Jesus is best known for his commandments to love and forgive others. He is widely admired for his appeal to “love your enemies” and forgive your enemies no matter what they do. Even secular people admire these noble aims. However, even these are deeply flawed. Whatever the intention, they have rarely been actually followed. Even if they were it wouldn’t work. You see however well intentioned his words sound, they are deeply unrealistic to the point of impracticality.
When asked Jesus said that his main message was “treat others as you would like them to treat you.” Now this is known as the Golden Rule, it is almost universally recognised as a good moral code and features in most religions and philosophies dating back to before Confucius. While it is right to consider other people in your actions, you can’t live by this code. For example, I would love if I could lie in bed all day and have food brought to me on a tray for the rest of my life. Should I do this to someone else? I would love to live in a mansion with a beautiful wife and loads of money, does that mean I can walk into a mansion and take everything I see (including the wife)? Surely if you believe this rule you should give all your possessions away to charity? This could even be used to justify dictatorship, after all, I would like if people made me supreme ruler so therefore I should allow someone else to be one.
Surely it would be better to say do unto others what they want you to do. After all, my ideal Christmas gift is a book (preferably one on politics and economics), is that what I should buy everyone else? I may throw a big party for a friend in a pub, but if he is shy and doesn’t drink much then the Golden Rule didn’t help. Doesn’t this lead to paternalistic control or a nanny state? I don’t want to breathe toxic smoke from cigarettes so does that give me the right to ban cigarettes? We need to realise the difference between what I want and what others want.
Jesus’ second main message was to always forgive people. This is completely impractical. If we followed this rule then there would be no system of justice. No one would go to jail; instead we would forgive all criminals. The simple fact is that some people don’t deserve forgiveness. Think of all the mass murders in the world, are we to forgive them? What of the vicious genocides and exterminations throughout history, must the survivors forgive the perpetrators? Jesus doesn’t suggest he commands everyone to always forgive. While it isn’t good to hold grudges and become bitter, forcing the victims to forgive thieves, rapists, murders etc is not a good rule.
His third message was to love your enemies. This is even worse still. Should Americans love Al-Qaeda for 9/11? Should we show love to the Nazis? What about all the tyrants and dictators in the world who create so much suffering and pain? Why should we love them? I love my family and the person who says I should feel the same about murderers, tyrants etc, is either an idiot or crazy.
The worst part is that Jesus didn’t even follow his own rules (see last post). He regularly condemned people he disagreed with and threatened them with Hell. Instead of loving his enemies he was quite capable of hate. He even picked a fight with a fig tree. If God is all about love then why are there some many punishments in the Bible? How does “love your enemy” fit in with “eternal torment in the fires of hell”? If Jesus tells us to forgive everyone, why doesn’t he forgive everyone and not send anyone to Hell?
As nice as Jesus’ words and sayings sound, if you think about them they are completely impractical and inapplicable. Jesus himself didn’t follow them and neither should we.