The other day when Pat Robertson made his rather bizarre comments about killing Venezuela's president, I immediately thought... "What would Jesus say?" Rather than debating whether something is biblical or not (which often depends on one's interpretation or personal biases), I usually go the more direct route and try to visualize Jesus of Nazareth either shaking his head forcefully and frowning or nodding slowly with a slight grin on his face.
In the case of Pat, I regularly visualize a frowning Jesus.
I've been thinking about Jesus and Scripture a lot lately. I've been focusing on the many times that Jesus set aside the Torah and opted to respond to human need. There seems to have been a pattern within Jesus' thoughts and actions when it came to following the Law or giving his love and compassion to human beings. The pattern is that love and compassion always won out.
In the third chapter of Mark and the sixth chaper of Luke, Jesus was quoted as having said... "The law was made for man, not man for the law, the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath".
There is sometimes a tendency to view Scripture as infallible, inerrant because supposedly it is the "Word of God", rather than the human interpretation or experience of God's wisdom (... my preference, of course). In my opinion, when this happens the danger is that we may be tempted to view Scripture as God and ultimate Truth, rather than something pointing to God and ultimate Truth. In other words, we start to worship, idolize Scripture... and that is precisely what Jesus was critical of. That is precisely what I view as dangerous within Christianity.
In the words of one of my favorite authors, Fr. Joseph F. Girzone... "Where there is a human need the law must bend. It is God's children who are sacred to God, not laws. Laws are to protect or assist God's children. If a law does not do that, it should be re-evaluated, and, perhaps, abrogated."
"One cannot help but think of religious laws and customs today that may have had meaning at one time but are a hindrance to the healthy practice of spirituality in our times. This is not to say that morality should change, but there are many religious laws that have nothing to do with the moral law. They are merely arbitrary ordinances that could be changed. Often people's attachment to traditions and customs resist changing them even though they may cause of occasion untold damage to many good people. When religious leaders see the damage done, one would think as good shepherds concerned for the sheep they would be the first to recognize the need for change. It is difficult to understand their obsessive attachment to customs and practices when they more often give rise to scandal than inspire goodness. It might do well for the religious leaders of all the denominations to re-evaluate practices that are totally out of sync with the mind and spirit of Jesus, and which many good people no longer observe because they know they are foreign to the mind of Jesus."
One can twist Scripture to support any thought process, any speech, or any action in which one might choose to engage. Some are laughably, obviously twisted and un-Jesus-like... such as Pat's comments about Hugo Chavez. Others are more debatable.
Again, though, my litmus test is always... "What would Jesus say (and do)?"... based on what we know of Jesus' personality and teachings.