SAYINGS OF A
by Max Maxwell
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The Parable of the Door
A preacher accosted a Native American who was talking about the Great Spirit. There was no lack of scorn as the preacher reviled the old man’s religious beliefs. The preacher told him that his faith in the Great Spirit is evil. And he sketched at length a vivid picture of the painful torments in hell that awaited those who did not believe the same as he.
After the preacher was done, he pointed his finger in the old man’s face and said, “Listen friend, in the Bible Jesus said, ‘Very truly, I say to you, I am the door for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters through me, he will be saved.’ Repent of your Great Spirit and accept Jesus as your savior.”
The Gadfly looked up and said, “Preacher, I have something to say to you. There once was a King who ruled over a kingdom. Around this kingdom was a wall with no openings except for one door. No one could get into the kingdom except through that door. Now it had come to the King’s attention that people living outside the kingdom were perishing. So he ordered that all should be invited into the kingdom. And it came to pass that many began to come into the kingdom through the only door. Because the door reflected the glory of the King, it was very beautiful. Some who saw it thought, ‘If the door is this wonderful, how good it must be inside the kingdom.’ Those people hurried their pace and entered the kingdom, leaving the door behind them. Others were so impressed with the door that they stopped on the path to the kingdom, and began to gather before the door. Eventually, so many had stopped to admire the door that they began to block the way into the kingdom. I ask you preacher, who was faithful to the call of the King: those who admired the door and blocked the path to the kingdom, or those who entered the kingdom and left the door behind them?”
As the preacher thought about the parable the Gadfly said, “Do not loiter at the door. But enter so that the One who invited you may have the honor of your presence."
A man came to the Gadfly saying, “I am no good. I keep trying and keep failing. God must hate me.”
Gadfly said, “There was a woman in a race who fell before the whole crowd and
broke her leg. But she continued on and refused to quit. She crawled, dragging
her broken body across the finish line, and finished last. When the race was
over the whole crowd rose to its feet and cheered, not for the winner, but for
the one who was last. I tell you, there is more honor before God for the one
who always fails, but has the courage to keep trying, than for all those to whom
it came easy.”
A preacher spoke to a woman about Jesus. But she did not accept his words. The preacher proceeded to berate the woman. He told her about eternal punishment in hell if she did not accept Jesus. He accused her of hating God and turning away from the light.
The Gadfly said, “Preacher, perhaps you should stop talking about Jesus. For it is light that dispels darkness, not demeaning words. Neither do words about eternal torture say anything meaningful or truthful.”
The preacher became angry and said, "How can you say these things? The people in the world love sin not God. They need Jesus to save them."
The Gadfly said, "Do you really believe that people love sin? It is like a woman who lives in a house with no windows. She stumbles around the house in complete darkness. One day she finds a match and a candle. When she lights the candle, a beautiful light fills the house. And though she was blind before, now she can see. You know that if you set a lit candle out in the light of day, even the flame will cast a shadow upon the ground. And what was light has become darkness. But to the one, who lives in darkness, even the light of a candle is a saving light. She loves the candle not for its shadow, but for its light. Let your love be like the sun, whose greater glory transforms her sin from light to darkness. If your love cannot give people a greater light than their own transgressions, then how great is your darkness? Have you not heard preacher? It has been said, ‘No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the basket, but on the lamp stand and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others.’ You have placed your light under a basket you call Jesus.”
The preacher cried out, "Jesus is my light!"
The Gadfly replied, "Jesus is a voice calling you from your darkness. But only your love is the light you have to give. And when your devotion to Christ makes void the love in your heart, is this not to worship a false God?”
A creationist said, “The theory of evolution is false. The truth is that God made everything as it is.”
The Gadfly said, “Evolution or Creation? It makes no difference. The exact nature of the origin of species is a mystery of the past. Whether we are the brightest of the apes or a clay figurine made from our own unique mold, we must live in the present. It has been said that we should live by the creed of loving our neighbors as ourselves. Whether you think your neighbor is a child of God or an ape, it does not change the task at hand.”
At a gathering a preacher said, “There is no way to God but through his Son Jesus Christ. Through him we gain salvation. And those who do not believe in Jesus will burn in hell forever, for every human heart is filled with sin. Only in Christ can we find salvation.”
The Gadfly said to the crowd, “Salvation is not a gift brought to you from above that you did not already have within you. It is not passed to you by the laying-on of hands, nor granted by the church. You will not find it in the venerated relics of your sacred traditions. It is you. You are salvation. You are the sacred bread and the living water. But you are also hunger and thirst. Feed one another. You are the light and the salt of the earth. But you are also darkness and rancid meat. Illuminate and preserve one another. You are the way and the truth. But you are also lost and false to yourselves. Love one another. For it is by your own love that you shall be saved. This was the teaching of Jesus. But his followers feared this message. They dreaded becoming the fullness of truth, so they made Jesus bear this burden for the world. A fear of the depths of their own spirits wounded their hearts. So they made Jesus their Lord, that he might spare them the responsibility of new freedom. And they trembled at the realization of their own divinity. So they made Jesus a God that they might not notice the kingdom of heaven within them. And their submission to Jesus became a tyranny over truth. And their love for Christ became a hatred for life. And their burning passion for righteousness became the flames which burned their neighbors at the stake. There is no way to God but through your own heart. For every human heart is filled with God. And to seek salvation outside of your own soul is a betrayal of the teachings of Jesus Christ. Do not turn Jesus into a false idol just because you lack the courage to face your own goodness.”
A preacher said to a Hindu, “You will submit to Jesus one way or another. At the name of Jesus every knee will bend, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”
Gadfly said to the preacher, “And how will we serve God on our knees? Jesus did
not preach a gospel of submission, but offered a message of liberation. Christ
did not wish to be your Lord, but to show you a way to the goodness of your own
heart. He did not ascend to the throne of Caesar, but to a cross. Get off your
knees and stand up. Even a caged bird can sing. And when the spirit is broken
there is no end to the bending of knees. The opening and strengthening of your
heart is worth more to God than burdened kneecaps and wagging tongues.”
A man looked at a picture of starving children and said, “There is so much evil in the world. How can evil be more powerful than good?”
Gadfly said, “The power of evil is not measured by its own merits, but by the
value of the good it affects. Our deepest pain draws its strength from our
deepest beauty; and great destruction can only befall that which is great. The
perception of the power of evil is a heart-rending testimony to the great beauty
and good of our existence. Only a mediocre existence will experience mediocre
A woman asked the Gadfly to offer a critique of Christianity.
The Gadfly said, “What would you have me say? Would you have me tell you that the church is a tree, which also produces poisonous fruit? Perhaps you would care to hear that proclaiming Jesus as God is a crime against truth? Or would you have us know that to make heaven the exclusive property of the believers is unholy and a sin? Each spring life sings a song of rebirth to all things. Yet the pious believers in death are still able to wander through the glories of life’s renewal without notice or understanding. What will my words do that life cannot? But there is another whose words have already laid the foundation for the end of Christianity.
The woman asked, “Who is this person?”
The Gadfly answered, “It is Jesus, who said that to love your neighbor as yourself is the fulfillment of all the law and the prophets. More than all the crusades, more than the holocaust, more than every act of murder, tyranny, and untruth ever committed by Christian hearts and hands, these words stand as the indictment against the wrong of corrupting a man into a God. Yet, I tell you that wherever there are Christians who pick up their cross and live out the kind of love, which Jesus taught, you will find something sacred and beautiful in the world. But remember, this love is the essential song of life. And it has always been and shall ever be the death of Christianity. The seeds of grace and truth, which thrive in the hearts of the most faithful of Jesus’ followers, are themselves the undoing of the Christian story of Jesus Christ. For love is the glory of all life and the blessings of salvation given freely to all humankind. As the sun shines on every heart, and the rain gives life to all people, so love redeems all whom it touches. And thus, the most powerful criticism of Christianity is love. For every act of love is the overturning of the Christian gospel.”
A pastor spoke up and said, “What are you saying? How can this be? A Christian who is full of loving kindness is a witness to the truth of Christianity, not its destroyer.”
The Gadfly responded, “Such a Christian is no more a proof of Christianity than a Buddhist, who is full of loving kindness, is a proof against it. Love is not a Christian, Buddhist, or Islamic truth. Love has no religion but itself. This is why the religions cannot help but place love high up in their hierarchy of venerations. For love is superior to them all.”
Copyright © 2009 Kenneth J. Maxwell Jr.
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