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.