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Archive for the ‘Acceptance’ Category

By Mike Edwards

This is a two-part Post. First part here.

Most God-followers get their understanding of God from the Bible. Non-God followers often understand God from what people claims about God according to the Bible. Readers may be aware of arguments suggesting dangers when assuming the Bible isn’t entirely inspired by God. I wish to address dangers when not questioning if the entire Bible is inspired by God. When the Bible is said to be infallible or inspired by God, most assume the words penned somehow came from God and thus approved by God. Few suggest God dictated the entire Bible word per word, but a dictatorial style is implied if God somehow prevented biblical writers from having less than perfect views of God. It is very different to approach the Bible from the perspective that God acts uncontrolling but continually seeks to influence for one’s moral good.

The danger of destroying souls and families because the Bible supposedly says so

Ever moral fiber in a parent’s body doesn’t wish to condemn their child for feelings they can no more control toward those of the same sex than heterosexuals can control their feelings toward the opposite sex. Biblical passages that condemn homosexuality are highly debatable which should lead us to listen to our moral senses. God surely supports all loving, consensual, caring relationships to avoid heart-break. Family members and friends no longer need to be broken-hearted by thinking their devotion to God requires them to reject their loved ones.  Scientific knowledge available suggests sexual orientation isn’t a choice. Why would anyone choose to be gay based on the condemnation and bigotry they face? It just isn’t possible to be told “I love you but I hate your sin” and not feel unloved and rejected. We know the psychological harm done when one must hide their sexuality because of bigotry and hostility. We must be guided by love – how should I treat others if I had the same non-choices?

The danger of valuing right beliefs or interpretations at the expense of loving others

We must prioritize love over the right interpretation because interpretations could be wrong. It isn’t godless to approach Scriptures openly questioning with the aim to love others like we want to be loved. Different opinions can stand side by side as we continually evaluate the most loving approach, rather than forcing our opinions on others in the name of God. Jesus didn’t always answer questions directly because He sought to change hearts which influences solving problems with the interests of others in mind. Love others like they want to be loved because you could be wrong.

The danger of making assumptions about God’s actions if controlling

God’s freedom-giving nature doesn’t suggest God is capable of performing a lobotomy on biblical writers’ impressions of God. An uncontrolling God cannot guarantee a perfect Book, but God can enter our world with the communications means available so we can grow in our understanding what God is really like. If God’s nature allows this kind of control when it comes to the Bible, why doesn’t God control so much evil prevalent in this world? Doesn’t God care? God’s loving nature doesn’t allow God to control. God much less humans know beliefs are only genuine and lost-lasting when freely chosen.

The danger of using the Bible as if a rules or answers Book

Jesus didn’t always answer questions directly because circumstances vary and the issue is our heart in solving problems. Imagine a world where all looked out for the interests of others and not just themselves during difficult times. The Bible is quoted that we must always forgive, but God is often said to not forgive the rebellious (i.e. Josh. 24:19). It’s complicated. Easy forgiveness can allow a husband’s abusive behavior to continue. When a sexual abuser doesn’t acknowledge their actions, secret behaviors continue. Victims can feel more victimized, and feel God must not understand their pain, when told to forgive despite their abuser denying any wrongdoing. Isn’t the whole point to do whatever helps control bitterness to stop the victimizing?

Read the Bible for what it is. Use common moral sense 

Those not growing up in church don’t understand all the fuss. Who thinks literature subject to interpretation should be read so dogmatically? When one fails to acknowledge their interpretation could be wrong, this can lead to forcing personal convictions on others in God’s name. A fallible Book can lead to listening to different opinions as we continually evaluate the most loving approach. God doesn’t get enough credit for communicating through our moral senses (how we ought to treat others). The Bible wouldn’t be God’s main communication anyway, because the majority born into this world never had a copy.

Let’s err on the side of God that seems morally correct to most, to not turn people away from God for the wrong reasons. Would you desire to pursue God and spirituality more if you knew God was the kind of God you imagine according to how they have created you? The Bible is still valuable as it lets us know God seeks a relationship with all individuals in all nations as evidenced by Jesus’ message and life. Read the Bible with an open-mind motivated by love rather than with blind obedience.  Use common moral sense as you consider what a loving God is really like.

 

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By Mike Edwards

We could change a nation and relationships if opposing sides did not demonize one another by declaring their view the only and right view. Maybe you weren’t as stupid as I was when getting married. The wife and I didn’t have much conflict in dating so I assumed my wife’s love and respect pretty much meant agreeing with my point of view. I learned the key to a great marriage is accepting differences and finding ways to be happily incompatible. Best friends do it but we tend to take the gloves off inside the walls of marriage.

God-followers must approach the Bible the same way they do marriage. We can never claim our view of God according to the Bible is correct. Imagine how many wouldn’t be turn away from God if all had such an attitude. Literature requires interpretations and even those who respect Scriptures as authoritative disagree.  Even if we could prove the Bible was infallible, we still do not know which interpretation is the infallible view of God.

The infallibility of the Bible is a non-starter because we don’t have the original manuscripts and then interpretation is required. We must avoid dogmatism that often drives people away from than toward God. The Bible has inspired millions to lead a less selfish life. The problem isn’t the Bible but how the Bible is represented. The Bible is simply a recording of Israel’s understanding of God, which we can’t prove were perfect, that God can use in understanding what God is really like.

Examples below help support the importance of not claiming we can assume the Bible we possess is infallible or entirely inspired, which often leads to claiming interpretations are inspired. Just one example of later biblical writers/scribes contradicting or adding additional thoughts to earlier biblical writers makes claiming the Bible is infallible or inspired a problem:

  • Karen Keen in Scripture, Ethics, And Same-Sex Relationships points out that a scribe added sentences to the oldest manuscript we know of on Isaiah 2: 9-11. Our current Bibles read (The italicized words added to the original): “So people will be brought low and everyone humbled— do not forgive them. Go into the rocks, hide in the ground from the fearful presence of the Lordand the splendor of his majesty! The eyes of the arrogant will be humble and human pride brought low; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day” (p. 59, 126). Later scribes intensified God’s anger which may or may not best portray God’s true nature.
  • Keen provides an example where the writer in Deuteronomy 15 alters slavery laws from Exodus though the original slavery law was given by God to Moses directly on Mount Sinai (Ex. 19:18-21:11). The updated law in Deuteronomy applies freedom also to female slaves not just male slaves, improves circumstances for slaves, etc. (p. 60-61). The writers of Deuteronomy had no problem updating supposed spoken words from God to Moses best for their circumstances. We have to be open-minded which laws are wisest in our circumstances.
  • It would seem throughout the OT that animal, blood sacrifices are necessary for God to forgive. But, why did later OT writers over time begin to write that God doesn’t like animal sacrifices but contrite hearts (Ps. 51:16-17, i.e. Jer. 7:22, Amos 5:21, Micah 6:6)? Why wouldn’t writers at least say both animal sacrifice and contrite hearts are necessary? This leads to very different interpretations of the Cross and view of God for many – did Jesus die to appease God’s wrath and need for sacrifice or to prove God’s amazing love so we might follow in Jesus’ footsteps.
  • Keith Giles points out in Jesus Unbound: Liberating the Word Of God From The Bible that 2 Sam 24:1 says God incited David to take a census of Israel which lead to massive slaughter. But, I Chron 21:1 says Satan incited David (pp. 136-37). Did NT writers understand God better by writing that God, no matter how Holy God may be, never tempts anyone to do evil (James 1:13). What many assume of a good God doesn’t always match what the Bible says!
  • Deut. 28:63 says God takes pleasure in destroying. But, Ezek. 33:11 says God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. So, which view portrays God most accurately? Paul says the Spirit helps us make final judgments (I Cor. 2:15), but we must respect one another’s opinion.
  • NT writers relied on a Greek translation of the Hebrew OT called the Septuagint. This is an older version of the Hebrew Scriptures than the Masoretic text which came later and from which most of our OT Bibles are translated today from. There are many differences. In the story of David and Goliath, the Masoretic text our Bibles use has many more details and it twice as long as the Septuagint version (Giles, p. 139). Thus, the version we read in our Bible is an expanded version of the original, supposed inspired version. Later biblical scribes felt completely free to update earlier scribes, perhaps to make their point.

My point is not to emphasize that our Bibles are full of errors but to encourage us to change how we read and represent the Bible to others. Uncertainty is not the problem! Uncertainty can lead to more loving actions by accepting one another’s differences. Certainty often leads to opposing sides demonizing one another by insisting they are right and the other side is wrong. Can you imagine if couples acted this way when disagreeing? God-followers and religious leaders seem hell-bent in telling people what must be believed about God according to their understanding and interpretation of the Bible. Certainty rather than open-mindedness about God has led to justifying slavery, killing infidels, condemning gays, and other atrocities in the name of God. Let’s have a discussion than demonize one another and turn others from God when we could be wrong.

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by Jim Gordon

So often when I mention that my wife and I have left the organized church, people assume something happened to hurt us or make us mad or we were abused in some way. Just to be clear on this subject neither one of us have ever been abused or hurt by the church. Neither one of us are mad about some event or some person at church. I know there are people who have had bad experiences which sometimes includes abuse and I think that is terrible. Fortunately for us that is not the case.

Today we seem to hear much about sexual abuse and the catholic church although this can happen in any church system. We hear of people in power within the system taking advantage of their members for various reasons. Fortunately this is not the norm in most churches but is a real and terrible thing that happens way to often.

I actually had some very good times while within the church system. I made many good friends, learned about God and his love for me and had many fun and enjoyable experiences with the people who were part of the church system.

It is certainly not out of abuse or being hurt that my wife and I decided to leave the system. After nearly sixty years in the organization and after the last fifteen of those years feeling that something is not right with the system, we made the decision to leave and follow Christ outside the walls of religion. To be clear, this was our decision and we certainly do not expect everyone to agree or do the same thing. Many people are part of the organized church who truly love God and want to serve Him. After all, the religious system we know as church is all we know.

We believe the Church is a community of people and not a building nor a service held one day each week with paid professionals leading the service. We believe the Church is each of us who follow Christ and see him as the head. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit and each of us are equally functioning members making up his body.

WhatisChurch

We believe forsaking not the assembling of yourselves means we need one another. We live each day having fellowship with those God brings our way no matter where it happens. We never truly found real fellowship when we sat in an organized service for an hour looking at the back of the head of the person in front of us. We believe true fellowship is not just sitting together with other people in a room but it is daily loving, encouraging and praying for one another and meeting the needs of those we are able to help.

The temple in the Old Testament was only a shadow of what was to come in the New Testament. God now lives in us as his temple and he is our leader rather than another human being we call pastor. The only mediator between God and man was Jesus. He repaired the separation between God and man and we now have direct access to the Father without anyone in between. There is no hierarchy in the Church. Each of us are equally important parts of the body and able to teach, encourage, build up and pray for one another. It is truly a priesthood of all believers and not a one person show. Those with specific gifts for helping the Church are not better or more spiritual than the rest. They are brothers and sisters who walk along beside those who need encouragement. They are those who have learned a spiritual lesson and are there to help those who are still learning. They are servants among the body of Christ who are there to help and encourage.

So when I say that we have left the church it is only the building and organization I am talking about. We left not because we were mad, hurt or abused. We left because we believe the religious system most people call church is flawed and far from what God is building. He is building a group of people who will daily follow Him outside the walls of religion and organizations of men, loving God with all their heart, soul, strength and mind, loving their neighbor and accepting all they meet along the way.

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By Mike Edwards

I don’t have to convince anyone that God does or doesn’t exist. God can speak to the hearts of individuals on their own. That billions are convinced there is a loving God cannot be declared definitely irrational or delusional. It is not irrational either to ask if God is real, why doesn’t God clinch the argument by making their Presence obvious? I would encourage those who believe in a relational God to not stand in the way of others and speak for God declaring any beliefs are required by God to consider a relationship.

God doesn’t require any belief!  

I am convinced God only wishes for all to consider the possibility of a loving God who desires to help you in your journey of becoming the person deep down you want to become. Loving, human parents don’t require certain beliefs from their children before hoping they will consider if they love them. Are we better lovers than God? 

You certainly don’t have to believe in magical trees and talking snakes.

No one was there with Adam or Eve to know literally what took place. Genesis isn’t necessarily a scientific explanation about Creation but about a relationship with the Creator. Flood stories appeared in ancient literature before Genesis. The global flood story could describe a regional flood in hyperbolic terms to convey moral, spiritual food for thought. God doesn’t require literal belief in any event in the Bible or else! Now if God physically appears raising your friend from the dead, you may want to consider!

You don’t have to believe Jesus resurrected from the dead.

I know the above statement is extremely offensive to many, but I care more about those who want to believe in a God but struggle with certain requirements as opposed to those who are already convinced a loving God is real. Jesus told followers He was coming back from the dead and they didn’t believe Him. And they supposedly witnessed miracles beforehand to have less doubts such a claim was possible.

I would like to think more of us if we witness a man or woman coming back from the grave after being killed that we would think their message such as claiming to be the son of God would be believed. But, none of us lived during biblical times so we will not have such an opportunity. I happen to believe the historical evidence is credible that Jesus rose from the grave, but God can handle doubts or skepticism.

You don’t have to believe that Jesus was the Son of God.

Many insist that Jesus was both God and man. Some can’t logically wrap their heads around Jesus being both man and God. Exactly how does one do that chromosomally? Isn’t it logically impossible to be God and not God? Some may be willing to accept that Jesus was an extraordinary man who epitomized who God was. Why can’t we begin there as a discussion as to what teachings and actions of Jesus seem to represent what a loving God is like?

Doesn’t God at least require the Law of Love?

I have written before that the only belief God requires is love. I would say that differently now. God doesn’t demand love but only seeks to encourage unselfish love which leads to personal freedom. God know what we know – the road traveled of learning, reflecting, and freely choosing convictions over time is what leads to genuine, lasting love.

Didn’t Jesus require belief for eternal life?

When Jesus was asked directly by a religious expert how to have eternal life, Jesus didn’t talk about escaping torture after death. Please see HERE that the Bible says nothing about the traditional understanding of Hell. Jesus replied to simply love God and your neighbor (Lk.10:25-37). Jesus’ focus wasn’t on quantity of life after death but about a life worth living here on earth. Jesus’ message wasn’t about requiring certain beliefs but avoiding consequences in life here on earth through destructive choices. This is the message of any loving parent!

What beliefs about God are worth insisting upon to others?  

There is no belief about God you should impose upon others. You could be wrong. God is big enough to prove themselves to those interested. You don’t even have to insist God is loving. A tyrannical God isn’t worth believe in. I surely am not as perfect or loving of a parent as God is, but even I don’t require my children accept any of my beliefs or else. Even I understand controlling through fear than proving my love doesn’t lead to true change and intimacy.

 

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By Mike Edwards

Only terrorists believe a good God encourages beheadings for unbelief. Millions of rational people don’t believe God condemns gays even according to the Bible. Claiming the Bible is not inerrant disturbs many, but the problem is that often personal interpretations are implied to be the Truth. Biblical scholars who believe the Bible is authoritative disagree on meanings of passages, and we can’t ask writers for clarification. Opposing sides often demonize one another by declaring their view of God according to the Bible is right. This matter is critical because understandings of God shape attitudes toward God and impact lives.

Did you know scholars disagree about women and gays according to the Bible?

Many only condemn gays or restrict women’s spiritual roles because of the Bible, but two plausible interpretations exist on most major issues when speaking of God’s character. Many defend that the Bible teaches that God proclaims women cannot be in authority over men in roles such as a priest or pastor. Scholars who respect Scriptures also proclaim the Bible teaches roles are based on gifts not gender. See here Our view impacts half the human population. Biblical scholars disagree if the Bible condemns monogamous same-sex relationships. Millions of lives are impacted.

How might a Creator convey what like since any Book about God is subject to interpretation?

Is it possible a universal, inborn desire to treat others like we want to be treated is one way a Creator would communicate what is good versus evil? After all, half the people born in this world didn’t possess a Bible. I don’t know any God or non-God person that doesn’t advocate the golden rule being a valuable guide in relationships. How would we want to be treated if in that person’s shoes? Which view is most loving from a human perspective?

Many claim God is a mystery sometimes because their interpretation of Scriptures suggest God appears evil from a human perspective. Such interpreters, who would agree humans were created in God’s image, are using their moral intuitions and implying God and human love are the same. It is certain that we don’t always know what perfect love is, but the mystery card hinders discussions about God’s true character.

Shouldn’t we choose views of God with fewer negative costs?

We may not benefit from the most gifted leading if women are prohibited from leadership roles. As important, women can feel disrespected and confused why a supposedly loving God would choose according to gender than gifts. Many recognize as bigotry if we used such criteria in business or other roles. Finally, putting men in leadership position over women can encourage dominance on the man’s part, which can be conducive for abuse and other atrocities women face at the hands of men. It can be argued that the Bible suggest women don’t need male leadership; women need men with the heart of a servant (Eph. 5:28-29).

It doesn’t make moral sense why God would condemn gays when they can no more chose who they love than straight can. Ask them! Scientific knowledge available suggests sexual orientation isn’t a choice. Why would anyone choose to be gay based on the condemnation and bigotry they face? Parents often only condemn their gay children because of their supposed correct interpretation of a Book. We know the psychological harm done when one must hide their sexuality because of bigotry and hostility. We must be guided by love – how should I treat others if I had the same non-choices?

For Bible folks when two debatable interpretations in Scriptures exist… 

Err on the side that portrays God as the most loving to the human mind. I am only aware of two reasons to think God condemns gays. One, you believe the Bible teaches God condemns gays. That is disputable. Secondly, you don’t think gayness is natural. You aren’t gay so how do you know. Let gay people speak for themselves. Love gays like you would want to be love if gay. Please don’t compare gay love to pedophile love which is not consensual. Love others like they want to be loved because you could be wrong.

 

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By Mike Edwards

One would think Christians wouldn’t be judgmental. After all, we are guided by the principle of loving others as we want to be loved. Jesus certainly didn’t seem judgmental. He hung out with all kinds of people who didn’t necessarily have His same beliefs. Jesus did get His dander up with religious folks because they were misrepresenting God. We may be doing God a favor if Christians questioned their own leadership and stop trying to force their beliefs on the rest of the world. I am not suggesting we shouldn’t stand up when children are abused, women are violated. That requires judging. It should though not be in our nature to unload on others because their beliefs aren’t ours.

Spoiler Alert – One’s view of the Bible may be one main reason Christians are so judgmental.

Some Christians may be judgmental as a defense mechanism.

Christians are only human. I can’t quite explain it but it does seem those most judgmental may be a way to prevent looking in the mirror and judging themselves for unloving behaviors. I suppose some play offense to avoid playing defense and looking inwardly. The is something one can only answer for themselves if they noticed being so judgmental despite being a God-follower.

Are Christians judgmental because of examples of Leadership?  

Catholics, Methodists, Etc. establish creeds that are implied one should believe in. Try challenging the doctrines and see where that gets you! One creed may be Jesus came to forgive our sins. Theologians don’t agree if the Cross was to influence a lifestyle toward love or pay a price for God’s sake. So, God never did or couldn’t forgive sins until Jesus died? If God was so concerned about beliefs such as the Trinity, Angels, the Bible, Judgment, the Virgin Mary, wouldn’t there be more agreement what all these creeds. If Religions only had the Creed of Love, maybe Christians would be more united and less judgmental.

It gets worse how Christians judge!

Doctrine differences are one thing because only those who grew up in church care about those matters. Christians though condemn same-sex relationships, women are denied equal or authoritative roles as men, and it is said only Christians can go to heaven so all other religions can go to Hell. Good people often only condemn same-sex relationships because they are convinced a Book inspired by God condemns them. Biblical scholars who respect Scriptures don’t all agree the Bible condemns same-sex relationships. Shouldn’t we take the less judgmental stance toward others since we could be wrong?

Would you naturally assume if not for a Book:

God condemns gays

God prohibits women from serving as pastors or priests

God encourages wives being submissive to husbands differently than husbands to their wives

God judges based on religion when the religion the majority adhere to depends where born

Every view above is debated among biblical scholars. We can listen to what God’s Spirit is telling us also or at least have an open-discussion rather than hide behind a Book like terrorists do! I am convinced this would lead to Christians being less judging.

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by Jim Gordon

It is sad that Christianity is divided into so many different groups. We all have a little different interpretation of the bible and a little different understanding of doctrine. Obviously we are not going to agree on everything, but we certainly should be able to love one another and accept each other even when we differ on these things.

It is hard to understand why this happens when God tells us we are to be one as Jesus and the Father are one. Yet, we understand that we are human and it is easy to lose sight of our first love. If we could only stay focused on Christ, listening for his voice and the guidance of the Spirit, loving God and loving others as God intended, then we could look past our differences and accept one another.

acceptOneAnotherNew2019The problem seems to be that we are unwilling to see any other viewpoint other than our own. There are those such as my wife and I that do not attend an organized church. There are those who attend a church every time the doors are open. Some attend a house church, some meet with fellow believers at cafe’s, parks or restaurants and others meet in their homes over dinner. We should accept these differences and love one another rather than argue over who is right and who is wrong.

There really is not a right or wrong way to assemble together and we need to stop expecting everyone to do things exactly the same way. We should respect others views and focus on loving them rather than expecting them to see things our way.

Things will not change until we start focusing on what is common in our lives rather than the differences. The common focus should be on Christ, the head of the body. After that we should focus on loving others rather than arguing about the differences in interpretation.

We also need to keep in mind that we are all constantly changing as God brings new truth to us. We are all learning and changing as we are ready to accept new truths. The interpretations I had five years ago are completely different from some of the interpretations I have now. I am sure in another five years they will change again as God leads me into more truth.

Sometimes we are afraid to accept others interpretations because we feel if we do not hold to our way of thinking we are compromising and not standing up for what we believe. We do not have to give up how we interpret the bible, but neither should we think everyone else is wrong. Besides, we really are not responsible for convicting people of sin,  leading them into truth or even saving them. That is the job of the Holy Spirit. We are told to love God and love others.

When we realize we are each equally important functioning parts of the body, and Christ is the head, we can start to change how we feel about those who do not see things exactly the way we do. We can begin to accept our brothers and sisters in Christ just as they are as we realize we are walking as one together with God.

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