Sunday, 26 November 2017

Sheep and Goats - the Alternative

A challenging text, the sheep and goats. I do think that Heather Disher has a point, when she manages totally to spiritualize the story, to the point where it's all about reading your Bible every day, and not at all about loving your less fortunate neighbours.

Which is good, but not really trying hard enough.

I think the place to start from is realising that this is a really scary and disturbing story about Hell and judgement. And therefore Jesus probably never said it. After that, it becomes much easier to deal with. We don't need to have the problems Drayton Parslow suffers from - assuming the Bible is true, as he does, he has to explain why when Jesus is condemning people for not looking after the poor, he's actually telling them to stop being gay.

No such logical gymnastics for us. Once we've agreed Jesus never said it, we can cheerfully let it mean what we like.

After all, what is Hell really? I've never seen it. It marks the place where a loving God sends all the goats - is that logical? And how do we know the King didn't turn round halfway through the parable - thus putting the goats on his right and the sheep on his left? The Bible doesn't tell us he didn't, which I think is telling.

No, what the Bible is clearly telling us is that judging is a bad thing! Goats are good - and if the sheep are all going to Hell (the King having turned round) then the goats are being praised for their independence and feistiness - just the sort of attributes you need in the Kingdom. But we know from Psalm 23 that the sheep are safe - unless the Psalmist (almost certainly not King David) is imagining he's/she's actually a goat.

So the moral of this parable? Judge not, lest ye be judged. Join me on Advent Sunday, when I'll be explaining why the Day of the Lord will never happen.

Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. And don't forget it's nearly Christmas!

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