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By Mike Edwards

I am convinced there are beliefs claimed about God that lead to many tuning out God. Our relationship with God cannot exceed our understanding of God. I have written HERE how we can decide what God is really like. One’s understanding of a Book may be the only reason to think human and godly perfection are different.  Why would a Creator not love us and others how we know we ought to love others? God surely isn’t bias toward any one religion.

A loving God wouldn’t ignore the realities of our world by insisting one can only come to God by believing in Jesus.

The majority of people born into this world died without any knowledge of the Bible or who Jesus was. Also, John Hick rightly acknowledges: “…in the vast majority of cases, probably 98 or 99 per cent, the religion to which anyone adheres (or against which they rebel) depends upon where they are born. When someone is born into a Christian family they are very likely to become a Christian, whether practicing or nominal; when into a Muslim family, very likely to become a Muslim; if into a Buddhist family, to become a Buddhist – and so on round the world” (Who Or What Is God, p. 73). A reason one may think a loving God judges people who have never heard about God or misunderstand God is because a Book supposedly says so.

Did you know many scholars believe the Bible teaches all people eventually get into Heaven? 

Those of us who grew up in church are familiar with Bible verses interpreted to mean the wages of sin is death/Hell if we don’t confess Jesus is Lord (Rom. 6:23; 10:9). Bible folks don’t even have to look up those verses. The Bible also says: “For as in Adam all died, so in Christ all will be made alive” (I Cor. 15:22). Bible scholars who respect the authority of Scriptures interpret this and other verses to mean only those who have never died are excluded from heaven. Obviously, all have or will die. The Bible teaches forgiveness is unlimited (i.e. Mt. 18:21-22), but is that not true of God after one’s last breath despite their circumstances here on earth? We can’t be certain, so we are free to imagine what a loving, merciful God would do.

The Bible doesn’t even rule out decisions after death regarding one’s eternal destination.

John 5:25 says that the dead will hear the voice of God and those who hear will live. Verse 29 says those who have done evil will be condemned but we do not know whether repentance will take place. Romans 14:11-12 says: “It is written: As surely as I live, says the Lord, “every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.” So then, we will all give an account of ourselves to God.” Why couldn’t some make a decision at Judgment? I Peter 3:18-20 speaks of Jesus preaching to those in Noah’s day who were disobedient. Preaching is normally for the opportunity to respond.  I Peter 4:6 goes on to say that the dead can live according to God’s spirit. Eternal decisions after death doesn’t diminish the blessings of changing here on earth. A perfect, merciful God can best decide when enough chances are given.

Jesus didn’t refer to his followers as Christians.

Jesus simply asked people to follow Him. Jesus seemed more concerned with the benefits of living a loving life than beliefs. God used the human means available to reveal themselves through the life of Jesus, but the Bible was never meant to be God’s only communication. A universal desire to treat others like we want to be treated hints God’s spirit has always existed.  Jesus’ message has been exemplified by many great leaders such as Gandhi. Scriptures speak of all having an internal awareness that someone bigger and better than ourselves exist. We can know in our heart Jesus’ main message – love others like we want to be loved.

Hell’s non-existence requires rethinking the afterlife for all.  

Hell’s supposed existence is why many insist one must believe in Jesus to avoid such a destination. It turns out Jesus or the Bible says nothing about the traditional understanding of Hell. Paul, who wrote the majority of the New Testament, never once warned this dire fate. Why did Noah or the OT say nothing about tragic consequences for evil? Jesus used the Greek word Gehenna that was translated into the word Hell in some of our Bibles. Gehenna was the name of a real valley near Jerusalem used by Jesus to illustrate kinds of lives here on earth that lead to hellish living, not what happens to people in the afterlife.

Why would a loving God torture anyone forever since such pain serves no lasting purpose? Besides, delayed torture is still torture. Humans wouldn’t even create a place like Hell for their worst enemies! Such a place may be only imagined because of one’s interpretation of a Book. God can’t be a hellish, sadistic, torturer. The word hell is a substitution not translation for certain Hebrew and Greek words and seems invented over the centuries to scare people into obedience.

We must avoid all appearances that a good God is like a terrorist or extremist.  

Terrorists believe you must be of a certain religion or be killed. If our Creator believed this way, why haven’t they controlled evil here on earth by dashing to pieces those who don’t accept God’s ways. A loving God knows true love and lasting convictions are obtained when chosen freely than forced. An infallible Book would not be so dangerous if extremists acknowledged literature is subject to interpretation, thus their interpretation cannot be proclaimed as “certainty” in God’s name. We must allow personal views to be challenged without declaring “The Bible says…”  No human or spiritual parent brings children into the world requiring that one’s eternal destination is based on circumstances out of one’s control.  It is true bad and good religion must be distinguished, but the Bible mustn’t be used to claim all must convert to Christianity to be accepted by God.

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Christianity can mean a couple different things and it depends on what meaning we are using as to how I feel about it.

If, when talking about being a Christian, we mean we are following Christ, acting like Christ and living like Christ, I am all for being called a Christian.

Religions

Usually these days the word Christian means more about the religion of Christianity. Just like Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Baha’i, Shinto, Taoism and a host of others, Christianity is a religion controlled by men. It is divided up into many various denominations, doctrines and biblical interpretations. Contrary to popular belief Jesus did not start the Christian religion.

Here in the United States we are so proud to say that America is a Christian nation. Unfortunately, I have to disagree with that idea. America is a country made up of many religions and beliefs. The good thing in this country is that we are not forced to be a part of any religion or belief. We have many freedoms that are not found in other places and I am thankful for that fact. We are free to choose what we want to believe, who we want to follow and we have the right to express that without fear of punishment.

Following Christ is not about a religion. I actually think it is better sometimes not to use the word Christian because of all the religious thoughts and ideas it brings up. Religion is a man-made, organized system that divides more than anything. We separate into groups that meet in buildings on set days and at set times saying we welcome anyone, yet only want those who feel the same way we do.

It bothers me to see so many who profess to be Christians, those who believe in God and Jesus and spreading His love to others, who argue and fight with those who think differently. We are supposed to be known for our love for others and love for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Still, it seems a lot of Christians are more interested in defending their personal views and thoughts, getting mad and arguing amongst themselves while those outside the faith are looking at them and wondering why they need to have Christ in their lives.

Now, talking about Christianity in the sense that we are following Christ, living like Him and treating others like Jesus treated people, this is an entirely different thing. As mentioned in Acts 11:26, the disciples were first called Christians by the people of Antioch because they saw the disciples acting so much like Christ. To me, this is the true meaning of a Christian.

BeLikeJesus

True Christianity is a community of people who act like Christ and let him love through them. It is a daily life and is not separated into normal living and religious living. It is not specifically following set doctrines or following rules of do’s and don’ts. It is not meeting in a building once a week listening to one person talk, singing a few songs, shaking hands and going home. It is not a system of leaders who are on a higher level than others. Those who have gifts of leadership lead by example, lead as equals, and lead by a servant spirit to encourage and build up their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. They are not to lead by power or a position of authority.

True Christianity is a daily life following the leading of the Spirit. It is meeting with those we come in contact with along our daily routine and showing the love of Christ. It is eating together, laughing and crying together, accepting one another, talking and discussing our thoughts and views.

As followers of Christ, we are to love others, accept others, and treat others with compassion, respect and love. We do not have to agree with everyone, just accept them. We can agree to disagree and love people just as they are. Everyone does not have to be just like us and they do not have to believe like us. They should be able to be themselves and we as Christ followers should be OK with it.

It is time to stop being a Christian in the sense of religion and focus on Jesus and let Him live through us. After all, we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit, we have the mind of Christ, God lives within us. There is no reason why we cannot love and accept others just like Christ loves and accepts everyone.

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In a day when many feel it is the job of the Christian to point out the sins and mistakes of others, I personally do not see Jesus being that way.

Pointoutsins

Jesus associated with all kinds of people and he showed love toward them. He was genuinely interested in them and accepted them. That does not mean he always agreed with them, but he accepted them as they were. He treated them with love and respect.

Acceptance does not necessarily mean we agree or condone the actions of another, it just means we are kind, respectful and show the love of God to them. We obviously are not all going to agree on things, yet we should be able to treat one another with kindness.

Many say we have to point out the sins of others and warn them of impending doom or we are not fulfilling our obligation as a Christian. Yet I feel that we are told the Spirit will convict people of changes that should be made. The Spirit will draw people to the Father. We are not called to do the work of the Spirit, we are called to show the love of the Father to all people.

My opinion is that showing love and acceptance to people is more in line with the way Jesus treated others. He did not condemn, he did not hate, he did not associate only for ulterior motives of getting people to join him. In fact, the only people Jesus seemed to have issues with were the religious leaders who thought they were so much holier than others. They were mad at Jesus for associating with people they determined were the sinners and lower class of the day.

For me, rather than point out sins, rather than show condemnation and many times down right hatred towards people, I would rather do what Jesus tells us to do. Love God will all your heart, soul, strength and mind and love your neighbor (all people) as yourself.

LoveGodLoveOthers1A

Love and acceptance does not mean we agree on everything. We love through the power of the Holy Spirit within us. Love and genuine friendship will draw people into conversations and respect for one another, thus providing an atmosphere where we can all learn from one another and respect one another.

Unfortunately, one of the major issues many christians seem to have is in regard to LGBTQ issues. I am not sure why, but people who consider this to be a sin jump on this issue more than anything.

To me, I like to follow this way of thinking. Whether you are LGBTQ affirming or not, there is no reason to treat people with hate and contempt. Whatever you think about LGBTQ, right or wrong, affirming or non-affirming, be respectful, kind and show the love of God to all people.

We are all made in the image of God. We all have our interpretations and opinions. We each have to follow what we feel is right for us, but we do not have to force our views on others.

Accept each other for who we are and follow your convictions for yourself. There is no reason to be hateful toward anyone. We are all loved by God just the way we are now. If there is anything that needs to be corrected or changed in us, the Spirit will gently persuade us in the way we should go. It is not up to people to do the work of the Spirit.

Love and accept others. This means LGBTQ, atheist, people from different religions, races and nationalities. You do not have to agree with them. Show them love. Love makes more of an impact on people than does hatred, condemnation and forcing personal views on them.

Remember we are not told to go force our views and beliefs on others. We are told to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves.

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In our world today unity and agreement are things that are almost unheard of happening.

There are different areas where groups of people will unit in a common cause or belief, but even then complete agreement among members is hard to attain.

Look at Christianity. Those of us who claim to be christians are divided up into thousands of groups, denominations, doctrines and beliefs. We usually find a common group within a particular church or denomination, yet complete agreement is rarely found even there.

DividedChristianity

Seems our whole world is based on division. Just look within the church not to mention other religions. Do you think christians and atheist will ever agree? How about those who believe in marriage between a man and a woman and the gay community.  What about blacks and whites, or americans and those from other countries. Will republicans and democrats ever work together?

The thing is that unity and agreement is probably not going to happen in the world as we know it. There are so many different personalities, beliefs and lifestyles for all of us to agree. Yet that does not mean that we cannot accept one another, respect one another and live together in peace even in our differences.

In a world like ours we probably will not see the acceptance and respect for one another that we should. But does that mean we stop striving for such a world? Do we just stop thinking of others and do only what is best for us? Do we really think our way is the right way and everyone else is wrong?

Especially as those who claim to follow the way of Jesus, we should be known for our love of others. Each of us has the right to follow what we feel is right and live according to our convictions. That does not mean everyone is right or wrong, but everyone should be accepted and treated respectfully whether we all agree or not.

LoveOneAnotherAsIHaveLovedYou

Jesus said to love God and love others. He did not say we all have to agree or live the same way. Jesus lived and walked among all kinds of people, many of those the religious people would not associate. Rather than look at all the labels we place upon people and groups, look at the human being and see a person that God created and loves.

If we see things differently, if we cannot agree or come into unity together, at least respect each other and treat people like you would like to be treated.

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