The right kind of heretic?

The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?” “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”      (John 8v48-51)Years ago,  I was invited to take part in a recruitment drive to encourage more teachers into the profession.  The evening involved me being part of a working party, commenting on  advertising ideas and slogans. One of them was a photographic still from The Dead Poets Society in which Robin Williams stands on the desk in front of his pupils. The comment beneath it read something like ‘ To be a great teacher is to become the greatest disturbance in the classroom!’

In many ways, Jesus fits this model of teaching perfectly in that he seldom pandered to what people thought he should be doing. This is the reason he made so many people angry because he presented a challenge to those who were orthodox, who cared little for others and viewed obedience to God  in purely legalistic terms. Indeed, Jesus’ challenge to the rich man in the gospel of Mark shows that his expectations went far beyond what the enquirer was hoping.

Recently, a church minister has been labelled by some as a heretic because he dares to be different – interestingly, the same was also said of Jesus and even worse as we see in the passage above where he is referred to as being demon possessed: How hard it is to be a teacher?! Out of curiosity, I looked up the word ‘heretic’ online for its meaning and was surprised to discover that one definition of it is ‘a person holding an opinion at odds with what is generally accepted.’ This sums up Jesus perfectly but unlike the ignorant, his motivation was always to love, cherish and educate.


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