I wonder how often we misquote Jesus without even realising it. Could it be that we think we know what Jesus said but for some reason we have the wrong end of the stick. Someone once said to me, ‘as Jesus said spare the rod, spoil the child’. Wow!
Taken aback I made sure they understood that Jesus never said that. I also had to make it clear to another person that Jesus never said, God helps those who help themselves. I quickly made them aware that God helps those who can’t help themselves.
There are many weird and wonderful phantom quotes or ideas that people either say or live by without realising they are just not true and really not helpful. Think about God works in mysterious ways and cleanliness is next to godliness. These sound religious enough but actually aren’t. Let’s look at some quotes that have been attributed to Jesus...
ONE: Jesus never said, you have to be cruel to be kind.
I am so pleased that God really isn’t like this. If God ever behaved in a cruel manner towards me I would be in a real mess. If we think about it we often live by this idea without realising that this is in direct contrast to God’s grace. When someone in our lives isn’t thinking straight or behaving in an unhelpful way, we might think that by letting them experience their own mess then they might sort themselves out. The reality is Jesus behaved in the opposite manner. Jesus received ultimate cruelty from us on the cross so that we wouldn’t need to. Jesus takes on cruelty itself so that we might receive his kindness. Jesus isn’t cruel to be kind but perfectly loving to be kind. This doesn't mean we let people get away with bad behaviour but neither does it mean we let them destroy themselves in the hope they might repent. Jesus really said, Love and show mercy to be kind.
TWO: Jesus never said, you’re too far gone to be saved.
In a classic episode of Friends Joey turns to Chandler and states, ‘you're so far past the line, you can't even see the line. The line is a dot to you.’ This isn’t something I have ever heard someone say to another person but I have heard people say it to themselves. Some of us think we simply have done too many bad things, gone too far and given too much away to ever be loved by God again. Have you ever said to someone, ‘but if you knew what I had done…’?
Firstly, the point of the grace is that we have all gone too far but yet God still comes to get us. There is nothing we could ever do that is too far-gone. We might think it and we might not get it, but the truth is God is in the business of reaching and finding those who have gone too far. Jesus really said, you’re never too far gone.
THREE: Jesus never said, follow me and everything will be ok.
Jesus never made a promise that following him would be easy. In fact, he promises it will be difficult which obviously isn’t what we want to hear. The Gospel message isn’t that things will be easy but that God will be with us when it is not ok. When things fall apart it’s not that God has left us or isn’t paying attention but that the world is a mess and we often make daft decisions with consequences we don't like. God never made a promise to airlift us out of trouble. He does, however, promise to parachute himself in. Jesus really said, follow me and I will never abandon you.
FOUR: Jesus never said, I love you if you do as I say.
My love is very much conditional. I will love you until you stop agreeing with me and then you are out of here. After years of being a follower of Jesus I’ve realised that God’s love is fundamentally and intrinsically different to my love. To compare them make no sense. God’s love never comes with strings or a catch. God’s love is freely given with no small print. God loves us, his love is perfect and can’t be turned away depending on our good behaviours. Sadly, in religion we think that if we pray more, study the Bible and be good little boys and girls then God will love us more. This is rubbish and toxic for any relationship. We don't pray, study or attend church to gain God’s love; we are first loved and therefore we want to respond back by investing into to this loving relationship. The real thing Jesus says is I love you even though you don't do as I say.