.

Killing our children

One of the saddest stories of Christmas is the murder of the children (Matthew 2:13-23), yet we are no different. We decry the senseless murder of innocent children at a school and the perverted treatment of little ones in child porn and then turn a blind eye to the greatest abuse of our children, abortion. Legitimate medical reasons for choosing between a child's life and its mother’s exist, but we kill innocent children mostly for convenience. We are a terribly hypocritical uncivilized peoples. We abhor rape and rightly have sympathy for our women. Yet we also punish the wrong people, the innocent children who had nothing to do with the crime, but are just as much victims as the mothers were. We decry all kinds of terrorism except our own homegrown terrorism against the innocents. When will we stop!

The Bible and Foreigners

Jesus was a foreigner in Egypt and later in Nazareth. Under God’s law, uncircumcised foreigners did not have the privilege of citizenship like eating the Passover or being king. Citizens could not be charged interest but foreigners could. But in every other way foreigners were not to be mistreated in any way, not oppressed, must be given the same poverty relief as a native born citizen, live the the same legal standards, and the same loving care as native born Israelites. God watches for the welfare of the foreigner and other disadvantaged groups. God will bless a people that does not oppress the foreigner. In the New Testament we are told that God will speak the Gospel through foreigners, but Christians of all nations are not foreigners to each other, though foreigners to the world with their citizenship in heaven.

What Peace on Earth

Christmas proclaims peace on earth, but what peace on earth? That message only tells half the story. If we examine Luke 2:14 it has some other words as well. Many translations say peace on earth with whom God is well pleased or on whom his favor rests. That peace then seems to be conditional, rather than unconditional. In fact, one of the very first things Jesus experienced after his birth was a decided lack of peace on earth. He had to flee to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-23). In fact Jesus contradicted the idea that he came to bring peace on earth, by stating very clearly that he did not (Matthew 10:34; Luke 12:51-52). There is a real peace to those of good will, even in the midst of trials, a peace which passes understanding (Philippians 4:7).

Real breeding in heavenly style

The wealthy flatter themselves that they have better breeding than the poor. Heaven may disagree. The announcement of Jesus’ birth was not made to the wealthy and powerful of this world, because God has different values than snobbery and selfishness. It is not because God is poor. He owns everything there is from here to the farthest reaches of outer space. But God understands true values. He announced the birth of the Christ to the lowest classes, among them unwashed and unkempt shepherds out in the field. Simeon was granted his dying wish to see the Christ child. He was a man whose only status was that he was righteous and devout. Anna had the privilege of announcing Christ. Her only status was that she worshiped and prayed night and day (Luke 2). Now that’s real breeding in heavenly style.

IHS and Xmas

What are those funny “IHS” signs we see everywhere from communion tables to pulpits? Is it some kind of secret code for “in his service” or is it Latin, Greek or Hebrew? Some have thought that the letters stood for the Latin words “Jesus Hominum Salvator” meaning “Jesus Savior of Men” but that is not the case. Many original New Testaments were written in Greek capital letters and thus Jesus was written ΙΗΣΟΥΣ and the first three letters in English letters would be transliterated as IHS. That just happens to also be an ancient abbreviation for Jesus. What about Xmas? Is it x-ing Christ out of Christmas? In Greek Christ is Χριστός and the first letter in Greek, X is also an abbreviation for Christ. Xmas does not X Christ out of Christmas; it is an ancient abbreviation for Christmas.

Imagine you are Joseph

Imagine you are Joseph, engaged to Mary. You are busy preparing a home to receive her. Then you discover that she is pregnant. You feel betrayed, deeply hurt. You are a righteous man who believes in faithfulness before marriage. That means that the both of you are to be virgins on your wedding night. But, you also believe in mercy because righteousness demands it. You contemplate breaking the engagement quietly, because you really love this woman and don’t want to disgrace her, nor have her punished. But you were not fully decided when you had a dream in which an angel said not to hesitate marrying Mary. Her pregnancy was of the Holy Spirit and would bring salvation. You marry her knowing you will be gossiped about, but that the child’s name would be “God saves” and “God with us”.

Technology or God with us

As we look down into the future of our planet, we see possible devastation by an asteroid and eventual certain death of the planet as our solar system collapses and life on earth becomes impossible. Science tells us that Earth is only a temporary home. So we look to a long term solution of eventually having to abandon our solar system and find another earth-like planet far, far away. In short, we see our salvation as a species in “technology with us.” Whether or not we could eventually find a far away home planet is not quite certain. However, there is another solution to our dilemma, God. The Bible also tells us that Earth is only a temporary home and that our real long-term solution is found not in “technology with us” but in “God with us” (Matthew 1:18-25).

An awkward start

Marriage ideally begins with a savings account, a house already built and a good job. But, many of us did not begin with any of those things. Joseph and Mary also did not begin their married life with the ideal start. They had an awkward and embarrassing pregnancy and a birth in a stable. The embarrassment was caused by knowing that many would not believe Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Even Joseph must have thought that Mary had betrayed him at first. There was also stress and anxiety and poverty. Today we would call them homeless. Yet this awkward, itinerant, not quite official couple on the edge of society was to give birth to the One who would save his people from their sins. “God with us” was born into human poverty to bring peace to the world.

Joseph’s dilemma

Joseph had a dilemma (Matthew 1:18-25. He was betrothed to Mary but found her pregnant. A betrothal in those days was as binding as a marriage contract. The groom typically prepared a home, either as an addition to his parent’s home or a free-standing one depending on his financial ability. That could take a year. Then when all was prepared, the bridegroom would come to collect his bride. Hence the biblical pictures of Christ as the bridegroom who comes for his bride the Church. Finding Mary pregnant, Joseph had a dilemma. He was mindful to cancel the whole deal privately rather than put Mary to public disgrace and possible stoning by the more self-righteous in the community. Joseph was encouraged by an angel that this was a prophesied sign of a new age of peace and security for Israel.

Jesus & Joshua

Jesus (Iesous) is from Greek for Joshua (Jeshua, Jehoshua). There were two men named Joshua whose lives were forerunners of Jesus Christ. It was under Joshua the son of Nun that Israel conquered 31 cities in the land of Canaan beginning around 1400 BC. Jesus (Luke 2:15-21) was given a name which means “God saves” because he was born to save each one of us (Matthew 1:20-23). We cannot save ourselves from death, but Jesus can if we let him. Joshua leading Israel into the promised land is symbolic of Jesus leading the saved into eternal life. A lesser known Joshua in the Bible, Joshua the son of Jozadak was the first person named as high priest after Israel returned from national captivity in Babylon (Haggai 1). Jesus is our high priest who offered himself (Hebrews 8:3-5).

(References:; The Oxford History of the Biblical World. 1998. Oxford University Press;;

Holy Name of Jesus

Jesus was so named when he was circumcised (Luke 2:15-21). It means “Jehovah [God] is salvation.” Salvation is liberation or help from God. Jesus would save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:20-23). His name would be the hope of the whole world (Matthew 12:15-21). The disciples complained about those who healed in Jesus’ name without authority, but Jesus said not to stop them. Anyone doing a miracle in his powerful name is on our side (Mark 9:38-40). The Catholic Society of the Holy Name is a fraternity that prays for those who blaspheme the name Jesus. In Greek Jesus’ name is Ἰησοῦς [capitalized ΙΗΣΟΥΣ] pronounced yay-soos. The first three letters capitalized in Greek were a common abbreviation for Jesus ΙΗΣ. In our English alphabet, those letters are written IHS, letters used to decorate churches everywhere.

(References: | |

Saved from Terrible Consequences

Jesus (Luke 2:15-21) was so named because he would save people from sin (Matthew 1:18-25). Wrongdoing has consequences both now and forever. Having false gods causes us to rely on things that cannot rescue us from calamity. Idolatry causes people to look in the wrong direction for help. Misusing the name of the Lord causes us to take the only one who can help lightly. Not taking a day of rest causes stress and early death. Dishonoring our parents causes broken families, poverty and crime. Murder destroys families and neighborhoods. Adultery breaks marriages and families, and spreads distrust and disease. Theft takes away the peace and security of our neighborhoods. Bearing false witness fills the land with false advertising and distrust. Coveting causes crime and war. Only Jesus can rescue us from the consequences of our bad decisions.


The study of Jesus is central to Christianity. Christology studies Christ, his birth as "God with us" (Matthew 1:18-25), his resurrection, salvation in him and his two natures. Theologians see Jesus as both divine and human. Controversies over who Jesus was are not just modern news, but raged in the early centuries too. The Council of Chalcedon took place in 451 AD. It was the 4th Ecumenical Council and the last one that is widely recognized by Protestants. Its contributions to the Christian Church are perhaps the greatest consensus of opinions on Christology from church history. These are summarized in the 3rd great creed, the Chalcedonian Creed. In regard to Christ and Christology, the Chalcedonian Creed affirms the Trinity, Christ's virgin birth, his humanity and his deity, and the hypostatic union of his two natures in one person.

Taking God’s kingdom by violence

Experts give two opinions on Matthew 11:12 and perhaps they are both right. Perhaps Jesus actually intended for us to take a double meaning from this. One meaning is that in light of John the Baptist’s imprisonment and pending death, it is obvious that the kingdom of God suffers violence and violent people have been trying to take it by force. Yet, God is in charge and there is no stronger power than his. The other meaning is that the Greek word translated as violent can also be translated as zeal or aggressive force and that such ardent zeal is needed for Christians to enter God’s kingdom. The innuendos of taking both possible meanings are obvious and the lessons are important. Christianity is not always an easy path. It is a spiritual battle against evil attitudes and wicked ways.

Trees in the Bible

A Xmas tree, like all trees is good (Genesis 1:11-12), picturing the tree of life (Genesis 2:9) with 12 fruits (Revelation 22:2), picturing peace (1 Kings 4:25; Micah 4:1-4) and righteous people flourishing (Psalm 1:1-3; 92:12). Wisdom is a tree of life (Proverbs 3:13-18), the fruit of right living (Proverbs 11:30). Longing fulfilled (Proverbs 13:12) and a soothing tongue are like the tree of life (Proverbs 15:4). Don’t idolize trees (Jeremiah 10:2-5). They picture the kingdom of God (Luke 13:18-19) and faith (Luke 17:6). Jesus hung on a tree (Galatians 3:13) so that we may eat of the tree of life in paradise (Revelation 2:7). Let us wash our robes so that we may have right to that tree of life (Revelation 22:14-15).

Let us rescue Christmas all over again

Christmas has so many pagan connections that puritanical Christians avoid it altogether, citing God’s opposition to pagan worship when he really only banned things like child sacrifice and temple prostitution (Deuteronomy 12:29-31, 23:17). Rather than avoid it, early Christians sought to conquer it and capture the time for Christ. Just as early Christians converted pagan temples into churches, so too did they convert the many symbols of winter observances into Christian ones. Today, Christmas is again becoming a pagan festival. It seems to be about the commercial pursuit of profit, the giving and receiving of gifts, the office parties, the stampedes for merchandise and the pressure to spend beyond our means. In the midst of the chaos, perhaps even like a voice of one crying in the wilderness (Matthew 11:3) let us rescue Christmas all over again.

Hear and see the real Jesus

We hear a lot about Jesus. Some of it comes directly from one of the four Gospels. Some of it comes from people’s imaginations. John the Baptist had an image of Jesus in his mind, but Jesus was different than he expected. Jesus encouraged John’s disciples to tell him what they saw and heard (Matthew 11:4). What do we see and hear of Jesus? Do we see a little baby in a manger? Do we see a long haired hippie? Do we see the tooth fairy who will grant our wishes? Do we see someone who heals lives and proclaims good news to the poor? Instead of living a fiction of a Jesus invented according to what we wish him to be, let us get to know the real Jesus and be grateful that he is who he is.

The activist & the teacher

John the Baptist asked if Jesus was the One (Matthew 11:3). He seemed perhaps a little disappointed in the way Jesus conducted his ministry. John was more of an activist and revolutionary and Jesus was more of a healer and teacher. Did John jump into the political fray with Herod because he was frustrated that Jesus did not? Did John expect the Messiah to rally troops together to storm the gates of palaces and take over as did past Jewish revolutionaries? Jesus seemed to hint that John was offended at him. We read nowhere that Jesus invited John to be a disciple. John prepared the way but seemed to be looking for a different Messiah. Are we disappointed with Jesus, the life of poverty, the hair, the dying on a cross or are we people of faith in Christ?

Christian Sabbath

Some people tell us that Sunday is the Sabbath, but there is no scripture commanding this anywhere. Those scriptures that are used are at best open to several interpretations. Even the words "Lord's Day" have two possible meanings. So what about the Old Testament Sabbath? Some groups try to shove that down our throats, claiming the Ten Commandments as their proof. The only problem with all of that is that the Old Testament law is now of the spirit and not the flesh. Circumcision is an example. Is there any command for a physical day of rest in the New Testament? No. Nowhere. Is it a good principle to rest on one day a week? Yes. The only New Testament imperative regarding rest is found in Matthew 11:28 where Christ says to come to him for rest. For Christians, rest is not in a mandatory day but in a person.

Are you the One

When John the Baptist heard of Jesus’ message, he was curious. He sent messengers to ask, “Are you the one...” (Matthew 11:2-15). John was to prepare the way for the Messiah. Yet Jesus was different than expected. Unlike John, he did not take on a Nazirite vow or the ascetic lifestyle of some of the prophets. He did not eat locusts or avoid wine. Jesus did not separate himself like a monk, but ate and drank with sinners. He was also not like some of the kings and judges of ancient Israel. He was not a warrior who came to fight and retake the land from occupying Roman armies. Instead, he came as a pacifist, who turned the other cheek. He healed and preached good news to the poor. Blessed are those who are not offended by this Jesus.

Still the One

John the Baptist sent messengers to ask Jesus, “Are you the one...” (Matthew 11:2-15). Like John are we are also disappointed at Jesus that he did not come as we think he ought? He taught nothing about tongues speaking, no Sabbath requirement, no prayers to Mary, no rosaries, no succession of popes or bishops, no Christmas rush, and made no specific liturgical demands. He did heal and preach good news to the poor. Yet, his preaching was not about worldliness, nor receiving material blessings for our giving. His preaching was about giving and self-sacrifice. It was about a kingdom not of this world, which cannot be described in the sometimes abusive, authoritarian, oppressive terms of this world’s religions. Do we paint Jesus in our terms or his? Like John, do we ask if he is still the One?

The only One

When John the Baptist sent messengers to ask Jesus, “Are you the one...” (Matthew 11:2-15), he did not ask whether Jesus was one of the ones, but the one. Our world looks to so many ones for the answers. We look to politicians to be the one. We are disappointed every single time we elect another one, and soon a movement begins to get rid of that one and install another one. We look to fashion gurus, financial whiz kids, motivational speakers, new gadgets and ideas. Flip through the TV channels any night and see the would be Messiahs. There is the guy selling salvation in real estate millions, the fellow selling salvation from old vacuum cleaners, the people selling salvation in jewelry, and the vitamin Messiahs. There is only one real savior and his name is Jesus.

Disappointed with Jesus

John the Baptist was not a follower of Jesus, but a forerunner. The shocking statement that the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he (Matthew 11:2-15), seems to indicate that John had not yet become a part of that kingdom. He seemed disappointed with Jesus, even though his mission was to prepare the way for him. What about us? Are we disappointed with Jesus? Is that why we latch onto things that neither Jesus nor his Apostles demanded of the Church? Is that why we attach ourselves to traditions and fads that focus on things that Jesus did not think were important enough to mention? The reality of Jesus is what unites all Christians. Is not what divides us the Jesus of our own making, because like John, we are disappointed with the Jesus that is?

What does a Messiah look like

If we look at John’s questioning of Jesus in Matthew 11:2-15, it seems as if he was asking for confirmation that Jesus was the Messiah. He was not sure what a Messiah looked like. Do we know what a Messiah looks like? What would we expect to hear and see? Would we anticipate that he would come with political power, worldly wealth, or military might. Would he be dressed in simple clothes like a prophet or in the opulent robes of a king? Jesus’ answer to those who asked on John’s behalf was none of those things. He said that the blind receive sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the good news preached to them. This is what the Messiah looks like. He is the one.

Offended at Jesus

Are churches offended by the simplicity of Christ’s teachings? Is that the reason we create so many human traditions? As new Christians we often swallow all kinds of human ideas. As we grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord, are we willing to discard misconceptions? When we find out that many beliefs of mere mortals are misguided, do we become offended at Jesus for allowing it? When talking to the followers of John the Baptist, Jesus reminded them of the signs predicted in the Old Testament proving who the Messiah was: healing and miracles. And then he said something seemingly strange: blessed are those who are not offended because of Christ (Matthew 11:1-15). In John the Baptist's case, things turned out differently than he expected. Will we be offended if while following Jesus our assumptions are contradicted?

Repent of what

John the Baptist (Matthew 3:1-12) and Jesus (Matthew 4:17) called for repentance. How can we repent if we do not first understand our sins? How have we placed pride and materialism before God? How have we worshiped man-made images? How have we taken God’s name in vain? How have we worked demanding our employees work without rest? How have we dishonored our parents and previous generations? How have we killed the innocent by killing our babies and withholding help from the needy? How many people’s marriages have we ruined by stealing their sexual innocence and marital happiness? How much have we stolen in unjust wages and putting in a full day’s labor? How much have we lied to sell overpriced and inferior products? How have we enticed others to covet and go into debt just to sell things?

Worship craze

“Come, just as you are to worship” goes a popular song. Yet, songs are not always written by well-versed theologians and sometimes weaken the message of the Gospel? Jesus did not go about preaching worship to new people, but some other rather more pointed things. Worship also means appreciating God's worth-ship in every area of life and not just singing songs. Worship is what mature Christians are learning to do. It is important not to ignore the way that Jesus or John the Baptist preached. John the baptist prepared for the ministry of Jesus by calling for repentance (Matthew 3:1-12). Likewise Jesus did not preach worship to the public but “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17). Worship certainly begins with repentance. However, perhaps we could learn from how Jesus preached publicly calling for repentance.

Preacher in poor country clothes

In Matthew 3:1-12 the writer introduces us to John the baptizer, a wilderness preacher dressed in the clothing of poor country folks, challenging the establishment with a new approach to sin. In the Hebrew scriptures, a sin offering was to be made at the temple. John’s approach was most likely seen by the religious leaders as being in direct rebellion to that. However, as a herald of the new covenant which was to be made in the Messiah’s blood, John emphasized an oft overlooked ingredient, repentance, a change of heart. After confession of sin, John did not encourage the repentant to make a sin offering as in Leviticus 5, but to be baptized in water. John’s baptism of repentance paved the way for a new high priest who would also baptize people but in a far more powerful way.

Something is wrong

When John called for repentance in Matthew 3:1-12 his proclamation signalled that something was wrong. Is such a message relevant for today? Is there something wrong with our modern world? Repentance is a change of heart about our life’s direction. Is our world in need of a change of direction? John’s message is an announcement of hope for a new beginning and a new world. The change of heart that John called for was to be accompanied by fruits. Thinking about the need for change is only a beginning. Something must also be done to create change. Only the most deluded of us would imagine that there is no need for change. The unasked question is: What must change? The answer is: our hearts. The root cause of all our planet’s ills is spiritual and so is the solution.

The baptism-of-fire riddle

Bishops wear a mitre hat picturing tongues of fire resting on each of the faithful (Acts 2). Yet many churches which speak of this as the baptism of fire predicted by John in Matthew 3:1-12 do not recognize a water baptism that only places water on the head. What a contradiction! How then is the coming of the Holy Spirit also a baptism of fire? The Baptist argument is that only immersion is a proper baptism. However, if we accept that the children of Israel were baptized into Moses in a non-literal sense because they walked through dry shod, then the door is open for other modes of baptism. Baptism with fire also has a double meaning. The unrepentant who choose hell over heaven will also be thrown into a lake of fire, a mode even Baptists might approve.

The announcer

In national assemblies of this world there is often a herald who announces important dignitaries. He is usually dressed in elaborate clothing. In Matthew 3:1-12 we are introduced to the most important newscaster to have ever lived. His job was to be herald of the most important announcement of all history. One could have thought that this announcement would be made in the leading assemblies of the most important cities of the time. Instead it was made in the wilderness at the edge of Roman imperial control. This last of the Old Testament prophets was dressed in the simple clothing of poor farming folk reminiscent of the prophet Elijah. He preached in a place of historic significance to Israel. Israel crossed the Jordan to become God’s people in this wilderness. It was a fitting place to announce a revival.

God is now taking control

In Matthew 3:1-12 we read of John the baptizer’s announcement about the impending ministry of Jesus Christ. Yet, unlike former prophets, his announcement of repentance had a greater sense of urgency in that the “kingdom of heaven is near.” We moderns tend just to refer to “the kingdom” yet that is not how the apostles spoke. Whereas we tend to omit God or heaven from the phrase, the original language emphasized God or heaven. It was an announcement of the sovereignty of heaven or the kingship of God. In military terms, God was establishing a beachhead from which he would eventually take over. God’s kingdom is God’s rule. He rules in the lives of those who accept him. The words “the kingdom of heaven has come near” is the modern equivalent of saying that God is now taking control.1

1 The Gospel of Matthew, The New International Commentary of the New Testament, R. T. France, 2007, Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, p. 102

How often repent

Sometimes we may think, “Repent? Sure, I did that before I was converted.” So, is repentance then just a one time thing? In Matthew 3:1-12 when John the Baptist began preparing the way for the ministry of Jesus, he did not use the word in a one time sense. The word repent is an ongoing command. After all, Christians will make many mistakes during life’s journey. If we think we’ve arrived, we can become arrogant and self-righteous. Conversion is merely the beginning of a process of change. Our journey usually begins with small changes. If we never come to the point of realizing how immature those initial ideas were, we may have stopped repenting. The idea that we do not have perfect knowledge and the humility to learn new perspectives are indicative of ongoing repentance.

Jesus, steak or sizzle

John the Baptist had preached that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire, clean house and burn the chaff with fire (Matthew 3:11-12). Then a different side of Jesus shocked John and he was disappointed (Matthew 11:2-15). Was Jesus all sizzle and no steak? Was this just another empty promise? Was Jesus just like so many who promise more than they can deliver? Was Jesus just like so many who stir your emotions with great ideas, but in the end leave you empty? Even the disciples were disappointed that Jesus came to die for the world rather than conquer the world. Perhaps the real steak is not in a king like this world’s, but one who rules in the hearts of men and produces a fire that creates permanent change in us from the inside out.

A more powerful one

Part of John the Baptist’s questioning if Jesus was the one (Matthew 11:2-15) may have been that he had predicted a more powerful one (Matthew 3:11-12). Some Christians may also be disappointed that we celebrate the birth of a baby on Christ’s first advent, rather than only focus on the power of his second advent. Yet God with us, Immanuel, was born among us as a helpless babe. Why? We human beings tend to focus on a different kind of power. We want dramatic miracles like the red sea crossing. We want power that we can see. Yet, like the still, small voice that Elijah experienced, the real power of God is not in things seen. It is in the potency of good news that Jesus brought. Perhaps if we hear that message we may find unimaginable power.

Preaching & teaching

The word "preach" originally meant to “announce” the message of the kingdom of God? John the Baptist preached that the kingdom was near (Matthew 3:1-2). Jesus preached that same message (Matthew 4:17). Jesus instructed his disciples to preach it as well. Today, we associate preaching with what is taught at church, not what is announced to unbelievers. Both preaching and teaching are VERY important to the life of the church. Preaching was originally a public announcement to unbelievers including a message of repentance and turning to God (Matthew 3:2; 4:17). Teaching was supposed to be what happened inside of church time, instructing believers to obey what Jesus had commanded. The most important thing that we need to learn is what Jesus commanded. After all, that's what he instructed his disciples to teach (Matthew 28:19-20).

Lessons from a baptism

The Baptism of Jesus the Christ
The Baptism of
Jesus the Christ
We learn several key things about leadership from the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:1-12). Real leaders are not so afraid of their positions that they cannot submit to the leadership of others at appropriate times. Jesus was superior to John, yet he submitted to John’s baptism, rather than insist that he baptize John. What humility! Real leaders are also not afraid to submit to rituals of public cleansing even when they have no fault in a matter. Jesus was faultless and did not need to submit himself to a ritual of repentance. He was guilt free. Yet, he willingly did so and is an example of what we should do. Some believe that only the weak apologize, but the truth is that weaklings and cowards refuse to apologize. True leaders willingly apologize even when there is no need to.

Baptized on the head by fire

Bishops wear a miter hat remembering the tongues of fire resting on people’s heads at Pentecost (Acts 2). Some church fathers and John of Damascus described this as the baptism of fire predicted by John the Baptist in Matthew 3:1-12. That is why some churches also recognize a baptism of water on the head. If we accept that the children of Israel were baptized into Moses in a non-literal sense because they walked through dry shod, then the door is open for the word baptism to also have a non-literal meaning. Other baptisms with fire are perhaps an immersion experience. Early Christians suffered great persecution, which we call a trial by fire or baptism of fire. Also the unrepentant who choose hell over heaven will sadly be cast into a lake of fire possibly resulting in their total immersion.

Social gospel & works salvation

As in all things that divide Christians, the words social gospel are unfortunately misunderstood. The phrase is not a quote from scripture. However, the concept of a social responsibility towards others is there. One example is that of the selfish rich man in Luke 16:19-31 who was hard-hearted towards poor Lazarus. Another question that Protestants have is whether this passage requires works for salvation. I believe that Protestants and Catholics actually agree on works. The biggest difference is that Protestants see good works resulting from saving faith. Catholics see saving faith evidenced by good works. It’s like splitting hairs, if you ask me. The bottom line is that a social responsibility towards others is clearly evident among those who believe. John told the Pharisees to show fruit of a changed heart. One such fruit is how we treat others.

Truth or Comfort

So many people today want words of comfort and they certainly have their place. But some of Christianity’s biggest churches have been built on comfort over truth. At times we need to be discomforted by the truth. John the Baptist was such a preacher. He did not start out with words like, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today…” Rather, he started out with the same thing that Jesus also began with, a call to repent [have a change heart] for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 3:1-12). He was even starker with certain religious leaders who came on the scene, calling them a brood of snakes and warning them to produce outward fruit to prove an inward change of heart. In a selfish world perhaps what we all need now is a confrontation with the truth.