I recently wrote an open response to Mr. Shive regarding the Law. After writing it, I began to think that maybe that one sermon was a poor reflection of the overall teaching at Hillside Community Church in Golden, CO. Maybe if I listened to more sermons, the questions I had raised would be answered. So, I decided to listen to the most recent (as of August 26, 2013) sermon, which can be found here, and see if it would shed any light on the questions I had. This sermon was preached by Mr. Thoemke, who is also a pastor at Hillside. The basis of his sermon is Matthew 7:7–14.
I did not understand much of what he was trying to teach. His exposition of verse 12, though, I found quite interesting. Verse 12 says, “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (NASB). Mr. Thoemke then defines what it means to treat people the way you want them to treat you, saying, “This is committing to selfless living. It’s serving those in need, family, friends, coworkers, neighbors. Bless them. Encourage them. Be involved, and you will be living out God’s mission of the kingdom.” He then goes on to give a detailed example of the service that he and others are doing in the community. It is quite reminiscent of the way Mr. Shive paraded around their service in Nicaragua. That, however, is not what I found most interesting.
The most interesting part is that Mr. Thoemke defines treating people the same way you want them to treat you as going around and performing voluntary services for people in the community. He apparently arranges and participates in all sorts of service projects where they repair people’s homes and hand out food to people. This is interesting for two reasons. It is interesting first because it means that Mr. Thoemke wants the community to repair his home and give him food, all free of charge. If he is doing it to them, then it must necessarily be what he wants them to do to him. It is interesting second because it has nothing to do with what Jesus is talking about in verse 12.
The command to treat others as you would want them to treat you is simply a rephrasing of the last part of Leviticus 19:18, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” We know from Matthew 22 that the whole Law and the Prophets stand on this along with the greatest commandment. Is that not exactly what Jesus says here in Matthew 7? Treat others the way you want to be treated, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Clearly, Jesus is referring to the second table of the Ten Commandments when he says to treat others the way you want to be treated. The problem for Mr. Thoemke, though, is that nowhere in any of the Ten Commandments does it tell us to go around performing voluntary services for strangers. Rather, we are told to respect people’s life and property. You don’t want people to kill you, so don’t kill them. You don’t want people to steal from you, so don’t steal from them. You don’t want people to be a false witness against you, so don’t be a false witness against them. Treat people as you want to be treated.
Mr. Thoemke missis all of this as he touts his community service. He even goes so far as to say that people in the community are coming to life because of the voluntary services he provides. He says that “people are suffering in the community, and the simple fact that we want to come in and help them with simple things around their house makes them come alive.” Wow! I thought the gospel was the power of God unto salvation for those who believe. Apparently, the voluntary service of Mr. Thoemke is the power of God unto salvation for those who receive it.
Given the other ridiculous things he says in the sermon, I should not be surprised at his departure from orthodoxy and propagation of social justice what is essentially his own version of Liberation Theology. Here are a few quotes I compiled while listening to the sermon:
“The kingdom is a new set of rules and principles.” Really? I was under the notion that the kingdom of God is the realm in which God exercises his authority over his people.
“It is the relationship with Jesus that pulls us in and helps us figure out how we live the principles of the kingdom.” Really? I was under the notion that God’s objective revelation in the Bible is how we figure out how to live the principles of the kingdom.
I felt like grace in this city “was only going to come by asking God to show us how to break through, asking him for the tangible work of the kingdom to move into action amongst the streets we were looking down upon.” I don’t even know what this means.
“We no longer need the Law and the Prophets to lead us to Christ. Our relationship motivated out of true love and the principles of the kingdom will lead us to some up all those things.” Really? I was under the notion, again, that God’s objective revelation found in both the Old and New Testaments is where everything is summed up.
It is not a total loss, though. At the end of the sermon, Mr. Thoemke addresses those of his listeners who may be confused by what he had been saying. When I heard that, my ears perked up. I was certainly confused by virtually everything he had to say. Fortunately, Mr. Thoemke provides a solution for those of us who might be confused. He says to us, “All the life we are talking about this morning begins in a conversation with Jesus Christ.” Wow! Thanks Mr. Thoemke. Next time I bump into him, I will be sure to strike up a conversation. Until then, I guess I will just have to remain confused.