THINGS I WISH JESUS HADN’T SAID
The book focuses on two groups of Jesus’ messages. One group comprises those sayings which make it hard to be a Christian. The other includes those which seemingly make it easy. The “hard” or “tough” sayings of Jesus sere and scorch, challenge and demand. They call us to accountability, responsibility, and action. These are the sayings of the Sermon on the Mount, to the Rich Young Ruler, to the adulteress about to be stoned. These are sayings G. K. Chesterton was possibly recalling when he said, “Christianity, even when watered down, is hot enough to boil all of society to rags.” These sayings do not let us off the hook.
The easy sayings seem to contradict and counter the hard sayings. I wish he hadn’t said them because they confuse and allow us wiggle room with the hard sayings. They let us off the hook from spiritual, ethical, and moral obligations. They are susceptible to misinterpretation and more vulnerable to exploitation for personal, or national, agendas. They are easily ripped from context, manipulated, and distorted to allow excuses for behavior denounced in Jesus’ tough sayings. Some examples are “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34), “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town” (Matthew 10:11-15), and “the poor you will always have with you” (Matthew 26:11)
Joe Edd Morris has offered a gift to each of us in this honest engagement in the difficult teachings of Jesus. These teachings are hard to hear because we know they are hard to live; yet they are the source of joy and peace and power in the Christian life. I commend this book to you, to your class or group, to your church. Read it, grapple with it, embrace it, and be blessed. – Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, Mississippi Conference, United Methodist Church.
Morris gives us a careful exploration of the texts, filled with valuable teaching moments and insights from the language and culture of Jesus’ time. He also gives us numerous insights from theology and psychology, and in discussion questions at the end of each chapter there is rich opportunity to apply the texts to our own lives. The book deals with issues that are of critical importance to our world, such as: judgment and forgiveness, wealth and poverty, greed and generosity, love and enemies, marriage and faithfulness, self-actualization and self-sacrifice, failure and recovery, war and peace, giving and receiving, and answered and unanswered prayer. Important appendices point out parallel scriptures to those explored and components of just war theory.
This is an excellent resource for preachers, Bible study teachers, study groups, and individuals who are serious about the challenges involved in contemporary discipleship. – Bishop (Retired) J. Lawrence McCleskey, The United Methodist Church
Already the title arouses your curiosity. What is it that the author wishes Jesus had not said? More exciting is the uncanny way he often turns the sayings upside down to demonstrate what Jesus was really getting at. New insights emerge that give us a richer understanding of familiar gospel stories. – Theodore Runyon, Professor Emeritus, Candler School of Theology, Emory University
A brilliant scholarly work that also touches the deep places of the soul. I highly recommend this book by Dr. Morris. – Peggy Webb, Award-winning author
The organization of the book is simple but extremely effective. After each of the sayings, Morris provides information on the text, explains the context, elaborates on the message, and lists questions for reflection. He also gives helpful parallel scriptures for each of the sayings used. The book provides helpful insight to questions raised in the minds of all who ponder the sayings of Jesus. – Gerald Walton, emeritus professor of English at the University of Mississippi, is the author of journal articles on language and literature and the book The University of Mississippi: a Pictorial History.