Tag Archives: sermon on the mount

Shapeshifting Hippie Jesus

A popular progressive blogger recently said that Jesus “doesn’t lay heavy teachings on people” in connection with his yoke being easy and his burden light (Matt 11:28).

So if Jesus’ teaching seems too heavy and hard for folks (Lk 9:23), does this mean that they merely need to reinterpret Jesus or soften his commands in order to ease their discomfort? I sure hope not.

I prefer Bonhoeffer’s sentiment that those who accept Christ’s commands are the ones who find his yoke easy and the burden light, but to those who resist them (him) his yoke is hard and the burden too heavy for anyone to carry. Just ask the rich man, or those listening to the Sermon on the Mount for the first time.

Jesus didn’t say, “accept yourself and take up your sword and follow me.”

Which translates this way today: I’m fine the way I am and I’ll fight (by whatever means necessary) anyone who says otherwise.

This seems to be particularly reflective of our narcissistic, morally relativistic American society still experiencing the destructive political and social consequences of the 1960’s. We can easily see the error of the tactics used by the Religious Right in the 1980’s to promote a power-over, politicized Jesus, but it was the social “hippie” revolution that completely emasculated Christ and transformed him into an anything-goes “love” guru.

If you follow my writings, you know that I’m not down with the cage-fighting Jesus. I’m an Anabaptist. I believe that Christ is love (agape) and peace as revealed on the cross, but these truths are understood in their purest form after letting Jesus define them for us in word and deed, even in the hard stuff.

It doesn’t happen, and will never happen, by shaping Jesus to fit a new cultural trend, what is politically correct, or what the current zeitgeist (spirit of the age) would have us believe about ourselves, the Messiah, and the sacred Scriptures.

Anyone who reads the Gospels will hear Jesus teaching a radical repentance to come into the Kingdom (Matt 3:8; Mk 1:15; Lk 5:32; 13:1, etc.), but our shape-shifting of Jesus to accommodate our cultural presuppositions about ourselves and our world appears to be keeping us from actually repenting of anything.

Jesus didn’t lay heavy teachings on people? No, quite the opposite. But this is where we are today: well-intentioned folks fed up with fundamentalism not realizing how dangerously close they are to reshaping Jesus to further their own interests and agendas—another version of fundamentalism, the libertine sort.

As Jesus said, “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” to those who lived by the law. I’d say it equally applies to those who use fancy-free language that make folks feel better about their sin in order to promote an easy believism, or a moral therapeutic deism. They both stink to high heaven!

To be clear, I don’t think the one who said Jesus “doesn’t lay heavy teachings on people” really believes that the love of Christ is an “anything-goes” sort of thing, but this misleading rhetoric inevitably sets a person on a trajectory of disaster. It’s not the pathway of repentance for the inheritance of the Kingdom.

Christ ought to be forming us into his image, not the other way around. That is the critical difference. It’s certainly what has made all the difference in my life.

What do you think? When you read the Gospels, is Jesus laying down some hard stuff? Do you hear Jesus extending a high invitation and high challenge to those who would join him?

D.D. Flowers, 2014.

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My Favorite Verse

I was recently asked about my favorite verse of Scripture.  I decided to go with my favorite verse(s) from the words of Jesus. The following video was produced for a Birnham Woods sermon series called “Bookmarks”.

As Christ followers, have you considered what it really means to be known by our love? Do you have a favorite verse of Scripture that has shaped your life and thinking for the Kingdom? Share your thoughts.

D.D. Flowers, 2013.


How Worship of the American Flag Changed Everything

This fourth of July will be significant for me in several ways. It was this week seven years ago that my personal journey of discovery into a flag-less Kingdom of Christ collided with the religious powers of Christendom. What unfolded was the result of a patriotic service that would not soon be forgotten.

I grew up a Southern Baptist and served in three churches as student pastor in Texas. In the last few years leading up to my departure from vocational ministry in the Baptist church, I had been slowly embracing Anabaptism—a vision of a non-violent, love-doesn’t-stop-at-the border sort of Jesus.

In fact, I had just spent weeks teaching over the Sermon on the Mount to our youth, college students, and adult companions in our ministry. And then came the annual fourth of July service.

While I was a bit more willing to prophetically clear the temple in those days, I had decided it was wise to begin my vacation the day before this event so as not to disrupt or be a distraction by my refusal to participate in the celebration of America and the worship of the flag, something I couldn’t do in good conscience. I was for sure it was for the best.

Little did I know that there were others whom I had been teaching that would go to the service but choose not to participate in what they felt was idolatry. I didn’t learn of it until the following Sunday when I was asked by an elderly deacon in the foyer, “What’s this we hear about you teaching our youth not to say the pledge.” I was dumbfounded.

Apparently when the flag was marched down the middle of the aisle, several students and adults didn’t turn to pledge. They didn’t sing the patriotic songs, nor did they pray the nationalistic prayers.

And it seems that others noticed a small prayer group outside the church building that were praying against the event.

What followed over the next couple of months was a series of meetings with parents, deacons, and the pastor. I could no longer keep my personal views to myself. It was out in the open. And they had questions.

What had I been teaching that their students would want to put aside their former pursuits to go into missions, love all people regardless of nationality, and not waste their life on worldly gain?

They were discovering a radical discipleship. And I was becoming an Anabaptist and just didn’t know it.

The truth is that these students and adults were drawing conclusions based on a simple reading of the Gospels. And we had all come to realize that this was unacceptable for this Baptist church in rural America.

Saying no to flag worship dethrones the American Jesus and it exposes our cultural Christianity.

There would be no discussion. No debate.

We asked, “What if Jesus had physically walked in the building while you were doing those things?” One prominent member said, “Well, we of course would have stopped what we were doing and worshipped him.” Say what?

And the one retort I’ll never forget, “David, where in love your enemies does it say not to kill them.” I couldn’t believe it.

Parents were angry and confused. Church leaders had run out of patience trying to understand my perspective. For whatever reason, they wouldn’t or couldn’t hear it, or even tolerate it.

I was apparently such a threat that I had to sign a document saying I would never set foot on church grounds again. I was so deeply hurt by this that I wept at my desk in front of the deacon who had been sent to me.

When I resigned in September 2006, I announced that I was leaving to pastor a church. That was my true intent. But I was unaware of the time of wilderness, recovery, and reconstruction that awaited us.

I worked odd jobs and taught in a Christian school the last five years. And looking back it’s become clear that the last seven years has been a time of spiritual formation. I’m thankful for it. I see the Lord at work.

God’s love has used it to prepare me for what is ahead.

Had it not been for the worship of the flag that day, I might not have recognized how radical Christ’s call is to those who choose to follow him, and how counter-culture the Gospel-for-all-nations is to those who have made their home in the world.

I would not be the same person that I am today without this experience seven years ago. It has forever shaped my character and my path.

And that’s how worship of the American flag changed everything.

Viva La Revolution!

D.D. Flowers, 2013.

UPDATE: This 4th of July marks 10 years since this event.


Is the Pledge Good for Our Kids?

Children using the Bellamy salute of 1941.

I grew up like most white evangelicals in the American South. Being a Christian in the Bible Belt meant that it was common to regularly fuse Jesus with nationalism. Unfortunately, it’s taught in churches everywhere and rarely questioned.

I can remember reciting the pledge every morning in public school right before a “moment of silence.” And of course, I’ll never forget pledging to the Bible, the Christian flag, and to the American flag at Vacation Bible School. Nationalism was a big part of my childhood and adolescence.

I don’t recall ever having seen my faith in Christ as being incompatible with a zealous patriotism. That’s of course until I read Resident Aliens by Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon early on in college. That’s all it took to get the wheels turning. I then began rethinking Jesus and the Kingdom of God.

I seem to remember that this was at the height of my patriotism, around the time of the bombing of Baghdad in 2003.

After reading Bonhoeffer, who believed no nation’s flag belonged in the church, I began to reconsider the oft-neglected Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. I began to ask myself some scary questions.

Like… what if Jesus really meant what he said?

Greg Boyd’s Myth of a Christian Nation seemed to mark a major turning point in my thinking. I also thought that Lee Camp’s Mere Discipleship was sobering. I read several other works by Anabaptist thinkers, even visited with a plain Mennonite. Those were some intense times.

All of this happened within the last SBC church I served in as minister to students and education. I began teaching what I was learning, and I encouraged those in my sphere of influence to find a new identity in Christ and pledge allegiance to the Lamb.

I taught through enough of the Sermon on the Mount to prompt young people and a group of adults, on their own initiative, not to participate in the upcoming July 4th patriotic service. Their lack of enthusiasm was obvious to the entire church. And while I had purposely taken my vacation that Sunday, what transpired there naturally fell back on me and my ministry.

The very next Sunday I was broadsided with, “What’s this we hear about you teaching people not to say the pledge?”

The truth is that I never told anyone not to say the pledge. What happened that Sunday when the flag was marched down the middle aisle was the result of a small group of Christians connecting the dots. The events that followed resulted in my resignation and exodus from vocational ministry.

I don’t regret it. It has been a defining moment in my journey with Jesus. And it has shaped me for the next season of ministry to the Body of Christ.

Read “How Worship of the American Flag Changed Everything”

Please stop and consider how we evangelicals have been conditioned not to see any conflict with nationalism and Christian discipleship.

Will we allow another generation of our children to be taught that America is the hope of the world, or will we tell them the truth about a King whose Kingdom is not of this world, but is for this world?

The following video purposely provokes us to rethink nationalism.

The US flag code has declared the flag to be a living thing. Do you see anything wrong with Jesus followers pledging allegiance to a flag that represents a worldly kingdom? Would you consider this idolatry?

D.D. Flowers, 2013.


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