The Litmus Test

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to believe…

Different sources with different views (and sometimes vested interests) can tell a completely different story about a person. Pick your any famous person and think about the different ways they are portrayed…litmustest

Now think about the way God has been portrayed. Depending on your sources, you’ll see very different depictions. Even the Bible has many different voices saying different things about God, some quite inconsistent and even contradictory.

Some simply ignore the different voices or try to “harmonize” them to make sense of them, but their arguments for me all fall flat.

Some use the different voices as a way of dismissing the entire subject, suggesting that the entire thing is a lie and even if it were true, such a God wouldn’t be worthy of worship. I get that.

If only there were some kind of litmus test to know whether or not what is expressed about God (assuming God exists) were actually true… for me, that’s where Jesus comes in. He’s the “Rosetta Stone”, the “Secret Decoder Ring”, he’s the litmus test that indicates whether an expression about God is true or not.

For some people that’s a bridge too far to cross; for others it evokes curiosity to see if these things are so. It certainly would be nice to be able to get some clarity on such a universal subject who is portrayed as…

– loving and kind to all
– a sociopath who goes too far with fiery vengeance
– endlessly forgiving and accepting
– harsh, judgmental, excited about destroying evil people
– aloof, distant, unconcerned
– one who capriciously chooses only a few to bless and rescue
– (add your own depictions here)

Here’s a test you can try yourself:

If Jesus wouldn’t do it or say it, it’s not really true about God.

For those who require a scripture verse before they’ll consider anything, try “He who has seen me has seen the Father” and “I only do what the Father does”.

So if Jesus would rather be executed for speaking truth to power and pray “Father, forgive them – they don’t get it”, it’s clear he’s not looking to scapegoat anyone (like the priests, politicians, and mob were doing). He’s not looking to kick ass and take names. He’s willing to show that this is how far love actually goes – self-sacrifice, even when it’s your own kin saying evil about you, wanting you tortured, and even dead. THAT is the truth about God (at least from the Jesus litmus test perspective).

A number of months earlier he and his disciples were walking through a rough territory and the townsfolk refused to let them stay (technically it was a racial thing going on). Two disciples wanted Jesus to call down lightning to destroy the town; Jesus rolled his eyes and said they should just walk to the next town. THAT is the truth about God (from the Jesus perspective).

In fact, you can go through the entire Bible and every time you see violence and scapegoating and judgment and vengeance… those are voices of authors who bought into an inaccurate perspective about God. That’s why the Old Testament can seem so schizophrenic at times, because it isn’t a single voice, it’s MANY… and they don’t all agree.

Consider the two creation stories (Genesis 1 vs Genesis 2-3). Very different depictions of God. In the first story it is all good and harmonious. In the second story we see the introduction of judgment, violence, sacrifice, which is then followed by more stories of victims and violence and revenge (Cain & Abel, Lamech, Noah, etc). Hate and violence can only get worse and worse. Even if one of these stories says that God told them to kill… that doesn’t line up with the “Jesus Test” so you’re better off assuming that it’s the author’s view, not necessarily the truth about God.

And how does Genesis end? With Joseph… the despised family member who was abused, sold into slavery, falsely accused, imprisoned, yet in the end he forgives his brothers and saves the entire region. Who does that look like? How well does that compare to the “Jesus Test”?

This is why people throwing around Bible verses to judge and condemn you and doing the world a disservice. They are basically proclaiming fake news about God that doesn’t match the “Jesus Test”.

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