Maybe I need some Helpful Understanding?
It seems to me that after deciding on becoming a follower of Jesus, one then enters a relationship with God Himself. This effectively changes the way that we are. This, I understand, is done by changing our minds by changing the way we think, which will in turn change our actions.
So; we should become the kind of people who love our enemies, do good to those who would seek to harm us, treat others as more important than ourselves, recognise that all humans are made in the image of God and therefore need to be respected and highly regarded. I would then expect us (that is-all Jesus followers) to be generous, to see neither male nor female, bond nor free, this nationality or that – in fact caring for one another however possible
So; I am not sure how to express my disappointment, and lack of understanding on several fronts. Recently, reading an American article, (and I don’t think what I am about to say only reflects only on the USA- it just happened to be an American writer whose article I was reading) the writer noted that in the restaurant industry in the USA it was difficult to get staff to do the Sunday shift. They surveyed widely to try and understand why this was so. Waiting staff are apparently not that well paid in America, and therefore tips become a very important part of staff income.
It appeared, after the results of the survey had been assessed, that staff did not like the Sunday shift as they said, that, “Sunday is the day that all the church people come in to eat – and they are the meanest and least generous of our customers”. Why is it like that?
Friends of mine, both in the journalistic as well as the political world, tell me that the most vitriolic letters and communications, the ones that are “the most condemning” and, in their words, “the most unkind” of all the correspondence they receive (and this is both in the USA and in the UK) comes from people who express in their letters, that they are Christians. Again why is this so?
I know it has always been a “secret evil” in society, but again; why is it that we keep seeing the misuse of children and the abuse of people of the opposite sex from selfish desires, so often by Christians who express themselves as leaders in the church or in church organisations. Why?
Have these people really met God? Do they really understand what it is to have been changed by their relationship with God? Or are they just “label” people? Are they hiding under the epithet “Christian” as a word that may seem to be a useful label to stick on their activities to cloak their dark activities?
Recently, I have stopped responding when people ask me, “Are you a Christian?”I wonder what that means. Usually my response is, “I am a follower of Jesus, and I want that to be more than just a label. I want it to be demonstrated in living lifestyle and action.”
Jesus said to his early followers; “This is how people will know that you are my disciples, in that you have love one for another”.
I reckon that is not just love for other disciples. I think it should be possible to demonstrate that in the wider world with all races, colours and creeds. To people who are created in the image of “the God who is there.”
What is it that I have not understood?
Never take notice of what people are saying until they have said, “BUT!” The “but” can change everything.
I liked the article that Benjamin Sledge wrote on “The Irrelevance of Christianity”. I even wish I had written it. I agree that we Jesus Followers should not be imposing our laws and values on others. We belong to another kingdom, and hold passports of another country. So we observe the laws, values and culture of that regime as top priority. BUT, Jesus did say he was putting us into THIS world and not taking us out of it. So we are here! I need to engage with this world and not put myself in a corner and become part of some ghetto.
That means to engage with the politics, the voting, the speaking and – if possible – pulling down handfuls of Kingdom into this time space world and persuading people to take on board Kingdom Values. Why? Because it’s good for all of us, both the followers of Jesus and everyone else on the planet.
So, I believe in a God of Love. He is one that loves all of humanity. This means that the laws of the Kingdom of God, the values of the Kingdom of God, The Morals of the Kingdom of God, must be for our good. It must be for our benefit. By that I mean the benefit of all humanity not just those who have discovered a relationship with the God who is there.
Logically then, if I know this God of love and His values, and understand that His way is the best way to live, of course, I will want to share His love and these values, not out of a sense of superiority, or one of condemning my fellow human beings, but because I want the best for the lives’ of others as well as my own. After all God does not make the sun to shine just on His followers, we all benefit from His goodness.
Now! That does not mean that, as Benjamin Sledge says, I hammer you with a book that you never read (i.e. The Bible). Looking at the history of Paul he did not do that. Of course, in His day he did not have the New Testament part of the Bible, he was still writing most of it.
What Paul did is very interesting. He wants good things for people. He wants people to get related to Jesus, the “risen from the dead” One. But he does not start there. In other words, what we might say is, he does not quote Bible to them, but rather he starts where people are. We should not – really – do anything else. So he starts on Mars Hill in Athens with that rather strange phrase, “Oh! I see you have an altar to the unknown God.” I know the unknown God. Let me introduce you to Him.
Paul does not quote the Bible to them. No! Not even the Old Testament Bible. Rather, he quotes their own poets and draws them from there to a better value system, a better way, a knowing of the unknown God.
It would have been quite difficult for Paul to get involved in the politics of Rome. It wasn’t a democracy. Although he gently tried at one point of time when he says in one of his trials before King Agrippa; “I know I am chained up, but what I have is still the best. Apart from these chains, I would want you all to have what I have got”.
Sure, people thought he was mad, but maybe what he had was so good that he wanted others to have that kind of life quality.
We live in a democracy. I am a follower of Jesus. I know that the value system that He gives, when applied gives a better life. Not always easy. Not always nice. Not always happy, but with a source of Joy and purpose. I guess I want to share that.
Surely I know that Morals can come from other sources. The Atheists are always telling me that. But what sort of morals? What sort of values? Are they the values of generosity? Of loving your enemies? Of doing good to those who are bad to you?
Lots would like me to be quiet and to keep my values to myself. But I care too much for the well-being of others to do that.
Bit of My Theology
It gives me some food for thought when people say ‘Its God will’ and everything that happens is ‘Gods Will’. I am not so sure. If that was the case, why does Jesus tell us to ask God that ‘His will be done’ if it’s going to be done anyway, seems a sort of waste of time.
Rather it seems to me that God will is affected by my free will. Can God change his mind, yes of course he can and there are lots of examples in the Bible of this. Can I go against what God wants or wills, most certainly, not a good Idea but it certainly can be done.
Does God change his Plans dependant on my pleas and of course the pleas of others. Yes of course He can and does. Does God give us sometime the things we ask for even though they are not good for us, yes certainly especially if you nag Him enough. Again not a good idea, but certainly it happens and it’s not good. For those who need Bible, to back up my theology, just check (2 Kings 20 or 1 Kings 11)
I think it’s very humbling that God will ask my opinion and he can change things according to my requests.
The thing we do have to note here, is that God does promise to make things ‘work for Good to those who love him and are called according to his purposes,’ even though the thing that maybe has happened was not His will, nevertheless He will make it good for some.
So how do we know that it was an answered prayer? That’s a hard one, especially when there are lots of people praying for opposite things. However it is much easier on the smaller scale, when one asks God for those things that are seemingly strange, out of reach, or just plain impossible, and He answers prayer. Many who do not believe in prayer put it down to ‘coincidences’ my delight is that when I pray I get a coincidence.
Seems like answered prayer to me. Check out just one of those answers:(http://adrianhawkes.co.uk/index.php/2013/08/the-answer-my-friend-is-blowing-in-the-wind.html)
So are these latest political events answers to prayer, I don’t know, am I allowed to say, I don’t know? Maybe they are, then again maybe they are not, or maybe I hope not, they are one of those Quail events we shall see.
Then of course we come back to those coincidences that I have harked on about many times on my Blog.
It seems to me that it’s possible to get a coincidence by praying, maybe that’s answered Prayer? Of course for those who cannot envisage a God who is personally interested in us, and will actually communicate two ways with us then all of the prayers, answered or otherwise are just part of the accident of nature?
There seems to me to be some great planning going on somewhere.
Edited: Keith Lannon
Sitting down inside
Funny to see recently on Face Book the fact that Richard Dawkins is wondering if we need Christianity as it is not blowing people up, or saying that those that do not believe should be killed. Maybe he needs to take an even deeper look.
What really puzzles me Is why people think that a forced acceptance of something, means that I or anyone else has really accepted that premise, belief, thought. What a silly idea.
It also puzzles me that people think that if you are not allowed to speak something different to their point of view, their perspective then that is fine, they must be right, again what nonsense.
Yet this is our world, people have views that I don’t agree with, lifestyles that I think are wrong, attitudes that I think that if followed by lots of people will lead to their destruction and sometime the destruction of lots of others too, however I am not allowed to say opposite to what is the P.C. position, my view must not be heard? Now does that mean that the argument, position, life style of the others is so wrong that they cannot bear to hear anything opposite to what they have chosen right or wrong?
I joined a political party once, just to go along to the meetings and understand how they thought and how it worked. I tried to sit at the back and keep quite. One day they announced that they had made a terrible mistake, they had invited someone to speak to the meeting, and discovered he was a member of another party. They said obviously they could not listen to him. I being very naïve asked a question, this was my question, “Why are you afraid to listen to another point of view or perspective, is our own position, argument, perspective, so weak that we cannot possible listen to someone we might disagree with and disagreeing with him come to understand our position, thoughts are after all are better? He is not from our party was the answer! “yes but does that mean we cannot hear what he has to say”? The answer again, “you don’t understand, he is not a member of our party and so he will say what we don’t agree with so we can’t hear that”? I gave up!
So we live in a world where people are being killed because they disagree, don’t believe what you believe cannot possible hear even a view that is different from the party line. So this year in Brunei, Somalia, Tajikistan all banned Christmas celebrations as it might damage the thinking of the rest of the population apparently it was because of fear that people would be led astray. I wonder how weak the thinking of those people is?
I remember one of those stories, apparently a little boy was would not sit down at the meal table, he was only small and insisted on standing to eat, I think his opinion was that the food went down better that way. His Father got really upset and kept trying to make him sit down remonstrating with him with many words. The little boy refused, in the end the Father got fed up with discussion and arguments, and putting his hand on the little boys head pushed the little boy down until he was sitting. The little boy looked at his Father and recognised that he definitely was stronger than him, but then he said, “Dad, I know that you have got me sitting down at this table, but I want you to know I am actually standing up inside!
There is a lot of us around that are actually standing up inside!
You in your small corner and I in Mine
When I was around 5 years old, I went to Sunday school. I liked the people, I liked the other kids, but what I remember most is one song that they always sang. I guess I sang it too as I can still remember all the words; maybe you know it too. It starts off with, “Jesus Bids Us Shine” and ends with the line, “you in your small corner and I in Mine.” I hated that line; I still don’t like it now. I don’t think I liked corners and particularly not small ones; I certainly did not want to be in one.
When I was 11 years old I made my first trip, as the Brits say, “overseas”. I went to France with my school for a week. We travelled third class, as you could in those days, on a ferry across the channel to St Malo. Third class meant that you could not go inside the ferry; you had to stay on deck come rain or shine. They did give you a blanket and you could snuggle up to the funnel to keep warm.
Fences on Cliff Tops
Often times when we make new laws or change old ones, we are not thinking of the consequences unseen up the road. We would do well to do so; even when those decisions or laws are made with the best intentions in mind.
Early on in the UK, a law was brought in to make tenancy of rented housing more secure. The good reason for it was that some people were being put out of their rented house for very little good reason. However, the unforeseen consequences were that for a period it actually created homelessness. People were reluctant to give others a room in their house if they thought they would turn out to be a bad tenant. That of course was not the intention, but that was what happened.
I wonder, as I look at recent changes in legislation in the USA and the UK, if we are heading for unforeseen circumstances that we will not like. Of course, from a legislation point of view it may have been done for good reasons like equality and freedom, but are we really sure of the outcomes?
I don’t know, but I do wonder what our new freedom so called, our new equality so called, the removal of fences if you will; I wonder what they will bring up the road. I wonder if they will have good or bad effects on our society.
A few of my friends have commented on this subject of late, which has set me thinking. Every so often we have this flash of how progressive we are today, how clever we have become and how sorry we feel for those older or past that did not have our knowledge and so progress, and oh how civilised we have become.
I think that was the sort of zeitgeist around 1913 particularly in Europe and then of course came World War One 1914 – 1918 with all the civilised countries of Europe and then the world trying their best to annihilate each other.
Then of course the talk was that this was the war to end all wars, we would then become civilised. The progress of the humans could continue, we know so much better than those throughout history our forefathers and the like. The dream was of course shattered by World War 2 1939 to 1945 with its mayhem and destruction and inhumanity to mankind by very ‘civilised progressive humans’.
It doesn’t take long for things to settle down, and I would guess that there was positivity in the 50s and certainly, there was ‘peace and love man’ in the 60’s and we are back were we started, the accident of the universe allows us to get better and better, we after all know so much more than those who went before. Yes we have access to information at the touch of a button, we can get it on the internet, not that we always remember what we learnt or even had the wisdom to use what we know, but surely we are getting so much better, so much more civilised? Perhaps we should not mention the Stalin regime, or Pol Pot or maybe Iraq, Syria, Rwanda, Kosovo, Bosnia Herzegovinian, do I need to say more?
As I think about the propensity to think that we are so much cleverer, wiser, knowledgeable than those who have gone before us, they didn’t know much did they, very superstitious, often using God to explain those things that they did not understand, at least that is what some would have us think. I am reminded, as I think about this ‘clever us now’, of an argument or was it a discussion between C. S Lewis that he relates in one of his essays. The question is put that how silly it would be to imagine that if there is a God he would be interested in this tiny place Earth, of course the argument goes, in history they looked up and saw the sky and they did not know how large it was therefore it could seem that the Earth was the centre of the universe, now of course we know better. I imagine Lewis pulling a book off the shelf and reading as follows, and perhaps saying “is this the sort of thing you mean?” and reading from the book he has pulled “in relation to the distance of the fixed stars Earth must be treated as a mathematical point without magnitude” “is that what you mean?” I am sure the protagonist would reply “yes, that’s just what I meant, that’s what we now know”. Then Lewis checking, as if he needed to, saying “Oh this is from Almagest, Book one Chapter five and it was written by Ptolemy 2,000 years ago, so they obviously knew that then!”
I can hear the protagonist saying, “Well what about the nonsense of the virgin birth then? We certainly know how children are produced, and maybe Joseph didn’t understand”. “That would be strange,” Lewis may have replied, “for then I wonder why if Joseph did not know the normal course of pregnancy he would record that on discovering his wife’s condition he was ‘minded to put her away’ Mathew chapter 1 verse 19.
We really must stop thinking that those ancient people did not have knowledge were stupidly ignorant of normal processes of life and therefore were duped by what the Bible would list as miracles.
So are we really progressive humans, infinitely more knowledgeable, wiser and definatly more civilised?
Edited By: Gena Areola