The Bridge to Cross

I grew up in a subculture that assumed it’s understanding of scripture passages equaled “God said it, that settles it.” I bought into that for decades. Questioning such things was not allowed and usually resulted in condemnation and ostracizing (typical cultic tools to insure conformity).BridgeToCross

When I finally had enough serious questions that I actually started asking them… AND getting satisfying answers… well, I saw “the man behind the curtain” for what he was – not a wizard at all, but just a guy who had opinions and was confused about how authoritative his opinions were.

To this day when I see people trying to make “biblical arguments” as if their understanding of a collection of scripture passages is “Truth” for all time in all cultures, I want to engage them but they are so deep into a paradigm I’ve discarded that communication on their topic is almost impossible.

You see, they have to start with so many assumptions about the nature of scripture, the validity of their understanding of it, and the quality of their implications about it. In other words, they start off by strongly assuming they are “right”. So what could have been a discussion about actual ideas becomes a serious threat to a cherished paradigm that provides safety and structure to their lives. It used to provide that for me… used to. Whether the topic is the distant future, the distant past, or sociological issues like abortion, homosexuality, feminism, etc., it is incredibly challenging to discuss it across paradigms.

I now view scripture as written by men in their times and places with their evolving understanding of God and the universe. I think it’s obvious as I scan scripture that thought patterns changed from author to author. My job is to try to understand what the authors thought and were trying to communicate to their culture, and to compare that to what we have learned since. I don’t think God was changing at all throughout scripture, I just think humankind had the wrong ideas about God (starting from a place of fear and violence rather than love and restoration). We go to the scriptures to gain insight and wisdom, whether or not we agree with each author’s perspective.

It’s my contention that the words and life of Jesus are the best example of what God is really like. So when I look at who he loves (and how), when I see who he corrects or scolds (and how)… I do not see the smug condemnation and use of fear, shame, & guilt that I have seen all my life in religious circles. That tells me a LOT. I appreciate those who try to follow his way of living, especially the outwardly religious types because they are the few who don’t give “Christianity” a bad name. These are the ones who understand the new commandment Jesus gave his followers before his death: LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

That’s the kind of person I want to be. It takes time, effort, and lots of forgiving yourself because failure is guaranteed. Lots of it. Please be patient with me, and I’ll do my best to be patient with you as we aim to exude the kind of love that restores rather than divides, that heals rather than injures, that comforts rather than terrorizes.

Love. Maybe that’s the way to communicate across paradigms. Maybe that’s the bridge. It’s the one I aim to cross at least.

Advertisements

The Mark

John Piper (a Calvinist) was mentioned in an article where he answered a parent who was concerned about what to tell his child about the topic of Hell. This child had an “extreme anxiety” about death.the-mark-of-the-beast_640_426_80_c1

Piper took the time to list “5 Great Realities” on why the fear of hell “is a golden opportunity for treating God as big and glorious and utterly real” whether you’re a “6-year-old or a 60-year-old.”

Piper went on to say, “The horror of hell is a signpost concerning the infinite worth and preciousness and beauty and goodness and justness of God. If He were small, if God were small, hell would be lukewarm. Because He’s great, scorning God is a horrible thing. What a gift for a child to grow up deeply convinced that the whole world will face judgment someday. This will give seriousness to the child’s life.”

My Response

Not only is this a serious form of emotional child abuse…

Not only will it give the child all kinds of issues that therapy perhaps can alleviate in time, but…

Since Calvinism says God chooses (elects) some in advance for “heaven” and most for “hell”, there is no benefit at all.

According to that theology, if a child is not elect, this “seriousness” is absurd because the kid will burn forever anyway according to his theology. And for the lucky kids who are chosen for “heaven”, why be so serious since they don’t have to worry about a psychotic God torturing them forever?

Full disclosure: I was a Calvinist for about 15 years. I had an epiphany one day on the way to lunch 10+ years ago where I realize that according to that theology, NOTHING ACTUALLY MATTERS.

  • If I’m elect, it doesn’t matter what I do, my election won’t be taken away.
  • If I’m not elect, it also doesn’t matter what I do, I’m totally screwed.

It’s a completely absurd theological position that turns God into a psychopathic monster who is anything but “Good”. And if any of us were to act so arbitrary here on earth, we would be rightly condemned.

If you try to act like God and people perceive it as horrible… your understanding of God is really what’s horrible.

God is good.

God is love.

God desires ALL to know the beauty of living in harmony with one another.

There are no barriers to God… the only barriers are in our minds. We are free to forgive and forget the past and move forward for the joy set before us as we do his will “on earth… just like it’s done in heaven.”

Love one another – THAT is the mark of a true believer.

Perfect Imperfection

2 Samuel 24:1 Occam
Again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go, number Israel and Judah.”

1 Chronicles 21:1
Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel.

Is God Satan? Is Satan God? These are two logical conclusions one could draw from reading these two passages in the Bible about the same event.

Scripture is filled with contradictory statements like this. For those who care about scripture, there seems to be two standard responses:

1. Those who think scripture has human origins that express the evolving thoughts of the authors over time look for historical reasons why the authors would express that. These people are not threatened by contradictions and typically have their faith and understanding strengthened as they learn the historical reasons for these contradictions.

2. Those who believe scripture has divine origins and assert there are no errors in the Bible look for ways to explain away or harmonize these apparent contradictions. These people see these apparent contradictions as threats to their perspective and aim to defend their viewpoint.

Accept or Defend – these seem to be the two basic options.

Occam’s Razor

The Franciscan Friar William of Occam is known for his theory called “Occam’s Razor”, which says if there are several possible ways something might have happened, the way which uses the fewest guesses is probably the correct one (assuming the simple explanation and complex explanation work equally well).

Here’s an example of applying Occam’s Razor: Two trees have fallen down during a windy night. Think about these two possible explanations:

1. The wind has blown them down.
2. Two meteorites have each taken one tree down and, after striking the trees, hit each other removing any trace of themselves.[13]

Even though both are possible, several other unlikely things would also need to happen for the meteorites to have knocked the trees down, for example: they would have to hit each other and not leave any marks. In addition, meteorites are fairly rare. Since this second explanation needs several assumptions to all be true, it is probably the wrong answer. Occam’s razor tells us the wind blew the trees down, because this is the simplest answer therefore probably the right one.

Accept or Defend

What if we apply Occam’s Razor to the above scripture contradiction? How would that look?

Option 1 – Accept

  • Actual humans actually wrote scripture in their times and places.
  • Realize the 2 Samuel passage was written 600 years prior at a time when the Israelites still saw their God as one of many (but the most powerful) and did not have the concept of Satan.
  • Realize the 1 Chronicles passage was written 600 years later after the Jews had become more firmly monotheistic and borrowed the pagan foil of Satan as the excuse for people being tempted.
  • Conclude that there is no contradiction, just two presentations of the story based on differing cultural norms across 600 years.

Option 2 – Defend

  • Start with assuming scripture is of Divine origin based on… scripture (circular reasoning and a huge presupposition)
  • Create a definition for “inspiration” that is unlike any other time “inspiration” is used elsewhere in history
  • Create a series of ideas based on that definition of “inspiration” that implies God dictated (in some capacity) all of scriptue through humans.
  • Assume that every time scripture mentions “the word of God” that it means all of scripture (even the scripture that hadn’t yet been written).
  • Assert that scripture has no errors based on other Bible verses that mention “the word of God” as being “perfect” without regard to definitions of “word of God” and “perfect”.
  • Force a scenario to explain away the contradiction based on the presupposition that there can be no contradictions since “the word of God” is “perfect”.

Are both of these “possible” explanations? Sure.

Do both of these explanations work equally well? Based on the numerous presuppositions, re-definitions, and vested interest of Option 2, I would say absolutely not. Option 2 has many more moving parts, defies history, defies linguistics, and includes logical fallacies in its approach.

People who support Option 2 often say that if Option 1 is correct (that scripture is of human origin), then it’s totally useless and not worth studying. And from their vested interest standpoint, it probably seems that way.

But for Option 1 people, scripture is more sensible, reasonable, and functions as ancient, diverse, and often ambiguous “wisdom literature” that requires our interaction, careful consideration, and the freedom to apply it as we see fit rather than having such applications determined and controlled by whatever “religious authorities” oversee their tradition.

A word from the Word

Jesus said “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” He’s not referring to the Bible, which only existed at that time as the 39 books of the Hebrew scriptures.

Jesus promised that when he was gone, the Holy Spirit (not the Bible) would guide his followers into all truth.

Jesus is referred to as The Word of God in scripture. He used that authority to reframe, restate, and at times subvert texts from the Hebrew scriptures to make his point. He misquoted passages of scripture (as did the apostle Paul) in his teachings.

Jesus said “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” The example of his life clarifies what God is really like, regardless how God is described in the Hebrew scriptures.

When scripture is read with presuppositions overlaid like rose-colored glasses, of course everything will appear rosy. All the real colors will be thrown off and obscured. I used to see it that way. But now I prefer to approach the sacred writings without the presuppositions, appreciating it’s perfect imperfection.

This is how far…

Once upon a time there was a young man of suspicious background who had an idea…

utopia

He proposed a way to repair the heartache and injustice in the world, a way that would set things right, restore relationships, help the marginalized, rouse the satisfied, strengthen the weak and humble the proud. It made sense… but it was costly for most to actually do it, to actually be that honest and open and compassionate. He decided to show them exactly how far they might have to go and what the cost might really be…

He started with the religious leaders who seemed hyper-focused on guilt, shame, and fear of their “god” and his rules. He said they were missing the point, that all the negativity they zeroed in on only led to more and more negativity and turmoil. He tried to show them the benefits of his way, even helping people who were desperate and in need. This only further angered the powerful religious people, some of whom were quite wealthy. They decided to get the government involved to stop this young man.

The government was happy to let the police beat this young man badly, hoping he would just shut up and go away. But he didn’t – he spoke truths to the governor that were unsettling. They threw him in jail while the governor considered what to do…

Meanwhile the religious leaders gathered a crowd together to demand this young man be punished. They screamed and protested outside the governor’s mansion until the governor finally relented and agreed that they’d had enough of this young man and his idealism. They scheduled his execution for later that day.

The young man didn’t protest. He didn’t plead for his life. He didn’t try to escape, fight back, or anything of the kind. He was saying, “This is how far love will go to help those who need it.” This is how far…

A month and a half later, his students were still hiding out, confused and lacking motivation to move forward. And then it finally hit them – something crystallized in their minds and hearts and they GOT IT. It was right around a national holiday where thousands came to their town to celebrate – the perfect time to keep the message of the young man alive. So they got on their soap boxes and started proclaiming the same ideals the young man had proclaimed… and people in the crowd started to get it, too.

Some of the out-of-towners decided to stick around for a while and learn more about this. Those who ran out of money were taken care of. Those who needed food were fed. Those who were sick received the help they needed. It was an amazing and thrilling time!

Unfortunately, as these things go, people lost the vision. They traded the ideals for peace with the government. They turned the ideals into just another religion, one that would ultimately oppress and shame those who still held to the ideals and practiced them. Sometimes the religious leaders would even invoke and involve the government to help them manage these who remained idealists… but the idealists didn’t care, because they remembered the actions of the young man many years ago that said, “This is how far love will go to help those who need it.” This is how far…

And so the cycle continues.

Love Wins… Really.

A little something I put on my personal blog back in 2013. I think it makes sense to include it here, too.

bob.sky.young

Consider the following excerpts from the Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln:

“We have come to dedicate a portion of that field… It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. The brave men…who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.


If one were to use this text for the opening voice-over of a future NFL Super Bowl at a brand new stadium in some US city, it might appear to make sense…but it would obviously have nothing at all all to do with the purpose of the speech and how the audience at Gettysburg experienced and understood it back in the mid-1800’s. Some would go so far as to say it was a travesty to dare use such a sacred…

View original post 1,007 more words

No Permission Necessary

I try to NOT be that Facebook Warrior who always has to correct other people as though I alone have the truth. Sometimes, however, someone posts something that misses the point and I try to nudge them back onto the highway. If they have questions and would like to converse, I’m happy to do that, but I’m not going to get into insults and accusations and other things that don’t promote peace and harmony. 53701909_2135950376492682_8582747011474784256_n

The image to the right was posted by a friend from the Philippines in response to something another close friend of mine posted… but never said or implied. It led to a fascinating conversation that touched on many topics near and dear to my heart. I thought I’d share it with you. I left his comments unedited, but I realize that English is not his first language and I ignored errors in grammar because communication and extending grace is far more important than grammatical precision. My replies are in italics.

 

Me: Who is saying here that you can earn God’s acceptance? If that’s what you think is being said, you’re very much missing the point.

He: grace is a gift ,but it doesn’t end up there.If we are absolutely save because of grace ,then why Jesus said to Nicodemus,  John, 3:3 – Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Me: OK, let’s run with that analogy… so, what role did you play when you were born the first time? Were you even aware you were born? Could you identify right then what happened to you? The second birth is no different, friend.

He: you are wrong , there is a difference, Read the conversation in John 3. The second birth is spiritual .It is impossible to born in the flesh again

Me: I’ve read that conversation many times… I’m not suggesting the second birth is physical… I’m suggesting that you play no role in it whatsoever and aren’t even aware of when it first happened… you only realize it later. As in Adam all die, so in Christ ALL are made alive. 🙂

I know it goes against what you were taught. It goes against what I was taught among the Baptists. But it actually IS a biblical notion, there actually ARE believers throughout church history who hold this view, and in the end it gives God far more glory than the horror story that he will torture forever those who didn’t come to the right doctrinal understanding in their less than 100 year lifespan. Every knee WILL bow and every tongue WILL confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God our Father

He: are you saying faith alone is enough?

Me: I’m saying God reconciled the world to himself through Jesus. I’m saying it’s ALL of God. The difference is simply those who realize it and those who don’t yet realize it. That’s why the good news is a PROCLAMATION – we proclaim what is already true.

And according to Paul’s letter to the Romans, faith itself is a gift from God… God gives the faith… and faith is not a list of doctrines and teachings, it’s the inner certainty that inspires us to take great risks based on the character of God and God’s never-ending love for us.

He: so you are saying after we realized, our part is finish ? You dont have to do anything ?

Me: let’s again use the first birth analogy: what did you have to do once you were born? Well, you weren’t yet capable of much, so your parents fed you, changed you, clothed you, protected you, and trained you until you could do more and more and more all by yourself. Did you HAVE to do anything? No, there are plenty of people who squander their lives for lack of purpose or vision.

But once we really see the beauty of the kingdom of God (like a precious pearl or a buried treasure), we are moved from within to participate in it. Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” becomes our passion – seeing ourselves, those we know, and ultimately the entire world living out the values and principles that Jesus taught so that the world is more and more restored and more and more in harmony and shalom (peace/wholeness).

Jesus is saving/rescuing/delivering/restoring the WHOLE WORLD, and we get to be part of that! It’s an AWESOME privilege and opportunity! Do I “have” to do that? No… but I WANT to 🙂

He: so what is the important commandment to those who know the ministry of Paul .We must remember the last Apostle was Paul, he was sent by Jesus for the Gentiles .And Jesus was sent by God for, Matthew, 15:24 – But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Me: How about you answer that question? Clearly you have a particular answer in mind, but I don’t yet see how it applies to this conversation.

I will say that the most important commandment for the church, though, doesn’t come from Paul – it comes from Jesus: “Love one another”. That kind of encapsulates everything, and throws away the stuff that really doesn’t matter (like doctrinal distinctions and practices between denominations).

But let me ask you a question as well… other than the fact that my responses probably don’t match what you’ve been taught (and they didn’t match what I was taught growing up either)… do you understand how what I’m saying is faithful to scripture and to the character of God as revealed in the life of Jesus?

I mean, you don’t seem to have any actual rebuttal to what I’ve posted, so is this actually making some sense to you even though the idea might be foreign to you and that foreignness might make you uncomfortable?

He: are you sure our old being can be holy in the sight of God?

Me: you’ll need to define “old being” and “holy” for us to truly communicate about this. I’m not sure if we view these terms the same or not…

He: I think we have different view? I know you read your Bible but your answer doesn’t aligned the scripture

Me: Technically, my answers don’t align with the interpretation of scripture that you’ve been taught. My answers certainly align with scripture, but not in the way you’ve been taught to read it. We were both taught that the good news was about getting into a good afterlife in “heaven” and avoiding a bad one in “hell”. However…

If you read the good news that Jesus proclaimed, it had nothing to do with the afterlife in a “heaven” or “hell”… it was about the Kingdom of God expanding on the earth (sometimes referred to as the Kingdom of Heaven because the Jews had this thing about not saying “God” out of respect). Read Matthew, which is especially titled this way as it was written to Jews… it’s everywhere, but our teachers assumed that kingdom of heaven meant “heaven when you die”, and assumed that “eternal life” meant something that it really doesn’t in the Greek… it means “life of the ages”, or what we would call “the best way to live”.

Our teachers misled us. I think they did it mostly out of ignorance and conditioning at Bible college, not out of malice. But they certainly missed the point of what Jesus taught, and my teachers even dismissed most everything Jesus taught because they thought the only important thing Jesus did for the church was die as a sacrifice.

But did you know that is just one view of the atonement out of seven or eight views? And that this view (Penal Substitutionary Atonement) was created by men 1500 years after Jesus walked the earth? It was NOT the understanding of the early church and of those who actually walked with Jesus. This is worth you studying, because many of us have been misled by good people away from the original mission and perspective of the early church.

If this is too much for you to consider now, I understand. It took me a long time wrestling with this. But it’s a worthy wrestle, like Jacob with the angel. Blessings to you and yours!

He: I have read the Gospel of Matthew about hell and Luke about after life on earth.And the little flock of Jesus were commanded to love one another, the same in the Church of God. But i wonder why the old being according to you can be holy and perfect

That is all my friend i just want to test the spirit if you are born again

Me: I didn’t say that – I asked you to define those terms and you haven’t defined them for me yet so I don’t know if we’re communicating or not. Please define what you mean by “old being” and “holy” and “perfect” and then I’ll try my best to answer your question. So please don’t say “according to you…” when I never said anything – that’s dishonest.

And if you want to test the spirit… Jesus is Lord, not Caesar or any other king or president, to the glory of God our Father. 🙂

He: I understand what you are saying, i know you know it ,very simple born a sinner,that’s it.Im sure you knew holy and perfect. I am not born with English the tongue. Jesus is Lord but God our Father is in heaven. the God of Jesus

Me: I was born a child of God who sins… but those sins do not change my sonship, just like they didn’t change the sonship of the Prodigal son – the Father embraced him and covered his shame and threw a party without requiring ANYTHING from his son – THAT is the gospel.

Holy means “set apart for a special purpose”. It doesn’t mean without error or flaw. My relationship with my wife is “holy” compared to my relationship with other females… my relationship with my wife is special, but it isn’t perfect. Our fine china is set apart for special meals like the Thanksgiving Feast here in America… but it isn’t necessarily flawless.

And Perfect in the Greek really meant something more like “Mature”. Again, it doesn’t mean “without any error” – God knows our frame, that we are made from clay, and any time we “miss the mark” (which is the true definition of “sin”) God understands just like I understand when my kids make a mistake. And I forgive them without beating them up or torturing them in fire or crazy things like that – I just let it go – THAT is what forgiveness is.

BTW, I said “Jesus is Lord!” so you can compare it to 1 Corinthians 12:3. And if you think “Heaven” is a physical location in the universe, you haven’t yet understood what it meant to the people back in the time of Jesus with their ancient cosmology. Heaven, more often than not in scripture, is a euphemism, not a physical location.

He: you are born a child of God who sins? You are wrong, just like i said you read the bible but your word doesn’t align the scripture. First John, 3:9 – Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

Me: Commit means “continually practices” – and I don’t continually practice sin. It’s another unfortunate translation that has led people astray and thinking that God requires human perfection from us when God doesn’t. Also, when you pull just a verse like that and don’t read it for what the original author meant the original hearers to understand, you do injustice to scripture. The same author wrote this just a chapter later:

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

Did you catch that? “Everyone who loves HAS BEEN BORN of God and KNOWS God”. Did you see any conditions placed upon that? No. Just the fact that love evidences our new birth.

We’re all born once without our permission… we just realize it later. Same things goes with the second birth. 🙂

Whatever Name

When I was six years old, I was selected to recite from memory John 14:1-6 on our church’s Saturday night TV show. It was filmed at the local CBS studios and I remember looking over at the monitor constantly as I was reciting the passage and at the very end exclaiming, “Hey dad – I can see myself on TV!!!” It aired with just the “Hey dad -” part.

Like all good Baptist boys, I was taught that when Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh to the Father but by me” (yes, the King James Version), that it meant all other religions are wrong and unless you pray a particular prayer and believe a particular list of things, you’re not getting into Heaven (wherever that is) when you die (whenever that happens). It’s almost as if the implied question the disciples were asking beforehand was, “How do I personally get into Heaven when I die? Is there more than one way?”

Except that’s not what the disciples were asking.

BigBeaver

Context: they just had a Passover meal where Judas left to betray Jesus for some coin (often referred to as The Last Supper) and Jesus is telling them he’s going away (to die) and they should all love each other because that’s how people will recognize them as his followers.

Instead of saying, “Ok, sure, we’ll love each other…” they respond, “Uh… where are you going? How can we know the way to get there?” In other words, they missed the point (as we all often do).

Jesus says essentially, “Don’t worry… keep trusting God and me. I’m not lying… I’ll prepare a place in ‘My Father’s House’ and come get you so we can be reunited.”

You can probably see how people would take that “My Father’s House” as “Heaven” and the reuniting happening after we all die. However…

Jesus used a lot of euphemisms… the people he taught did the same. Out of respect for even the word “God”, they would use the vague term “Heaven”. Jesus talked about the kind of society that could restore the world as the Kingdom of God, Kingdom of Heaven, Life to the full, and even Life of the Ages (eternal life is an unfortunate translation of that and has led people to wrong conclusions).

The phrase My Father’s House could also be rendered the Household of God or the Family of God and are likely just other ways of saying the same thing. It’s a place where things are done the way God wants them done (with love, mercy, grace, kindness, etc), and it’s the very thing Jesus taught his followers to pray for: “May your will be done on Earth (just like it’s done in your presence [using the euphemism Heaven])”.

His follower Thomas didn’t get it and responds, “We don’t know where you’re going? How can we know the way?” He wasn’t asking “Will people who have never heard of you go to Heaven when they die?” It’s obvious he’s not. He’s really only thinking of himself and his fear of moving forward without Jesus being the leader.

Brian McLaren writes of this, “Stretch your imagination and put yourself in the disciples’ situation. Jesus just told you he is going away and you can’t come with him. Then he says you know how to get where he is going. You don’t understand what he’s talking about. You have no idea where he is going, so how can you know the way to get there? Maybe you assume that since he’s going, you need detailed information on how to meet up with him later on. So you want the missing information so you can get yourself to wherever it is you’re supposed to go. But he tells you to trust him, because he will work everything out. He’ll get you to where you need to be. What a far cry from asking about the eternal destiny of people from other religions or periods in history who had no access to belief in Jesus!”

And so the disciples all responded, “Ah! NOW we get it!”

Nope.

Philip, still confused by all of this, says, “Just show us the Father and we’ll be OK.” In other words, you keep talking about this “Father” whom we’ve never seen, and now you say you’re going to see him and someday we’ll get to as well… well, just SHOW us this Father.” He may even have felt like he was calling Jesus’ bluff.

Jesus responds, “If you want to know what the Father is like… LOOK AT ME. Look at how I live and, what I’ve done… look at my character that you’ve seen for several years now…”

And what was Jesus like for those years the disciples walked with him? Was he exclusionary, showing favoritism, condemnation, elitism? No, quite the opposite – he was known for his compassion, healing, acceptance, forgiveness, inclusion, and love the entire time.

So why would anyone think that Jesus would all of a sudden basically say, “Forget all of that crap, now I want you to believe God will reject everyone except those who share your doctrinal viewpoints about me; the rest can just burn and burn forever.” Sorry, but that just does not compute… any teaching built on that kind of schizophrenia, that kind of going against his own character and teachings… it’s just wrong.

A theme woven throughout this entire scene – including the previous and following chapters (13-17) – is the use of the word “know”. It’s all over the place, and it’s referring to that intimate kind of “knowing” a person, not just “knowing about” that person. If you have the time and desire, check it out.

Nobody was asking about people from other religions.

Nobody was asking about going to heaven when they die.

Words often get in the way of reality. Anyone who lives a life of love, sacrifice, humility, mercy, kindness, etc. IS following the way of Jesus. They may put other names on it (like how the same road here in the Detroit area can be called Quarton, Big Beaver, Metropolitan Highway, and still be thought of as “16 Mile”).

I don’t care what name you put on it… if you’re DOING what Jesus taught – whether or not you are aware he taught it – you’re following the way he presented to restore shalom (peace/harmony/wholeness) to this planet. And in that, I rejoice. I would far rather hang with a generous and compassionate Muslim than some angry condemning jerk who claims to be a “Christian” when that person’s actions are nothing at all like Jesus and give Jesus a bad name. I stand by that.

I know amazing Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Atheists who make the world a better place by how they live. And I know far too many Christians who continue to screw it all up with their bitterness, selfishness, and lack of concern for the planet and for future generations… mainly because of crazy things about the future they’ve been taught that were invented in the last 200 years and that would give the early church fathers fits.

Nobody in that time was asking “How do I get to Heaven when I die?” Nobody thought of the word “salvation” as being about them staying out of Hell. Rather, they hoped for a hero – a “Messiah” – to save (rescue, deliver, heal, restore) their nation from the Roman Empire who had them under its thumb. Reading the scriptures without these historical facts in mind will lead you to conclusions and actions unworthy of Jesus.

Again, it’s not what you “know about”, it’s who you “know”, intimately so. Someone you can actually trust, someone who’s been there and felt the abuse of the system for speaking truth to power. Someone who loved so deeply that he changed lives and got killed for it. Follow THAT way… because it’s the truth, and it’s the only place where real life is found… whatever name you put on it.