Chapter 22

Sermons I've Heard -- Plays I've Seen

My family lived in Lake Charles, Louisiana during my high school years. We were members of the First Baptist Church and attended frequently. As with many Baptist churches one week a year was designated as "Youth Week." During Youth Week the church's young people replaced adults in staffing the church. Male youth quickly requested to become ushers as these were the most sought after and prized positions.

The young man chosen to deliver the sermon that Sunday played football for a rival high school. Although we competed against each other on the football field I considered him to be a likeable person. His sermon revolved around his efforts to save the "soul" of a fellow teammate. He related his witnessing efforts while the pair dined at a local Italian restaurant. A lit candle in a wine bottle illuminated each table. Being macho high school dudes, they competed to see who could hold their palms the longest over the candle's flame. He then compared that pain to that which his friend would suffer over his entire body in hellfire for eternity if he did not accept Jesus as his personal Savior.

His friend still harbored doubts after this effort and several other points of religious persuasion. The youth week pastor then presented his final argument. Suppose what I'm saying is totally true. Then you will burn for eternity in the fires of hell since you are not saved. Would it not be better for you to believe just in case? If I am wrong and you are correct that there is no afterlife, what have you lost? Even if that is the case you have lived a more exemplary life as a Christian during your time on earth. Under that persuation his friend "accepted" Jesus and was "saved" that night.

Since I had not as yet read the Bible on my own, I took no exception to the "burning in hellfire for eternity" approach. It was what all church members ignorantly believed. However, I did take exception to selling salvation as an insurance policy. In other words, claim that you believe in Jesus just in case it somehow turns out to be true. That way you avoid hell. I suppose it depends on your definition of the word "believe." Nonetheless, the large sanctuary could barely contain all the "amens" which rose up from the congregation. Everyone agreed that the church's future was well secured in the hands of these devoted Christian youth!

Forty years later, churches still intentionally make Christianity a religion of fear. In a pamphlet published by Good News Publishers entitled "Hell Suppose It's True After All?" two young people are discussing the possibility of life after death. Both eventually agree that a God of love would not condemn humans to everlasting punishment in the fires of hell. The two sit silently for a moment until one of them adds, "Suppose it is true, after all?" It's still important to plant that seed of fear and terror. Perhaps we should believe just in case it's true. We need that insurance policy!

Is this the type of Christians God desires? Those that halfheartedly "believe" just in case it's true to avoid the fictional eternity of torture in the fires of hell. What does the Bible state?

I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:15-16)

Recently, I attended a free Christian play entitled, "Heaven's Gate & Hell's Flames." It is billed as a "high impact presentation drama for the sole purpose of pointing people to Jesus." The troupe travels from city to city presenting the play as an outreach ministry. Basically, the props consisted of heaven's Pearly Gates and the horrific gates of hell. A dramatic portrayal of people under varying situations and ages is presented as they unexpectedly die. The joy of believers as they enter heaven is contrasted with the horror of those who face judgment and are dragged off screaming to eternal hellfire.

The master of ceremony felt obligated to warn the audience before the play began that it may not be suitable for young children. However, there were many young children in the audience. In the row in front of me sat a mother with two young boys. Before long, the youngest boy fled his seat for his mother's lap. The older boy put his head on his mother's shoulder as he clung to her with both arms. Both of the youngsters were trembling. If their desire was to scare the hell out of children, they succeeded!

Let's consider religious plays in general. Jesus is always portrayed with long hair, delicate features, and carries himself in a slow, solemn, sliding of the feet. His wardrobe contains only bright white robes. Sometimes, a halo or glow is produced around his head. Why is Jesus portrayed as such? Because that is how people now believe he looked. Of course, these beliefs are the result of an artist's conception. The artist never saw Jesus or any description of Jesus, lived thousands of years after Jesus, and obviously never read the entire Bible. The artist's portrait most of us accept as "Jesus" was sketched by Warner Sallman in 1924.

If you read the Bible you will know that the image we recognize as Jesus is very probably wrong. Likewise, you will know that the Shroud of Turin is not the burial shroud of Jesus. Why not? Because it looks like our perception of Jesus based on Sallman's drawing, which is wrong. The Shroud may be the burial cloth for someone during that period, but it is not Jesus. It is obviously someone with long hair and Jesus did not have long hair:

Doth not even nature itself teach you, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? (I Corinthians 11:14)

Paul wrote Corinthians and he knew Jesus Christ in person. In First Corinthians 15:5-8, Paul lists people who saw Jesus after His resurrection from the grave. Paul writes that he was one of these:

And last of all he was seen of me also...   (I Corinthians 15:8)

Certainly, Paul would not have written "if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him," if Jesus had long hair. In a broader sense, God indirectly wrote First Corinthians since it is part of the scriptures, and:

All scripture is given by inspiration of God... (II Timothy 3:16)

Therefore, God inspired Paul to write First Corinthians 11:14. God certainly would not have written, "if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him," if His Son Jesus had long hair. Did God and Jesus have the same arguments over hair length as most human fathers and sons? Of course, not.

In an even broader sense, Jesus Himself inspired Paul to write First Corinthians 11:14, as all scripture was inspired by God, but God and Jesus or the Word are the same:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

Therefore, if Jesus Himself inspired Paul to write, "if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him," then certainly Jesus did not have long hair! Nonetheless, virtually everyone today believes that Jesus had long hair thanks to Warner Sallman and man's inability to read and understand the Bible. Other than not having long hair, there are some hints as to the appearance of Jesus in the Bible:

He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. (Isaiah 53:2)

So Jesus did not have long hair, and He wasn't handsome. People did not desire Him for His looks or His form!

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