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Posts Tagged ‘heaven’

By Mike Edwards

The short answer to my question is no one can know for sure. There may be as many reasons as individuals why some believe there is a God and others don’t. I suppose some may avoid believing in God because they are only interested in pursuing a self-centered life. This isn’t most of my friends. What I do know is that those who are convinced a Creator exists aren’t necessarily more moral than those who don’t believe. Faith is required for either belief.

There are good reasons to not be into God or be on the fence

We can only be as close to God as our mental images of God allow. We may not pursue God more because we assume certain claims made about God are true, or God is like the poor role models we have had who claim to represent God. The God often portrayed by others condemns gay people, shows partiality toward men over women despite the history of men abusing power, and God supposedly created Hell to torture people after death if they believe while here on earth. Don’t make possible false claims the reason to not believe.

What is God really like? 

It is intuitive to think a Creator would love us how we are created to love each other. We only know how to talk about perfect Godly love by comparing to perfect, human love. 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 don’t always know what perfect love entails but we know the question we ought to ask ourselves – am I loving others perfectly aka am I loving others like our Creator loves. Misunderstanding God often begin when we stray from common moral sense and insist on our interpretation from an inspired Book. 

Reasons to believe if on the fence 

If walking on a dark street and approached by a group of tough looking men, would you be more or less scared if you knew they just attended a bible study? Good religion, as opposed to bad religion, always encourages the golden rule. We have nothing to lose by living by the golden rule, and we will probably experience fewer regrets on our death bed. Personally, the biggest reason for being a God-follower is the inspiration and encouragement from God to be a better human being.

Believing in an afterlife can be a good thing. Should we tell our children there is a heaven after death when we can’t know for sure? We promise our kids all the time we will keep them safe, especially if there has been a recent tragedy. We can’t be sure if danger is around the corner. Belief in a possible God helps to not fear death and to look forward to be reunited with loved ones. And I have no reason to believe a forgiving God stops forgiving after death.

Is God Real? 

Let’s not accuse those who believe in a God as needing a crutch or being delusional, or accuse those who question the reality of an invisible God of being rebellious or not knowing their feelings. Just because you believe in the possibility of God doesn’t mean you don’t have doubts at times whether God really exist. Believing in God doesn’t mean you don’t question how good God really is because of all the evil in the world. If so inclined imagine what a loving God would be like. You may be right!

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Mike Edwards has been writing for Done with Religion for some time and has been a great addition to the site. Mike also has his own site where he writes that can be found at What God May Really Be Like  He can be contacted by email at: medwar2@gmail.com

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Right Here, Right Now

by Jim Gordon

For those of us who grew up in the church, we always thought of God as being a far-off, super human who sat on a giant throne up there somewhere. The general idea was that God was separate from us.

The problem with this way of thinking is that it is not what Jesus taught. Jesus always talked about the Kingdom of God being near or at hand, and the Kingdom of God is within you.

When we hear someone talk about the Kingdom of God, usually our first thought is a place in the distant future. A place we go when we die and leave this earth. It is where God lives somewhere way up in the sky. It is a place where we will live with Him forever.

Yet, when reading about the Kingdom of God in the bible, it sounds to me it is not some far away, future place. It is right now, and right here. A place where we live daily with God. Jesus said in John 14:23 “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them”. To me, if God has made his home with us, then we are certainly living in the Kingdom of God.

Jesus said the Kingdom of God is within us. He said that we were to ask that God’s will be done here on earth as it is in heaven. So then, we see that the expression “Kingdom of God” does not refer to heaven, or the church, or to moral reform or to a future realm. Rather it refers to the active, dynamic exercise of God’s rule, authority, dominion, and power in our life right now.

When John the Baptist announced that the Kingdom of God was at hand, he meant that God’s rule was just about to break into the world through the Messiah. When Jesus Christ himself preached and proclaimed the gospel of the Kingdom of God, he meant that through him, God was exercising his power and authority in a redemptive way against all the evil in the world, and then allowing us to live a Kingdom life by loving God and loving others.

In short, the Kingdom of God is the rule of God manifested in Christ to bring redemption to the earth. Romans 14:17 reads, for the Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. No wonder the Kingdom of God is the central theme of the New Testament!

I have come to believe more and more that the Kingdom of God is not necessarily talking about the coming heavenly kingdom, but it is our life with God right here and now. We are living with him in his kingdom every day.

Jim Gordon and his wife left the institutional church after spending over fifty years within the system. Jim wanted a way to express his thoughts and concerns about the religious system and why he and his wife decided to leave the institution but not their faith in God. Jim can be contacted by email at: jimgordon731@gmail.com

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by Mike Edwards

Believing God exists or doesn’t exist requires faith, but it seems intuitive a loving Creator would love the way we were created to love. We can examine what a loving God is like though our moral intuitions, our consciences. Christians may argue we should trust “biblical truths” about God, but differing interpretations exist for many moral issues. See here.  Also, we can’t prove if biblical writers always understood God perfectly. We aren’t always certain how to best love, but we know that we or a Creator ought to love others as we want to be loved. 

The Bible says nothing about Hell as a consequence for decisions here on earth 

God only warned Adam and Eve about death, not Hell, if eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Noah, who was warned of a global destructive flood, was silent on Hell as a consequence for behaviors here on earth. So were the OT prophets. The Hebrew word Sheol in the Old Testament, translated into the English word Hell, was used to describe a place of darkness occupied by the dead regardless of beliefs, not a torture chamber for unbelievers. Job, an extremely righteous man in God’s eyes, desired to go there to escape his tremendous suffering (10:21-22). Recent Bible translations simply translate Sheol as “Sheol.”

The Greek word Gehenna is translated into the English world Hell. Gehenna is the name of a valley outside Jerusalem. In ancient times children were sacrificed in fire at Gehenna and the valley was known as a burial ground. Jesus refers to Gehenna to describe the suffering and devastation that come from doing evil. Many scholars consider Gehenna a metaphor to describe the destruction an evil life leads to, not a fiery place where sinners go for never-ending punishment. Gehenna is best translated Gehenna just as Mount Everest is best translated Mount Everest.

The main writer of NT makes no mention of Hell

The main writer of the NT, other than the Gospels, was the Apostle Paul. Paul never mentioned Hell. Hell is not mentioned in Acts which is the main book in Bible describing the beginning of the Christian movement and evangelism.

But the Book of Revelation speaks of a Lake of Fire!

Fire in the Bible is used more metaphorically than a literal fire where people are tortured forever after death. The Book of Revelation is the only place Lake of Fire is mentioned, but if dragons with seven heads are considered figuratively why wouldn’t the Lake of Fire be a metaphor? Revelation only suggests believers and unbelievers will face some kind of judgment after death.

Hell makes no moral sense to God or humans

A loving God couldn’t possibly torture anyone forever since such pain serves no lasting purpose. Humans wouldn’t even create such a place for their worst enemies. Hitler was condemned for torturing millions of Jews for a brief time; God is said to torture billions not briefly but forever. A moral God can’t be a hellish, sadistic, torturer!

Besides, humans much less God are fully aware beliefs are influenced by opportunities, role models, or misinformation. It is suspect an impartial, moral God determines our destiny based on beliefs while living a brief time on earth. If we humans really believed Hell made moral sense, we would never cease from warning our friends to repent to escape Hell. The only reason to think a loving God would create such as a place as Hell would be if we believed a Book taught such a horrific thing.

What is God saving us from if not Hell?  

When Jesus was asked by a religious expert how to have eternal life, He simply said to 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. Jeremy Myers says it best: “When Scripture teaches about being saved from sin, it is not referring to escaping hell and going to heaven when we die, but to the deliverance from the devastating and destructive consequences of sin in this life.”

The word “heaven” appears the most in the Gospel of Matthew. The Kingdom of Heaven isn’t a place to go after life on earth. Jesus sought to bring heavenly love to earth – “on earth as in heaven.” Jesus said nothing about dropping to your knees to avoid Hell to go to Heaven after death. Paul mentions Heaven twice in Romans, yet says nothing about Jesus dying so we can go to Heaven (Rm. 1:18, 10:6).

What about justice?

Punishment doesn’t bring back a victim’s robbed memories of the future due to the murder of a loved one. Real justice is understanding your victim’s pain and accepting the harmfulness of your actions. After death God may bring to memory every action of betrayal and how it felt to their victims. The cleansing and educative effect may take longer for some than others. Humans like God may forgive their enemies if they truly regret their actions and seek forgiveness. Justice from a fair, merciful God is possible despite people being given a second chance after death.

Don’t people need the fear of God to change?

Fear only leads to trying to avoid getting caught. God’s continual encouragement and mercy, not the fear of Hell or gloomy uncertainty of God’s favor, is our necessary nourishment for lasting changes of the heart.  Fear doesn’t produce relationships worth having. One may argue if certain beliefs aren’t required for Heaven, people will do whatever the hell they want on earth. How real is faith if only to avoid Hell? Genuine changes result when knowing you are deeply loved by a parent or God empowering you to reflect such love to others.

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Mike Edwards has been writing for Done with Religion for some time and has been a great addition to the site. Mike also has his own site where he writes that can be found at What God May Really Be Like  He can be contacted by email at: medwar2@gmail.com

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by Mike Edwards

The short answer to what belief God requires is none. We can only compare a loving God to what a loving parent may require. Such a parent requires nothing. They love their child unconditionally in hopes the child will choose to return their love. As a child gets older, love doesn’t interfere as we often only learn through the consequences of our actions. God created freedom so God is required to be uncontrolling.

Doesn’t God in the Bible require belief to get into Heaven?

Many claim that the Bible was written to instruct people what beliefs avoid God’s wrath and Hell. Many scholars now recognize that the Bible’s main message is expressing God’s desire to have a relationship with each and every individual in this world to face inevitable challenges. See here.

Jesus didn’t talk about escaping torture after death. Jesus replied to simply love God and your neighbor (Lk.10:25-37) when asked how to have eternal life. 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 making destructive choices. This is the message of any loving parent!

Doesn’t God at least require belief in God?

God isn’t a God of chance! The majority of people born into this world never had a Bible? The truth is the majority of people accept or rebel against a certain religion based on the family born into whether it be Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, etc. A child who was sexually abuse by their father may struggle to accept a God who is most often betrayed as our Father in Heaven. Do you really think a loving God is going to judge all based on their beliefs during a short time here on earth influenced by so many random factors?

Surely you have to believe in the mother of all beliefs?

Don’t you have to believe at least Jesus resurrected from the dead? I know even asking this question is 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 be convinced of their message. 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.

God only hopes for what every loving parent desires

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?

Do you want to believe more in God? I am not sure there is anything to lose in beginning a journey of faith if the desire is to live life with fewer regrets. Personally, the biggest reason for being a God-follower is the inspiration and encouragement I sense in striving to be a better human being. If God is real, they should be able to make their case with each individual.

MikeEdwardsprofilepic125

Mike Edwards has been writing for Done with Religion for some time and has been a great addition to the site. Mike also has his own site where he writes that can be found at What God May Really Be Like  He can be contacted by email at: medwar2@gmail.com

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by Jim Gordon

The institution of marriage is such a great comparison to life with our Father. I think we often miss some good points about marriage that directly relates to life with God. So many times we do not associate marriage with Kingdom meanings.

Actually, marriage is a shadow of spiritual things. Ephesians 5:31,32 states, ‘for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church’. The church being mentioned here is not a building or an organization. The Church are the people who are one in Christ. It is not a weekly meeting, it is a living organism made up of those of us saved by grace. I also believe that just because husband and wife are used by the writer in this verse, it also means any two people who love one another and commit to one another because of that love.

I find it amazing that we are considered to be one with God. It is hard to imagine that the Spirit of God lives within us. Jesus said when he left the earth that he would send us another comforter. Through his Spirit, he came to make his home within us and he is constantly with us.

In John 17:21 Jesus is making a request of the Father about us, asking that ‘they may all be one, even as You Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me’. Seems to me it is truly a marriage made in heaven.

Now this is not saying we are God, but we are one with God. The best way I have found to make sense of this is to think of marriage. When two individual people fall in love, make a commitment to love each other and live together, the bible says the two are joined together as one.

Does that mean that the spouse becomes their partner, that they somehow become the same person? No, both people remain individuals, yet they live as one. Same with us and God, we are still the person He created, yet because God loves us and we love him, he has made his home with us and His spirit lives within us. We are one with God.

We always think of God sitting on a big throne, way off in heaven somewhere and that one of these days we will go and meet Him and live with Him forever.

The thing is, that is not what His written word tells us. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit, God’s physical dwelling place on earth. His Spirit dwells within us and He will never leave us nor forsake us.

We do not have to wait to a future time when we live with God in some far-away place. We are living as one with Him in His Kingdom right now because the Kingdom of God is within us. We are his temple, his dwelling place and each of us are equally important parts of his body.

Jim Gordon and his wife left the institutional church after spending over fifty years within the system. Jim wanted a way to express his thoughts and concerns about the religious system and why he and his wife decided to leave the institution but not their faith in God. Jim can be contacted by email at: jimgordon731@gmail.com

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by Mike Edwards

Freedom by God is necessary for perhaps the highest good in relationships – authenticity. Not even God can force true love. Freedom has possible consequences such as suffering, but if God didn’t create freedom we could accuse God of not creating the “most loving” world. So, freedom must exist here or earth and freedom surely exist in heaven.

Freedom requires that God can’t know the future.

The future must be open if we are truly free and God is truly loving. There really isn’t freedom if the future is already known thus determined. The good news about God not knowing the future is that we can feel God truly want us to feel free without strings attached. Is that what we desire to feel from our human parents when making decisions?

Why it matters that God doesn’t know the future.

A young woman may ask God for wisdom in marrying their partner. It seems a match made in heaven, but their partner becomes abusive. If God supposedly knows the future, why didn’t God warn the young woman? A human parent would warn their child if they knew ahead of time. God isn’t hiding a “known” future for important decisions. A controlling God can lead to asking “why or what is God punishing me for” or “God, do you really love me?”

We don’t have to live in fear of making “right decisions” or missing out on God’s will. We already know the mind of God when it comes to moral decisions; otherwise, God supports us in making best decisions at the time that make our lives and the lives of others better. There isn’t one correct decision. Joy and good is achieved by taking any number of paths and avoiding immoral paths.

Even the Bible suggest an all-powerful God can’t know the future.

Hundreds of biblical passages could be cited to defend either God does or doesn’t know the future. For example, in the beginning the writers suggested that an all-powerful Being doesn’t know much less control the future. Genesis 6:5-6 speaks of God regretting decisions: “God saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on earth…God regretted that he had made human beings on the earth and his heart was deeply troubled.” If God knew the outcome of decisions, why did God make regrettable decisions? Many biblical passages refer to God changing their mind depending on what choices humans freely make.

What About Freedom In Heaven Then?

It would not be loving for God to force others to accept God’s ways even in heaven. Perhaps character developed on earth may eventually lead to seeing no good reasons for doing bad in heaven, which surely is the highest form of freedom. If one wishes to entertain the possibility of sin in heaven because of the presence of freedom, we can at least hope God’s presence will have a greater impact than earthly, human authority to dissuade selfishness. We thrive more under certain types of parental love and leadership because of their qualities such as integrity and understanding. Also, we can hope heaven will not have certain negative temptations.

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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

I remember when I was a little boy waking up in the middle of the night and calling out in the dark to my mom. I could not see her but I knew she was there. If I went by sight, I would never have called out to her and I would not have received the help I wanted.

The same with God, we cannot see Him but we know He is there through faith. We must realize that we live by faith or we will never call out to Him.

In certain ways, I see all people as people of faith. That is not saying that all people have faith in God but all have faith. Some people have faith in science, some in various religions, some in humanity and others have faith in God.

God loves each one of us no matter what we put our faith in. He calls us to himself, he accepts us and loves us.

None of us can prove there is a God or that there is not a God. None of us can prove heaven or hell. Many things in which we believe in this life are all by faith.

Just as it is by faith that we flip a light switch and expect the lights to come on, or sit on a chair and expect it to hold us. It is by faith we accept God and know He is there to listen and watch over us.

Do not worry about trying to prove God to everyone. Live your life daily by faith in God. Allow Him to live through you to touch others with love and, in his way and time, prove himself to you.

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By Mike Edwards

The traditional understanding of Hell isn’t in the Bible. God isn’t a sadistic torturer who has to be appeased by killing their child? Humans wouldn’t even create such a place to torture their enemies after death. Hell was invented over the centuries to scare people into obedience. Such fear only causes confusion, pisses you off, or leads to hiding stuff. What really is God’s good news?

The Bible says nothing about the traditional understanding of the word Hell. See here.

Gehenna, the Greek word translated as Hell in the New Testament, was the name of a real valley near Jerusalem with a history of terrible slaughter. Gehenna is best translated Gehenna just as Mount Everest is best translated Mount Everest. There is no word in Hebrew or Greek for “hell.” Jesus used Gehenna to illustrate that spiritual death is as tragic as physical death. The Apostle Paul who wrote most of the NT never refers to Hell. Noah, or any prophet in the OT, never warned of Hell as a consequence for behaviors here on earth.

Is God saving us from earth to get into Heaven?

The word “heaven” appears the most in the Gospel of Matthew. The Kingdom of Heaven isn’t a place to go after life on earth. Jesus sought to bring heavenly love to earth – “on earth as in heaven.” Jesus said nothing about dropping to your knees to avoid Hell to go to Heaven after death. But, didn’t the Apostle Paul say “the wages of sin is death” (Rm. 6:23)? Paul is speaking of spiritual death because Paul is still alive though sin has put him to death (Rm. 7:11). Paul mentions Heaven twice in Romans, yet says nothing about Jesus dying so we can go to Heaven (Rm. 1:18, 10:6).

What does the Bible say God is saving us from?

When Jesus was asked by a religious expert how to have eternal life, He simply said to 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. Jeremy Myers says it best: “When Scripture teaches about being saved from sin, it is not referring to escaping hell and going to heaven when we die, but to the deliverance from the devastating and destructive consequences of sin in this life.” https://redeeminggod.com/confess-jesus-romans-10-9-10/

God wants to save us not from God but from ourselves.

God hurts because we are hurting ourselves and those around us. God seeks to encourage us to pursue heavenly than worldly ways. God seeks to empower us to be the unselfish people we deep down desire to be. This was the message Jesus was willing to die, rather than save Himself, to inspire us seeking God’s help in radically loving others. As God loves us, Jesus encouraged mercy, forgiveness, and going the extra mile in our relationships. Jesus sought changes of the heart for the good of the world. Loving God can empower loving others to the fullest.

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by Jordan Hathcock, Guest Blogger
https://welcometothetablesite.wordpress.com/2019/07/30/knowing-souls/

“So let’s get to the point, let’s roll another joint
Let’s head on down the road
There’s somewhere I gotta go
And you don’t know how it feels
No, you don’t know how it feels to be me”. – Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers

Do we really know “how it feels” to be in someone else’s shoes? Can we really comprehend the magnitude of other people’s experiences? Hard to say, really.  I know for myself; it is not easy trying to empathize and relate to others experiences and dispositions. We all attempt and often fail miserably. Often, our motives are what really play a huge part in how we engage with others and their issues. Coming from the Christian perspective, I think we are on the failing end of making a positive difference in others who are different then us.

It has become a competition in winning the souls of others, instead of building authentic relationships. Numerous of factors come into play of why this is. Not to get to long winded on this blog post, but the biggest driving force is the concept of hell. The Christian tradition has morphed into a factory of “get people of hell in the afterlife” instead of letting people experience “heaven on earth in the here and now”. Fear, greed, and the us vs. them motif is the foundation of this unfortunate state of affairs we are currently experiencing.  When you make a belief system of fear and hate into a thriving institution, the effects are direly devastating.

But, I don’t think all is lost (yes, very optimistic of me I know).  There always has been another spark and remnant that comes out of the evil empire that brings about hopeful change. I would like to quote this verse from the Christian scriptures that brings to light these two contending ideas of winning souls vs. entering in genuine relationships:

To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.  I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

The premise I take here (from the many different interpretations and commentary I have found with this scripture verse, and guess what? That’s ok!), Paul was trying to bring about blessings to those he made contact with for the sake of the gospel. It states: “I have become all things to all people…in order to save some”. It has the “winning souls” rhetoric here and to the first century readers that could have been more of a way of getting to a better way of being to escape the oncoming destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D (just a little side note hehe). But, I think how Paul finished up this passage is showing the real intention of “becoming all things to all people” (the true relationship builder): SO THAT I MAY SHARE IN ITS BLESSINGS! This right here is the point of entering in relationships with others.  This is what the Gospel of Christ should bring to ALL PEOPLE.

It about truly knowing people.  When Jesus says: To know God and His Son, this knowing is ginosko and this literally means “a felt knowing”, as in RELATIONAL! No matter who it is–black, white, gay, straight–experiencing the blessings of peace which produces love is what it’s all about. It is going out there and becoming friends with others (I know we can’t do this with everyone, but I think we can fucking do a better job than what we are doing now)! This is what brings us out of the hell we sometimes find ourselves in this life. The Kin-dom reality is about the here and now.  We will never develop and evolve (aka salvation) as a species until we realize that its real relationships that will get us there…

“Self-sufficiency makes God experience impossible! That’s why Jesus showed up in this world as a naked, vulnerable one, a defenseless baby lying in the place where animals eat. Talk about utter relationship! Naked vulnerability means I’m going to let you influence me; I’m going to allow you to change me. The Way of Jesus is an invitation to a Trinitarian way of living, loving, and relating—on earth as it is in the Godhead. We are intrinsically like the Trinity, living in absolute relatedness. To choose to stand outside of this Flow is the deepest and most obvious meaning of sin. We call the Flow love. We really were made for love, and outside of it we die very quickly.”

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