Friday, December 21, 2007

We're whats wrong with the Bible

Let me get this straight right away. I didn't want to have to write this.

But unfortunately, I do.

Its seems people are getting mixed up between opinion, interpretation and truth.

I've had enough of people from all sides of the church who act like they are right and everyone else is wrong. Calling each other heretics or not true Christians. Misinterpreting people they don't agree with to prove they are right.

The more I read of different people's opinions on other Christians, the more it becomes clear. People are concerned not with truth. Not with love, not with mercy and forgiveness. Not with living like Jesus.

People are more concerned about who is right. As long as its them.

It's a fact of life that people are going to disagree on interpretations on the Bible. Yes, interpretations. That's what you think the Bible says.

Lets make it clear - your interpretations are yours, and there a few 'right' or 'wrong' answers when it comes to the Bible.

You see there's a problem with the Bible.


The word of God itself is fine, its true. It shows us who God is and it how to live like God wants us to. But the problem is us.

When we read the Bible, we interpret it. According to what we've been brought up on, our circumstances, our personality, we interpret it a certain way.

When we do that, it becomes an opinion.

Now as I've said before, I believe there are incorrect interpretations of scripture, which contradict the nature and character of God and Jesus His son. Which miss the heart of the message.

I believe there are some passages which form basic truth. They can be interpreted in different ways, but most Christians who read them generally come to the same conclusion. But even with these, there are always new things we can learn from them.

But there are some passages that can be interpreted - look at their original meaning in its historical and cultural context, ask questions of them and see what they can mean. We can look for new meaning in them - and as long as it doesn't deviate from the heart of what Jesus is all about and the basic truths of our faith, and it fits in with what Jesus was all about, then it can be true. It can be relevant.

But here's something else. We need to be open to learn. Open to ask questions. Open to grow.

Jesus taught us to love our neighbour. Even if we disagree with their theology.

What unites us?

Love. Peace. Forgiveness. Our faith in Jesus.

Jesus calls us to be His body and says a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. At the moment, everyone who expends all their energy criticising or attacking other Christians who are actually doing a lot of good, bringing people to faith, serving and blessing those in need and showing them a glimpse of the love of Jesus in a practical way, is basically holding back the kingdom.

That energy needs to be used constructively. To serve. Give. Love. Forgive. Encourage. Pray.

That energy needs to be harnessed to build the kingdom and bring the love of Jesus to earth. To show them that despite its differences, the basic things that unite the church are the right things, are the good things. Love, grace, mercy, servanthood, forgiveness, justice, peace.

Then perhaps people will see the real Jesus, and the church can start to grow again.

The Best Christmas Present

So its Christmas. You might have noticed.

The time for presents, the time for family, the time for parties, snow and turkey.

Also, it happens to be when a man called Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Israel about 2000 years ago. Just in case you forgot.

Now when we celebrate it may be due to a traditional winter festival which Christmas has 'taken over' but to be honest, it could be in the summer for all it matters. What Christmas is about is not the tree. Not the presents. Not the decorations. Not the meal. Not the snow.

Its about Jesus.

It shocks me the number of people who don't know why we give gifts at Christmas. They think its all just a tradition and don't look at the reasons.

Its because Jesus was a gift.

God's gift to us. Without Him, no salvation. No way to forgiveness, no route to God.

But you know what the amazing thing is for me?

God is outside of time. He made time. He made us, and He knows us better than anyone. When He made the human race,, He did so knowing that we would give in to temptation, that we would sin. He knew the only way to bring us back into that perfect relationship was through a perfect sacrifice.

Its God's nature to be loving and merciful. He would have known what was going to happen. What He would have to do.

To have that relationship back, He'd have to send His only Son to come and die.

In the mystery of the trinity, where God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Jesus as part of this would have known before creation what He would have to do, how He would have to humble Himself, how He would have to suffer.

Yet God still made us.

He gave us the gift of our lives, then gave an even bigger gift in Jesus to save us.

Jesus gave the biggest gift. Himself. For us. Totally undeserved grace and mercy.

Forgiveness. Salvation. Peace. Healing. Restoration. New life. For everyone who accepts it.

That's the best and most long-lasting Christmas present you'll ever get.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Divide and fall or unite and change the world?

When Jesus was living on earth, He attacked religious people. He attacked people who put tradition and legalism in front of living as God intended. He showed disgust at people who were so intent on being right, on following the rules, that they forgot the heart of the gospel. Lucky nobody exists like that today eh?

Perhaps not.

There are people like that everywhere. Christians among the worst.

There are Christians who attack other Christians. People so intent on being right, so convinced they are right that they will attack anyone who says anything different.

Now, I'm not saying there isn't such a thing as wrong theology. Oh no. As I've said in another blog I believe there are interpretations of scripture which are clearly not what God intended at all.

For example - I believe that Jesus is the only way to God, the Bible clearly says that. Jesus died and rose again for the sin of the world - the Bible clearly shows that and speaks about that. There are some fundamental truths.

But people get hung up on their opinion - yes, its their opinion - of a lot of what the Bible says.

The Bible has to be interpreted. There is no view of the Bible or interpretation which carries absoultely no relation to our own circumstances, personality and experience.

We can keep denying it, but just as our opinions in politics are always based on our experience, so our view of the Bible can be shaped by our life experience. Our view and experience of God is different. There are lots of people with very similar ones - like with politics - but every single person's is different.

For example, people who have one parent who is a Christian and one who isn't are far more likely to believe an interpretation of the Bible which says that its okay for Christians to marry non-Christians. Others from a family where both parents are Christians are probably more likely to believe that Christians should only marry Christians. Indeed, I've seen this in my own experience.

We shouldn't underestimate how much our experiences and circumstances shape us and what we believe, especially as children and young adults.

People get on their high horse and criticise other Christians for having a view of scripture which is different to theirs, because the way we are as humans with our opinions and interpretations, only our or that of our church can be the right one.

What is important is not being right. Its not being wrong.

Being wrong is saying something that directly opposes and contradicts not only the commandments and teachings of the Bible themselves, but the heart, the principle behind those teachings. Something that contradicts God's nature.

There are basic teachings and commandments people generally agree on, personally I believe there are a few basic Christian truths, but not as many as others. I don't believe every word of the Bible can be interpreted literally and has only one meaning.

I believe there are many teachings, commandments and principles which can be read differently depending on our culture, experience and opinion and which relate differently. I believe that culture and context is very important when reading the Bible.

Basic truth for me is that God is supreme, perfect, all-powerful, all-loving and above all things. He created the heavens and the earth. Jesus is His only Son and died and rose again by the power of the Holy Spirit so that my sins could be forgiven and I can be free to live how He wants me to. Jesus is the only way to have relationship with God and to receive forgiveness - there is no other god or religion which points to God or which can lead to God other than Jesus.

Being a Christian is being a follower of Jesus and living according to His values in every area of our lives, living as He lived. Standing for the things He stood for and standing against the things He did, and applying the teachings of the Bible in a way that relates today in the world we're in now.

How that is put into practice, that's open to interpretation and depends who you are, where you are, the culture you live in and your individual circumstances.

The Bible shows us the story of God. It is a microcosm of God's story through time and our stories as well. Jesus shows us how to live as God wants for us.

He is the perfect example.

The central commandments - love one another, love your neighbour, love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. If we truly follow those teachings then everything else floods out of that. Jesus said that all the commandments come from those basic ones. If we get to the heart of those commandments and really live them out and follow Jesus' example, then we are on the right road.

We won't ever know all the answers in this life, no matter how much we know the Bible.

I read bloggers and hear people acting like they have all the answers. "This person is right", "this person is totally wrong", "this preacher/teacher is a heretic".

What a waste of time and energy.

Jesus isn't interested in our pride. He wants us to live like Him. There are things going on in the world which aren't right, which aren't as God intended. Injustice, poverty, oppression, inequality, a complete lack of grace. No forgiveness. No love. Just cynicism and negativity.

Jesus came to take that away. He loved the ones everyone wrote off. He forgave the people no-one else did. He believed in people when no one else did. Even though He could cast the first stone, He never did.

Instead of fighting amongst ourselves, lets focus on what unites us. Lets focus on what we stand for, lets take a stand against the things that are wrong with the world. Even if its in small ways.

As one body. Together.

A church divided is one that falls - a kingdom divided against itself. Lets not let the devil ruin it. Lets unite behind what unites us and do something positive, really do what Jesus did.

Then people see Jesus. Then the world can change.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


What is the church largely known for today?

What are Christians largely known for today?


When I see the church today, in the UK, the general public perception, what gets reported is all negative. Division, hypocrisy, judgmentalism.

When I talk to atheists I know they call Christians hypocrites.

The problem is, that these things are true. The church is fighting over contraception, over homosexuality and some sections of the church or pastors are calling others heretics. The people who go to those churches or listen to those pastors think exactly the same.

This is not good. This is not what Jesus had in mind. This is not the church. This is not Christianity. This is not something worth living for or dying for.

Why is it this way? Why do we just accept passively what is going on?

What was Jesus known for? Love. Forgiveness. Healing. Justice. Truth. Standing up for the oppressed. Believing in people who thought they were worth nothing. He gave people hope and a promise of the future.

Now the church is the body of Christ. The Bible says so. We are Jesus' representatives on this planet. When people look at us, when people look at the church, whatever they see will be their impression of Jesus. It will be their impression of the faith we profess. How we live, what we say, what we do, our lifestyle and attitudes will be what people perceive Jesus' to be.

At the moment people see a Jesus who is negative, judgemental, self-righteous and divided against itself. Paul said that no kingdom can stand when its divided amongst itself. He meant the kingdom of the devil, but the underlying warning is that the church should never be divided amongst itself. It cannot be. How can it grow?

Its like different parts of the 'body' are not functioning together, they are functioning separately, against each other. Now you and I know no body can function properly if that is happening. The church is the same.

Things need to change. We need to change. If everyone makes the same changes then we can make a difference.

Forget our pride. Forget dogma. Forget having to be right all the time. Accept that we have differences, but look to a common ground. Look at the Bible, and see what are the most important values are.

I can tell you before you look. Love your neighbour as yourself. Love the Lord with all your mind, soul, heart and strength. Jesus said these are the two greatest commandments. They are above all others, and all others come underneath them.

Jesus way is not a religion. Its not a tradition. Its not legalistic. Its an attitude, its a way of life. Its a different set of values, which must be displayed through action. Poverty, injustice, oppression, homelessness, drugs, alcohol, consumerism - all are things we must be acting against. We must be taking the lead in fighting the big problems in the world. United. Together.

This has been said before, but we need to show them a Jesus who is about love, sacrifice, serving, justice, truth and forgiveness. When people see who Jesus really is, then they see something good. Something compelling.

Its our responsibility. Its a big challenge.

But Jesus believes in us. He believes we are up to it. He warns to help us. He has given us talents. He's given us personality, He's given us freedom to choose rightly.

Being a Christian isn't easy. I often don't feel much like a Christian, to be honest. But its the right way, its the best way. We need to live in a way which shows that. Nothing to do with religion or legalism. But a way of life, that we submit to happily, not because its easy but because its right and because we truly love Jesus and want to become like Him.

We can truly change the world. If we believe it. If we're willing to try. Jesus thinks we can. He's given us the abilities to. He's there to help us.

Lets show the world the real Jesus, so that in time people's perception of the church, of Christians is the true one. Is one which shows the Jesus that we know and read about it the Bible. Not a Jesus that reflects our own sinful nature, but one which reflects the what Jesus had in mind. A person worth following and a community that people want to be a part of.

It can happen. It starts with me and you.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Lost In Translation?

The phrase, 'lost in translation' is used a lot. It was even the title of a film, one of my favourites.

It can sometimes be used in relation to the Bible.

Some passages in the Bible can be interpreted in many ways. When the Bible was originally translated into English it was done so in a certain culture, so the words were interpreted a certain way.

To understand how to live like Jesus, to understand the Bible fully, we have to interpret it. We have to go back to the original meaning in its original language, then translate it and bring it back into our culture, to see its meaning today.

For example, when Jesus is talking about 'Hell' in the Bible, He is actually talking about an area of Israel outside a city where people dumped all their garbage, where there were fires and where it was full of rubbish. People at the time called it a place that was cursed and basically it was somewhere nowhere liked to go. So when Jesus talks about 'hell' he's talking about that place. He could even be using as a metaphor for something else, as He does often.

So you see, the more we know about the culture it was written in then the better we understand what Jesus was trying to say and it opens it up even more to new understandings.

But even then, whether we like it or not, we always bring our own experiences, opinions and prejudices to the Bible and they effect our interpretation, even if its just by a small amount.

It is unbelievably arrogant to say 'this is what this passage definitely means and it means nothing else at all' with most of the Bible. To say you like a church 'because it preaches the Bible' is almost as arrogant. What you mean is it preaches your version of the Bible, a version you agree with.

I do believe there are wrong interpretations of the Bible. For example, when Jesus says "I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me" then its impossible to interpret it that Jesus means there is more than one way to God or that non-Christians get into the Kingdom. That's just not what it says.

But it says more than just Jesus is the only way to God. It poses questions. What is truth? What does it mean to go to the Father 'through Jesus'? Those are questions which need answering. In another blog one day or talk I will try to do that, but the point is that we can't just leave the Bible as black and white. It needs to be questioned.

Jesus poses questions to His disciples and challenges them throughout the gospels. The reason is that He wanted them to ask themselves those questions and that He wants us to ask Him questions. He wants us to ask questions of His word and the teaching, to try and understand it properly.

Not to make it say what we want it to say. No.

But to see what He originally wanted to say through it.

We don't bring our own agenda or the worlds agenda. We look for God's agenda. God's perspective. God's opinion.

We have so much still to learn from the Bible. Lets not limit ourselves. Lets not get lost in translation.