It happened again. I received a wonderfully inspiring e-mail–lengthy, but inspiring–and just as I neared the end, there it was: the threat, preceded by a command to say “The Lord’s Prayer” for the person who sent the e-mail. I was OK with that, but the writer wanted more:

“Next, send this message to everyone you know. In a while, more people will have
prayed for you and you would have obtained a lot of people praying for others!”

In principle, it sounded reasonable and mathematically sound; but I have hundreds of friends in my address book, including many who do not say “The Lord’s Prayer”. Plus, I have no doubt that many who do wouldn’t know what to say, in response to the writer’s next command. I was a bit speechless myself:

“Next, stop and think and appreciate God’s power in your life, for doing what
you know is pleasing to Him.”

I stopped and thought. I’m still not sure whether this writer was saying that God would have power in my life if I pleased “Him”, and no power if I didn’t–i.e. a conditionally powerful quid pro quo God? Alrighty now!

And then came the Big Threat, the one that has found its way to the Loud Mouth’s mailbox once too often:

“If you are not ashamed to do this, follow the instructions! Jesus said, ‘If you are ashamed of me, I will be ashamed of you before My Father.’
“If you are not ashamed, send this message… only if you believe.”

Believe what, exactly? Does this writer want us to believe that Jesus was a hypocrite? That’s what we’d have to believe, to accept anyone’s claim that he made such a manipulative, vindictive threat. This proclamation defies the spirit, intent and teachings of Jesus.

Believe what, exactly? Does this writer want us to believe that Jesus was a hypocrite? That’s what we’d have to believe, to accept anyone’s claim that he made such a manipulative, vindictive threat. This proclamation defies the spirit, intent and teachings of Jesus.

Bible scholars tell us that this alleged direct quote was written 70-85 years after Jesus’ crucifixion–and not by one of his disciples. In fact, they say, none of the gospels was written by someone who personally knew Jesus. Why do we repeat second-hand information that maligns his character and makes him appear duplicitous?

What we know, for sure, is that Matthew wrote this quote–and he clearly couldn’t have been paying attention to anything else Jesus reportedly said, or he would have written something that was more accurately aligned with his character and teachings.

Maybe Matthew was being overly zealous in his attempt to attract converts to Judaism’s Christian sect. I don’t know. And I don’t know what motivates those who keep breathing life into such a damning characterization of Jesus by tacking this threat to the end of their e-mails, either.
This one stood out from the rest because, like Matthew, the scribe wasn’t thinking clearly. In the same e-mail, the writer wrote every word of “The Lord’s Prayer,” but apparently didn’t read them–and expected us to say them and not read them, either. Curious stuff.

The writer obviously believes that Jesus prayed, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others’,” before the crowd gathered on the Mount, but would not be forgiving of others, when in his Father’s presence.

Makes you wonder: Who’s really the non-believer here?

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