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Archive for the ‘Acceptance of Others’ Category

by Jordan Hathcock

To be a Christian is to live dangerously, honestly, freely – to step in the name of love as if you may land on nothing, yet to keep on stepping because the something that sustains you no empire can give you and no empire can take away.—Dr. Cornel West

How are we (I.e., American “Christians”) supposed to *act* in our current climate where the pandemic reigns, systemic racism runs rapid and the economic state is at its worse sense the Great Depression. 2020 has been a mix of 1918, 1930s, and 1960s all wrapped up in one “apocalyptic” year and it seems to be no end in sight. The unveiling of the principalities and powers (corrupt institutions) are now in the forefront for all citizens to witness. The term “viewer discretion advise” has never been more relevant.

We are hearing from both world views (conservative and liberal) advice and warnings in what the “right” strategy is when it comes to the current world crises. The polarization has come to a boiling point and you better take cover! Masks vs. no masks, black lives matter vs. all lives matter, all coming to a dualistic head, about to explode. The American political landscape has been experiencing a tug of war (no pun attended) regarding ideals which in-turn is hindering an actual plan of action. Thus, we have the never-ending cycle of us vs. them that only brings violent unrest.

This is not a denial of the actual current damaged systemic realities (white supremacy, racism, pandemic health crisis, police brutality, etc.) that this country is experiencing. I understand that some are living in denial of these issues (and it is not getting us anywhere). Alas, what I am trying to manifest is Christ-participants response to all of this? It cannot only be a conservative view of just letting the old ways be preserved no matter how many lives are harmed and oppressed along the way. It also cannot be a regulated liberal view, espousing a non-stop shame culture in where people are ostracized and scapegoated, no matter what the price. Is this American binary platform, in which we have two sides to choose from, all there is? The issues with our two-party system, plurality voting rules, winner take all voting, gerrymandering, (to name a few) is not helping when it comes to a more just (love in action) social system.

When leave social restorative justice (it cannot be an eye for eye kind of justice here, peeps) in the hands of the elite, what we get is an Empire. If we are living in the 21st century United States, we are living in an Empire (bold statement I know but stay with me). There are a few interpretations of Empire (hey, is post modernity baby haha), but I find this one fitting when it comes to defining Empire with our current state in Murica:

Conglomerates of power that are aimed at controlling all aspects of our lives, from macropolitics to our innermost desires.― Joerg Rieger, Christ and Empire

What does Empire involve? All types of “power over” institutions from education, to government and religion. When our systems become an economy of exchange where the mighty dollar reigns, the result is imprisonment. From a Christ-participant perspective, what we have seen since the fourth century is Civil Religion: the Christendom of Empire, reigning down with an oligarchy thumb. Since that time, the supposedly Jesus Community has been entangled with the State. This might be the deadliest mixture when it comes to corrupt power. Christians have become the Roman occupiers―plundering and destroying all that gets in their way―instead of Jesus followers being eaten by lions and burned at the stake. When we became more about geo-political dominance and less about serving “the least of these”, the distinction between the Jesus-Way and Empire are unrecognizable. Palestinian Christian, author, and Lutheran pastor Mitri Raheb puts it this way:

Empires create their own theologies to justify their occupation. [Just as the early American empires chose to overlook its mistreatment of the Native tribes who already lived here and then justified a slave holder form of Christianity in much of the Americas. —RR] Such oppression generates a number of important questions among the occupied: “Where are you, God?” and “Why doesn’t God interfere to rescue [God’s] people?” When, under various regimes, diverse identities emerge in different parts of Palestine, the question arises, “Who is my neighbor?” And finally, “How can liberation be achieved?” is a constant question.

I think this is what we have in our current state of affairs. Are we (I.e., White American Christians) as claimed participants in the Jesus way, going to see ourselves as the Roman occupiers? Are we finally go to repent (change our way of thinking) and really set out to be a people who wash feet, serve the poor, and set the captives free? That is it, really. Breaking free to liberate others. This is what privilege is all about. We cannot let the ways of Empire cloud our minds with this “America first” attitude. Its movements that change things, not rusted-out institutions. It is power under not power over that brings about resurrection (Jesus on the cross, anyone?).  So, regardless if you see masks as not needed, or black lives as a neo-Marxist communist organization, what do you do for the least of these? For your enemies?

I think it’s time that we truly see that “our citizenship is in heaven- Philippians 3:20 “ which includes “every nation, tribe, people and language-Revelation 7:9”. It’s time to let go of our egos and be humbled. We need to listen and educate ourselves through and by the voices of the marginalized in order to bring about the liberation and healing that sets all of God’s creation free…

Only the oppressed can receive liberating visions in wretched places. Only those thinking emerges in the context of the struggle against injustice can see God’s freedom breaking into unfree conditions and thus granting power to the powerless to fight here and now for the freedom they know to be theirs in Jesus’ cross and resurrection.― James H. Cone, God of the Oppressed

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by Jim Gordon

In our world today there seems to be a lot of talk in the Christian world of standing up for our beliefs and doctrines. It seems we feel this is the best way to show our devotion to God and be a witness for Him. I am not so sure this is the best way. As Christians we are getting to be known more for what we are against and being unloving rather than showing the love of God to others.

Many of us go to a church building on Sunday and sing and smile and listen to a sermon and think we have fulfilled our duties for the week. All day we are feeling good and close to God and think everything is good.

Then Monday hits and we go grudgingly off to work with a frown on our face and feeling down. We should be ready to show the love of God to those we are around but often due to being in a bad mood we snap at fellow employees and try to make them feel as bad as we do.

It seems we often forget that Christianity is not a religion or a one day a week event. As followers of Christ we are to let Christ live through us in the strength of the Holy Spirit. We are to let his love flow out of us to touch those we come in contact with throughout the day.

Rather than trying to prove our faith by pointing out what we think are the mistakes and shortcomings of others, rather than condemning them and making them feel like outsiders we should be allowing the love of Christ to touch them. We should be accepting and treat all people like we want to be treated without any ulterior motives.

While Jesus lived on earth he constantly spent time with those the religious crowd would not even think of being around. He spent time doing things that the religious leaders thought were wrong and against their religious laws. They could not even accept him as the messiah because he was so different from them and what they thought was a godly way to live.

Jesus accepted people for who they were, just the way they were and did not show condemnation toward them. As followers of Christ we are to do the same. It is not our job to be the judge of others. We are not to be pointing out what we do not like or disagree with and treating people like second class citizens. The Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin where conviction is needed. We do not need to do the job of the Holy Spirit, we are here to be Jesus to all people, loving, accepting and treating everyone with respect no matter who they are or what they believe.

Rather than fighting, arguing and trying to prove our way of thinking, we should follow the leading of the Spirit for ourselves. Let each person make the decision that is right for them based on their walk with God. Live your life in love and under the guidance of the Spirit, letting your life be a witness to the love of God.

We are called to love God, live for Him and let Him work in us. We are also called to love one another, which means we pass on the unconditional love of God to all we meet along the way.

In our world today with all the discrimination and unloving ways of the world and even of religion and the church, we are to allow the Holy Spirit to love others through us. Let them know they are accepted and cared for and that they are loved beyond measure by God. Love is the way of God because God is love. Stop the unloving and condemning attitudes and let those you come in contact with each day know they are loved and accepted just for being themselves.

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by Jim Gordon

Growing up in the world of Christianity and the church, I have memories of a time when all seemed well within the system. I thought we all loved one another and we could share the love of God with everyone we met. I felt if I stayed in the system and listened to the pastor, I would learn all I needed to know to be a Christian who could handle anything.

After many years within Christianity and the organized church, I began having feelings of not being satisfied. I saw people who wanted to have things their way or else. I saw people looked down upon or ignored enough to leave. I saw people outside the church service who acted just like everyone else and treated people who they disagreed with in a very unloving way.

I began to question if Christianity was truly what God intended and if the church was what Jesus talked about when he said he would build his Church. Jesus said he would build his church, which is his people. It is also said that God does not live in houses made by human hands. The bible makes it plain that we, his people are now the temple and the Holy Spirit lives within us. We no longer need anyone to teach us. We have the Word of God living in us teaching and guiding us throughout our lives.

It finally began to hit me that Christianity was just another religion like all the others. It was organized and controlled by human beings. It was an organization of power, control, disagreement and exclusion. I wondered what happened to the Christianity I knew growing up. I truthfully do not think it changed, I think I changed. I think the change was due to learning and following the guidance of the Spirit who is within me.

Have you ever felt frustrated with the Christian world today? Obviously, the church today is not what God intended and in America the church has become a big corporation more than anything.

It finally got to a point where my wife and I were frustrated enough with Christianity that we decided to leave the church. The more we read, prayed, meditated and thought about things we also got frustrated enough to leave Christianity.

Now before you have that common reaction to call us heretics, back-slidden Christians, or fallen from grace let me say we have not left God. I know many people believe if you leave the church or the Christian organization you have left God, but that is not the case.

Believe it or not, Jesus was not a Christian. He did not start the organized, religious church. He did not favor one group of people over another. He loved people, all people. He asks us to do the same and that was not something I was seeing within the organization.

I will say that if you are satisfied with the church system and enjoy meeting together with other like-minded people, that is OK. My only thought is that you remember church is not a place nor an organization. The pastor is not the middleman between you and God. One denomination or church doctrine is not the true church or only way of interpreting the ways of God.

The fact is that God loves us. There is nothing we have to do or stop doing to receive God’s love. We are saved and restored to fellowship with God through faith in Jesus. We have the Holy Spirit living within us and we do not have to listen to this group or that group, this speaker or that preacher. We follow God in the way He wants us to go and we no longer have to worry about our reputations or what others think. We no longer have to look to religion or man-led organizations to live for God.

I really believe if we accept God’s love, follow Him and listen to the guiding of the Holy Spirit within us we will be pleasing to God no matter what others say. We no longer have to be tossed to and fro by listening to all the different voices in Christianity today. We listen and trust God and enjoy the fellowship we have with Him through Christ.

Looking at things in this way, it has become a life of following the example of Jesus and doing what is pleasing to God. We no longer worry about following the religion of Christianity, but we go by the guidance of the Holy Spirit who lives within us. The religious organization we so commonly call Christianity has become something we no longer need. We now live life by following the Spirit, loving God and loving all people. For us, this daily way of living has replaced the man-made organization with a more meaningful way of life.

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By Mike Edwards

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This Post is longer than usual. It is an essay I wrote that was recently published in a book Open And Relational Leadership. Such a view of God, as opposed to a closed, standoffish God can be a game changer. Leaders proclaiming certainty have not allowed God’s open and relational ways to guide individuals in their own time.

I am grateful for pastors of churches I attended in the past who encouraged getting to know God. In retrospect, it seems pastors felt compelled to proclaim certainty of what God thought, according to their understanding of Scriptures. Perhaps they felt an internal pressure due to leadership expectations from parishioners. Didn’t pastors, though, read books where biblical scholars, who respect the authority of Scriptures, do not always agree? Total certainty is an illusion because even if God is Truth, we still have to discern what is Truth. For example, can preachers or priests be women or gay? Many are leaving the institutional church because of the lack of honest, open dialogue. God’s example seems more open and relational because of the freedom given to understand God in our own time.

It’s hard to be relational when you are so damn certain.  

One would think Christians would be the least judgmental people in the world. After all, they believe in loving others like they want to be loved. Catholics and Protestants, or whatever other representation of the church may apply, seem compelled to establish creeds, as if uncertainties about God are a sign of weakness. It isn’t always voiced that you are required to accept their doctrines to participate, but try challenging them and see where that gets you! If God was so concerned about beliefs such as the Trinity, angels, the Bible, the Virgin Mary, or hell, it seems there would be more agreement. Maybe Christians would be more united and less judgmental if religions only encouraged the Creed of Love as the Spirit guided individuals. 

No, uncertainty doesn’t have to lead to lawlessness!  

I am not suggesting anything goes in the declaration that we can’t be certain. No one questions laws against murder. Criminals don’t deny their actions are wrong; they deny they committed such a crime. Unless you are a terrorist, it is almost universally accepted that it is morally wrong to kill or behead someone because of his or her beliefs. We don’t have to fear uncertainty. Different opinions, expressed without physical or verbal aggression, can stand side by side, as we continually evaluate the most loving approach or understanding of God. 

The idea of an infallible or inspired Bible may be a reason Christians claim certainty. 

The Bible certainly is a resource to discover what God is like, though the majority of people born into this world didn’t have a Bible or knowledge of Jesus. There must be other ways to know God! Infallibility is a non-starter because we don’t have the original manuscripts. The many translations or versions of the Bible we have today suggest copying is not an exact process. Even if we had the original autographs, interpretation is still required. Scholars who believe in the authority of Scriptures disagree regarding what the Bible says about critical issues such as homosexuality, gender roles, divorce, and hell, among many other things.

Interpretations are fallible, but most people do not begin a discussion with “I may be wrong…” Keep in mind that we can’t prove that God inspired every word of the Bible, unless you argue a biblical writer making such a claim is definitive evidence. The possibility of a fallible book encourages questioning rather than demonizing views to the contrary. We have every right to question interpretations that suggest a Creator does not love in the way we were created to love. God-followers seem unaware of how often they appear to be unopen and morally superior based on their assumptions about the Bible. 

How can we know God?

Some declare God is mysterious when their interpretation of the Bible makes God appear immoral, but how can we have a relationship with a God we can’t understand with the brain God gave us? Is evil sometimes mysteriously good? The Bible assumes we can understand God by challenging us to be perfect like God (Mt. 5:48). We can only understand God’s perfect love by the way we humans were created to love perfectly. It is intuitive to think that the perfect love of God and human are the same. That is why the mystery card is used when God seems unloving from a human perspective. A Creator surely loves others and us in the same way that we were seemingly created to love others. 

Where has certainty in God’s name gotten us? 

It is logical to suggest we can’t be certain of what an invisible, inaudible God thinks. But supposed certainty has led to justifying slavery. It has led to revered theologians such as St. Augustine and John Calvin not firmly opposing the execution of those who didn’t agree with their theology. The Bible can’t be the definitive guide to what God would do because scholars who respect Scriptures disagree on so many issues. And it clearly is wrong to behead people because they don’t share your personal beliefs about God. 

Jesus didn’t judge uncertainty.  

Jesus performed many miracles, but his disciples/followers still didn’t believe. Jesus didn’t cast away Peter when warning him he would deny Jesus three times; I believe Peter now is called the “Rock.” Jesus hung out with all kinds of people that didn’t share his certainty. Jesus didn’t unload on others when their beliefs weren’t his, unless you were a religious authority who was misrepresenting God. My hunch is that God, like parents, would rather be doubted than ignored. 

Is God unloving by not being more visible, thus more certain?

We may wonder why God isn’t more obvious in our lives. God’s awe-filled or overpowering presence may only lead to fearful obligations to obey. When parents push their agendas, even if in their children’s best interests, a child may resent or rebel against coercion and never turn back from that rebellion. If God communicates in less demonstrative ways, this may allow for heartfelt choices. God may know what a controlling parent never learns: the road of learning, reflecting, and non-coerced choices may best lead to lasting convictions.

God’s love is not controlling. Controlling love is an oxymoron. Authenticity, the highest good in relationships, is impossible without freedom. Not even an almighty God can force true love. It isn’t that God has the power to do something and doesn’t. God can’t control or violate freedom and love perfectly. God, like parents, had a choice—not to create or to create knowing suffering was a possibility in the pursuit of intimacy. Divine love limits divine power. God is open to changing the world at relational speed. 

Uncertainty can lead to acting more lovingly.  

Being unable to declare the certainty or morality of our opinions forces us to listen and express ideas openly. God understands, as much as humans do, that forcing beliefs does not lead to long-lasting changes. Starting a conversation with “I may be wrong…” will more likely lead to new understandings and creative solutions. Conversations change when humility is part of the tone. Certainty, when it comes to political matters such as taxes or health plans, has led to justifying verbal or physical violence in the name of God or morality. Differences don’t have to lead to chaos but can be resolved by remaining open-minded to the most loving ways.

The Bible tells us the Word of God is not the Bible; it is flesh in the body of Jesus (Jn. 1:1-14). Jesus, when leaving this earth, didn’t promise to leave us with a Bible, but with God’s Spirit to aid in discerning good from evil (Jn. 14:16). Doesn’t the Spirit speak to us somehow when we have thoughts to be the perfect partner, parent, or friend we desire to be deep down, despite our constant failures? It may be good that that the Spirit doesn’t communicate audibly. The Bible may be more direct communication, but it has been used to force beliefs on others despite being subject to interpretation. Leaders who admit uncertainty, rather than certainty, about God, keep from imposing beliefs on others, which is just not in God’s open or relational nature.

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By Mike Edwards

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Most agree One claiming to be God must be loving and perfect. Such a claim is nonsensical if we are clueless what perfect love is. The only way to understand God’s love is to compare to human love. God surely loves us the way we know we ought to love family, friends, and others. Question when suggested otherwise. You may be right!

What may be the only reason God’s love and human love are different?

We may only think God’s love is different than human love because of our understanding of a Book. When one’s interpretation of God according to the Bible doesn’t seem to mirror perfect human love, the mystery card is played. Isn’t this because we all have an inborn sense that God and human perfect love must be the same? We must question interpretations or whether a biblical writer truly understood God when God’s love doesn’t seem the same as perfect human love.

We may only condemn women, gays, and other religions because of a Book.  

Question if a loving God really favors men over women in leadership roles which has encouraged centuries of domestic abuse and other atrocities women face! Question if a loving God really condemn gays, who have to hide their sexuality because of bigotry and hostility, when gays can no more choose who attracted to than straights can. Question if a loving God really approve only Christians going to heaven, when the majority of people born rebel or adhere to the religion born into. Our hearts know how we ought to treat women, gays, and non-Christians.

But isn’t the Bible God’s Word and not our hearts!

You may believe the biblical writers always understood God perfectly. Still, the Bible requires interpreting what the writer would advise in our circumstances. We don’t always know what the writer didn’t say. I once wrote telling my kids to never lie, but if lying saves a life lie through your teeth. Biblical scholars, who respect Scriptures, don’t agree the Bible teaches different roles for women and men. Scholars disagree if the Bible condemns monogamous same-sex relationships. Not questioning and using common moral sense has led to sick and weak minds justifying evil.

Even the Bible tells us we are to love others like God.  

The Bible encourages us to be perfect like God or follow God’s example by walking in the way of love (Mt. 5:48, Eph. 5:1). The Bible doesn’t spell out what such love is but assumes we can understand such love through the lens of human love. We don’t always know what perfect love is, but I doubt God is the parent that says “do as I say not what I do.” What would a relational Creator love differently than the way we are created to love?

It matters what we think God is like!

Our mental images of God shape our relationship with God and how God-followers might treat others. We can’t know what God is exactly like, but continually evaluating the most loving approach openly with others is better than claiming certainty and being wrong. We all seem to have an inborn feeling that we ought to treat others like we want to be treated. Even extremists want to be treated with loving kindness. Imagine what God is like. You may be right!

 

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By Mike Edwards

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What we believe about a person impacts our relationship. What we believe about God influences our relationship with God. I couldn’t have any kind of real relationship with my parents when I didn’t respect them or they didn’t seem to really care through their actions. What can we believe about God and why does it matter? 

We can’t know what God is always like through the eyes of the biblical writers?

Let’s be honest. We can’t prove God exists or doesn’t exist. Either belief takes faith. We can’t prove God controlled the cognitions thus writings of the biblical writers or they simply expressed their own understanding of God at that time. Regardless, scholars don’t agree if the writers believed God condemned monogamous relationships of the same gender, if God believes only men can serve as priests or pastors, etc. A Book can’t be the only guide in understanding God. 

What do you imagine God is like?

Atheists and believers agree. The only God worth believing in and following is a perfect God. We may not always know what perfect love entails but at least we seem to know the question we ought to ask ourselves – am I loving others perfectly? It is only natural to think a Creator would love us and others how we were seemingly created to love others. We can’t claim with certainty what God would do in every situation but human perfection is our best starting point for discussion. Our imaginations about God may be more correct than claimed interpretations of a Book.

It matters what you claim about God!

If the Bible supposedly condemns gays, you may condemn gays out of devotion to God. Did God really appoint men in authority over women which has been conducive for abuse and other atrocities women have face at the hands of men? If God can do Hell, we may think we should emulate God in our attempts to judge and punish. The traditional meaning of Hell is nowhere to be found in the Bible and few would imagine a loving God would create such a place.

How can faith in a loving God make a difference?

Most of us want to be a better version of ourselves. Most are convinced an unselfish life than selfish live lived is a better legacy. What I believe is morally true about God intuitively is a far better version of God than what many claim according to the Bible. Most of us are decent people to begin with. Personally though, I am a better partner, father, and friend than I would be because of the insights, encouragement, and forgiveness that I sense from my Creator. A right view of God may be the help our world and individuals need in striving to be who we deep down desire to be.

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by Jim Gordon

When we think about Jesus, many of us automatically think of Christianity. Yet in actuality, the two are completely different.  Jesus did not come to start a religion. Jesus was not a Christian.

We are missing the whole point when we focus on religion rather than the real reason Jesus came to live among us. He came to show us what God is really like. A god who is kind and who loves each and every one of us. No matter what we call ourselves or what group we claim to belong to, God loves each one of us.

According to Wikipedia it is stated that according to some estimates there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world including Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Jewish, Christianity. In a sense, each of these and every other religion are actually related. They are all human based ways of trying to find and please the God (or gods) they believe in and serve.

In regard to just Christian denominations, World Christian Encyclopedia says that world Christianity consists of six major ecclesiastical-cultural blocs. These are divided into 300 major ecclesiastical traditions and are composed of over 33,000 distinct denominations in 238 countries. We even break it down more within Christianity with all the different denominations such as Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian or part of the hundreds of other groups. It certainly cannot be stated that people are not interested in some type of higher power.

We want to argue over religion and who is right and who is wrong. All the different religions of the world cannot agree in who we believe or what is right. We argue over whose interpretation or doctrine is right, then condemn and disassociate with those who feel differently.

Needless to say, we all have our interpretations, thoughts and ideas but those just make us unique individuals. They were not intended to cause separations and divisions among us. We should be able to be ourselves and yet love and accept those who are different from us.

If we could get past the religious part of our beliefs and live in the freedom God provided, accept one another and love one another even in our differences, we could certainly get along much better together. Rather than defend our denominational interpretations and our religious doctrines, if we would love and accept others with the love of Christ, people would be more open to hear about our views on God.

Sadly, we are normally busy pointing out what we think are sins and mistakes of others. We are quick to judge and condemn those who we consider sinners. Yet when we do so, the love Jesus told us to show everyone seems to get missed. I personally do not think it is our job to judge and condemn people and determine what are sins or not. We are told to love God and love one another.

Jesus told us to love God, love one another, love your neighbor and love your enemy. When we focus on the gospels and the life of Jesus, we see that he did not condemn people nor point out specific sins. He had compassion and love and forgave them before they even asked. We can certainly see a distinct difference from the way we act today. Jesus mainly seemed to have an issue with the religious leaders who thought they were better than everyone else because of their religious works.

When it comes to saying I am a Christian, I am hesitant anymore because of the stereotypical ideas most people form when hearing the term. If being a Christian means a follower of Christ, someone who wants to be like Christ, someone who shows the love of God to everyone then I am for it. But if being a Christian means someone who follows the old covenant law, who is judgmental, condemning and hateful then I am done with that and prefer not to use the term. In that sense, Christianity is not the answer nor is any other man-made religion.

Jesus is not into religion. Jesus came to show the love of God to every human being no matter who they are or what they believe. Jesus crosses the barriers of religion and loves everyone. Jesus shows us what God is really like, an all-inclusive, loving and accepting Spirit who wants the best for all of us. In the world today we are the only Jesus people see. We should be ready to share that love and acceptance with everyone we meet.

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By Mike Edwards

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I don’t fully understand why I enjoy reading, discussing, and writing about God. I witnessed hypocrisy growing up but stayed with God. It isn’t because I’m more moral. Many seek to live a honorable life but God’s help isn’t sought in their journey. Depending on God or not depending on God doesn’t prove one has a character flaw. Why might some inclined toward more of a connection with God not bother? I am bias such a relationship can help us be more the kind of person we deep down desire to be.

The Bible may be a major reason many aren’t into God.

Many don’t accept the God of the Bible for good reason. In fact, many God-followers wouldn’t claim certain views toward gays or women if they didn’t believe the Bible requires such beliefs. Does it? See here. The Bible should be read literately rather than literally. Genesis is often claimed to be a scientific understanding of beginnings though not the writers’ intentions. People don’t need to lose their faith because they believe in evolution or that Adam was a representative rather than literally the first human. 

Evil and God just don’t mix despite the freedom argument.

God’s inactiveness with so much evil in the world may be the main reason many are atheists. Why doesn’t a supposedly all-powerful God intervene more? How is God allowing evil any different than a parent who stands by and watches this child being sexually abused? Maybe God can’t control or violate freedom and love perfectly. Divine love limits divine power. Maybe God can only stop evil with the help of others freely helping. See God Can’t by Thomas Oord.

Gays and Women! 

Many only hold their views toward gays or women because a Book inspired by God supposedly condemns gays or restricts roles based on gender than gifts. Why would a gay person believe in a God who supposedly condemn them for sexual choices they no more choose than straights? How could a loving God favor men over women in leadership roles which has encouraged centuries of domestic abuse and other atrocities women face? Why believe in a God who restricts women though obviously gifted?

Hell is another good reason to reject God!

No one would believe God created a place such as Hell unless a Book on God supposedly claims so. Why would God possibly create Hell to torture anyone forever since such pain serves no lasting purpose? Humans wouldn’t even create such a place for their worst enemies. Turns out the Bible doesn’t teach such a place exist. See Here.

Friends with a hidden agenda is a turn-off.    

It is wrong to engage in friendships for the purpose of converting them to your beliefs without advising upfront this is your agenda. We should engage in relationships both to love and be loved. Discussions about God best come up naturally. The sinner’s prayer to avoid Hell isn’t in the Bible. When Jesus interacted with a woman caught in adultery, He first stopped the crowd’s stoning attempts. Then, Jesus simply told the woman “go now, and leave your life of sin” (John 8). Pretty good advice. Didn’t Jesus have a better evangelical spiel in case He never saw the woman again? 

Hypocrisy can be a stumbling block.

The truth is that we all are hypocrites. What human being lives up to the standards they know in their heart are honorable? But it is reasonable to expect those who talk about God to act godly. Baptists, Methodists, Protestants, Catholics, etc. fight over their different creeds, yet all supposedly believe in the same message of loving your neighbor as yourself. Some believe Paul called out gays (I Cor. 6:9-10), but they ignore Paul confronting greed in the same breath. Try living a day without greed before judging. Why would one consider God if god-folks don’t walk the talk?

Do you wish to be more focused on being spiritual?  

Focusing on being a better person physically or spiritually does take initiative rather than being passive. But we all are human. I will be more judgmental when I am where I want to be with my physical health goals. Focusing on being more spiritual with God’s help may though be a lot easier if God-followers didn’t put unnecessary barriers in the path of those seeking.

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By Mike Edwards

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The truth is we can’t prove that God exist or doesn’t exist. Either belief takes faith. If a Creator does exist, most agree only a perfectly good or loving God is worth believing in. Such a statement is nonsensical if we don’t have some notions of what perfect love is. The only way to understand God’s love is to compare to human love. God surely loves us the way we know how we ought to love others.

God and perfect human love must be the same.

The Bible even suggests perfect human love and God’s love are the same: “Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Parent is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). We may not always know what perfect love entails but at least we always know the question we ought to ask ourselves – am I loving others perfectly or am I loving others like our Creator loves. God is often claimed a mystery because one’s interpretation of Scriptures suggest God appears evil from a human perspective. Such interpreters sense intuitively God and human love are the same.

Moral intuitions are a guide in what true love is.

It is plausible a universal compulsion to treat others like we want to be treated is how a Creator communicates how to treat others if in that person’s shoes. I don’t know any God or non-God person that doesn’t value the golden rule in relationships. Rational people don’t always agree what is our moral obligation concerning immigration, climate change, abortion, health care, taxes, or responding to evil dictators that murder their own people, but calm dialogue allows evaluating the challenges we encounter and finding what different views have in common.

What does God really think about women, gays, and non-Christians? 

Most intuitively question if a loving God really favors men over women in leadership roles which has encouraged centuries of domestic abuse and other atrocities women face. Most intuitively question if a loving God really condemn gays, who have to hide their sexuality because of bigotry and hostility, when gays can no more choose who attracted to than straights can. Most intuitively question if God would torture infidels forever for beliefs while on earth only for a short time. Humans wouldn’t even create a place such as Hell for their worst enemies.

We can’t know what God’s perfect love is only according to the Bible.

Many don’t question the above views because of the Bible. Did the biblical writers always understand God perfectly as opposed to being on the same spiritual journey we all are on – discovering what God is really like? How would God control every cognition and word written down? Besides, the Bible requires interpretation and biblical scholars, who respect Scriptures, don’t all agree the Bible teaches different roles for women and men or that the Bible condemns monogamous same-sex relationships. Not questioning a Book has led to sick and weak minds carrying out immoral acts contrary to common moral sense.

Uncertainty, rather than certainty, can be a good thing.

Certainty has led to forcing “supposed” truths onto others. It is hard to be relational when so damn certain! It is universally accepted that it is evil to kill or behead someone because of their beliefs unless you are a terrorist. Problems begin when insisting on our interpretation of a supposed inspired Book. God may not communicate more clearly, because God’s awing or overpowering presence may only lead to fearful obligations to obey. The road traveled of learning and reflecting may best lead to lasting convictions. The Bible was more direct communication, but it has been used to force beliefs on others despite subject to interpretation. Different opinions communicated respectively can stand together as we continually evaluate the most loving approach.

Can we judge what is truly evil?  

Terrorists believe that murdering or beheading others for their beliefs isn’t evil. One main clue about extreme behaviors is if our actions demonstrate loving others how we wish to be loved. Would terrorists accept their wives and children being murdered or beheaded for different beliefs from another group claiming God-speak? Even extremists want to be treated with loving kindness. I would ask extremists how we can be certain their Book is really God’s words or that they have interpreted correctly. I assume the conversation would go downhill until one accepts Books can’t be proven inspired or uninspired.

It matters what we think God is like!

Our mental images of God shape our relationship with God and how followers might treat others. The more you respect your earthly parents or God, the closer you are to them. We can’t claim with certainty, which may not be a bad thing, what God would do in every situation but human perfection is our best starting point for discussion. We can’t know what God is exactly like, but continually evaluating the most loving approach openly with others is better than claiming certainty and being wrong. Imagine what God is like. You may be right!

 

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by Jim Gordon

War, terrorism, politics, COVID-19 pandemic, how could we possibly be at peace in our world today with all this turmoil?

How can we be at peace with people with all the different thoughts and ideas, the different denominations, interpretations, beliefs, different religions and ways of life?

The dictionary says of peace: harmony in personal relations; freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions. We certain have a lot of strain in personal relations and much unrest and worry in thoughts and emotions about events going on in our world today.

Romans 12:18 reads, if possible, so far as it depends on you be at peace with all men. To me this means we are to live in harmony with others, not allowing any oppressive thoughts or emotions to take control of us. In other words, we live in love. That does not mean total agreement, but love and acceptance of who the other person was created to be.

Jesus told us we were given the peace of God by saying “peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”. It is a peace that we, in our finite human minds cannot make sense of or understand.

Jesus also said “in me you will have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” This world will provide plenty of worrisome events, plenty of turmoil and plenty of things to worry about each day. Yet Jesus said by putting our trust and hope in God we can overcome the worry and fear we have in the world.

The Kingdom of God is not like the kingdoms of this world. Our world is a temporary home, yet the Kingdom of God is now. It is within us. The Spirit of Christ is within us. Our spiritual home right now is in the Kingdom of God. We do not recognize all the effects because we are to accustomed to the ways of the world. Jesus said the ways of the world have been overcome by the Kingdom of God.

The more we can focus on the Spirit and the Kingdom within, the more we can enjoy the peace Jesus provides. The peace of Christ works within our spirit, much different than the peace we think about in our world system.

Remember that we are responsible for ourselves in the way we live and trust God. We are not responsible to live as others do or think we should. We are not responsible to tell others how they should live. We are to allow the Spirit to work in our lives and follow the Spirit on the path we are following. Our responsibility is to love God and love everyone we come in contact with, accept them for who they are and pray that the Holy Spirit will work in all our lives. Living in this manner would accomplish much more in showing the love of Christ and allow us to live in peace amidst all the turmoil in our lives.

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