Some people think Jesus was the son of God, though many who are skeptical about that still think he was a great moral teacher.
Millions of people believe that Jesus is the Lord, the Son of God, sent to earth to teach us how to live. Many others, including some of the founding fathers like Jefferson, modern Unitarians, and a lot of people who don’t consider themselves Christians at all, aren’t convinced that Jesus is the Son of God, but think he was a great moral teacher. When they confront an ethical decision, or a morally loaded issue of public policy, they may ask, ``What would Jesus Do?”
How would Jesus have voted on California’s Proposition 8 -- that is, what views did he have, or would he have had, on same sex marriage? What would he counsel President Obama to do about Afghanistan? Would he oppose the Death Penalty? Would he pay his taxes without protest? Would he oppose abortion? Some abortions? All abortions? How about euthanasia? There are many issues, on which it seems it would be good to have the advice of this moral teacher, whether or not he was or is as divine as some people think.
In order to ask these questions, we need to know something about the historical Jesus: what he said, what he thought, what he did. Of course everything about the historical Jesus has been questioned by someone or another… including his existence.
But even to get started on our topic, we have to assume some things. So we assume that Jesus did exist, and that the gospels, although written sixty or so years after he lived, are accurate at least on the points on which they agree.
The gospels don’t agree on everything. They have Jesus saying different things as he was executed. They don’t all tell the familiar story of his birth in Bethlehem. Matthew has Jesus saying things on the mount that Luke has him saying on the Plain. But, luckily for our purposes, they pretty much agree on his moral teachings.
And many agree that the core of these teachings come to this, from Luke chapter 6:
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from him who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and of him who takes away your goods do not ask them back again. And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.
Well, it’s pretty clear that Jesus wouldn’t oppose single sex marriage. He would ask, if I were gay, wouldn’t I want people to allow me to marry? And then he would do as he would want to be done to, if he were gay, and vote for gay marriage.
Or maybe not. When Jesus was asked about divorce, he expressed a pretty traditional view of marriage. He pointed out that God made man and woman, and they become one, and said no divorce except in the case of unfaithfulness. So maybe it’s not clear that he would vote for gay marriage.
One one hand, it seems he would be on the liberal side of things. Sometimes he sounds practically like a socialist. "Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God,” he said. And to the rich he said, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth….go, sell what you have, and give to the poor." And he famously observed: "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Sounds like he would definitely a democrat, or even further to the left.
One the other hand, sometimes Jesus sounds like a pretty extreme individualist. He thought people should give to the poor of their own free will, not through taxes to the state. If Jesus were following the Republican Primary, perhaps the candidate he would have liked best is Ron Paul. The individual should follow his conscience. The key principle is not to harm others.
So it may not be so simple to figure out what Jesus would do. On the show we will get help from Andrew Fiala, who wrote the book What Would Jesus Really Do?