Friday, June 25, 2010
How far should a Christian go to build bridges with non-believers, or even with those who believe differently about Christ than we might? Are we casting our pearls before swine, or offering that which is holy to dogs? Are we not to be standard bearers for our King to weed out the tares from the wheat? Where does compromise with the world become acceptable within our faith and where does following Christ even to our deaths enter in? Some in the Christian Community want to live and let live; others seem bent on enforcing their own views of the gospel. Can either be correct if Christ is truly leading?
This is the quintessential question that every Christian must wrestle with and find an answer to … once I know the truth, should I not warn others about what I know? Every instinct of our being screams yes – we must shout it from the mountain tops, proclaim it in the streets, and in so doing “the truth will makes us free”. But before the yelling commences, it may be worth a quick examination. Let’s call it prep work. First, before we set about to proclaim our “truth” it would be a good idea to substantiate where our idea of truth came from. Was this a personal revelation, somehow divinely inspired only between you and God? It may have been. I find God talks to me through music, lyrics, the council of my elders, my parent’s advice, my children’s advice, my pastor, and even through nature. God is speaking to us much more often than we are generally tuned in to listen.
If this new discovery of truth came from a highly personal revelation between God and you it might be a good idea to take it to the body for further evaluation. Having other members / believers of like mind examine a new truth may help mold it a bit, add character to it, enrich it, and make it deeper than you first imagined. And if perhaps your revelation may have been in error (well-meaning Christians sometimes misinterpret what God desires by accident, it does happen), then you have safety check in place before the proclamation starts.
If your idea of truth comes from a long line of tradition, perhaps the accepted doctrines of your particular church, I would submit it needs even more review than a personal miraculous revelation from God to you. Let’s face it, we often take for granted what our church says on a topic with little to no real personal study to validate these truths. We assume other “great” Christian minds have already done the study and we can rely on “their” findings. Thus people adopt entire value systems with little to no personal study designed to validate, enrich, or mature the basic truths they inherit from church traditions and teachings. This is sad. And logic dictates that there are too many Christian churches with a wide variety of teachings for ALL of them to be right based simply on history. While it may seem like a “waste of time” to restudy that which we have traditionally assumed to be correct – the truth is, study of scriptures is NEVER a waste of time.
Before reviewing any proposed truth, whether new or old, one must be willing to be wrong. This is the hardest concept for Christians to accept. They become so sure of themselves, that it becomes nearly impossible to be wrong and coincidentally nearly impossible to teach anything new to. One of the least effective witnesses in the world is one who is so convinced they are right, that there could be no room for error, no margins for mistakes. The mind locks up tight as a drum, and all the logic, counter arguments, common sense, and unfortunately Holy Spirit’s guidance does NO good at all. A cemented mind is one that cannot admit error even in the slightest, and is therefore un-teachable and un-reachable. Our humility must overtake our certainty in order for us to be led by God and His guiding Spirit. We are not ready to lead, if we are not ready to follow.
Next we need to take a minute and focus on the timing of a revelation of truth to us. Chances are, when Christ is truly leading, we are being led to His truth, in His time, in His manner. This is a critical part of the growth process for us as Christians, and as individuals in the faith. But remember how HIGHLY personal this is. My earlier analogy of the truth about tithing makes a good example of this. The truth about the process, benefits, and reasons behind tithing may be absolutes from God. (notice the use of the word “may” be) But when this truth is brought to my attention is extraordinarily important. It may take me a while to become ready to receive it. When my Christianity first begins, I may be focused on another sin entirely that I am looking for freedom from. All the while, I ignore the fact that Scrooge has nothing on me in the greed category. Others may see this character deficiency in me very clearly, but I do not see it in myself. Not perhaps, because I do not want to see it, but perhaps because I am absorbed with fighting another more dangerous sin, say chemical addictions. God may have to work with me for a long time before my mind is ready to see how selfish and greedy I truly am with my money. When I am ready, His truth is revealed.
But what would have happened if in my earliest of Christian experiences, if everyone who saw in me ALL of the deficiencies I clearly had, dumped them ALL in my lap at the same time and said fix it. My defense mechanisms would have kicked into overdrive, and I may have rejected truths, simply because I was not READY to hear them. Nor would I appreciate this type of forced intervention. Chances are, I would have been the pig who turned and tried to trample you underfoot for your efforts to “save me.” But if you kept silent on my errors, and allowed me to discover them in His time, and in His way (which may include me seeing you live differently without ever saying a word on the topic, or perhaps if I directly asked you a question on the subject) – then the results may have been different. Timing is everything. It is a truism that should be considered in the process of salvation.
For you see salvation, and the revelation of truth, are indeed processes – not instant gratifications. We are not made perfect in a snap, nor are we made omnipotent in a second. Our wisdom comes from our dependence, not our accomplishments. Our strength is developed in our need, not in our vain attempts at control. We must begin to see that we are on a road of our salvation. The road is long, sometimes narrow, and seemingly difficult to follow. But in Christ it is well lit, and easy to take on, so long as He drives and does all the work. We should just get in the back seat and play with our toys while daddy drives us home. It’s good being a kid. Or rather, it’s good being His child. It frees us from the worry of the journey and allows us to focus on the destination (perfection inside and out).
Christians, like our Master Christ, do not have to endorse sin or accept sin or participate in sin to love a sinner. We can pray that someone who suffers will find an end to their suffering, for ALL of us are the suffering ones. While we may recognize sins in others, it is not our function to try to remove them. It just makes the pigs and dogs (also us by the way) very mad, and very vengeful. But we can point out to the hurting where they can find relief. We can by example live lives without the burden of our former addictions and slavery to evil, sin, and its pain. We can become beacons of light and liberation, rather than dark clouds of condemnation, eager to focus on sin, and reluctant to remember our mission is one of redemption. It is not a compromise with evil, to allow the suffering to find relief as Christ leads. That is trusting in Christ. It is not forsaking our duty to allow someone to think differently than we do about a truth, until they are READY to hear it from God in His way. Our duty is NOT to spread truth, it is to spread LOVE. Only the Holy Spirit can convict of truth, and only when we let Him do it.
We must learn to segregate our roles from the role of our Lord. He is our savior, we save no-one. We point the suffering to their healer, we do not attempt to heal on our own. We try to exemplify His love and when our lives of love lure others, we point them to the source of ALL love. We do not need to become evil to witness to evil. We do not need to adopt philosophies we know to be in error in order to witness to the erring. This is not logical. If anything our lives MUST be our living witness that there is a better way. If our lives do not SHOW a better way, then our talking about it is nothing more than fairy tale to those who take time to listen. It is in living our gospel that we become the gospel to others. It is then that our words carry weight. It is the realization that only Christ could affect this change in us, that will become a nagging question to those who do not have a Christ in their lives.
Our Bible presents a standard for how to love and what love is. It is embodied in the law and the prophets, and revealed in the personage and life of Christ. Christ alone is fit to bear any standards to be followed. We have already ALL fallen short. There is no sense in trying to exclude other sinners from the source of relief from sin because they are MORE infected than we are. First of all, our measuring ability to determine how much sin someone else suffers from is a wholly lacking skill set. We are really bad at it. Second, it makes no difference how infected with evil a person is, the cure works on EVERYONE, but in a highly unique way and timing.
Christ, our example, did not come to build walls between the truth and the world, but rather to break down all the barriers we had put up. He did not participate in our sins, but had great pity and compassion on our fallen souls. He redeemed us in spite of our unworthiness and loved us constantly and incessantly. The dogs and pigs of Matthew chapter 7 have too long been thought of as others, when in reality they were us. I am the pig. I am the dog. I am the one who rejected the holy, and tried to trample the well-meaning servants of God. Just as you did, and as you do – every time we reject the truth He wishes to lead us to. Our pride has made us the pigs and dogs, rebuked in His council. But our humility can relieve us from this condition. Through our surrender of the will to Christ, we can let go the resistant nature we have long fostered, and become the compliant children He needs us to be. We can jump in the back seat and start sharing our toys and our affections with each other in the innocence of our childhoods reborn, rather than trying to grab the wheel, jam on the brakes, and crash the car in the ditch on the road of our salvation. I would rather be a child freed to love, than an adult burdened by failure and doomed to repeat it. Our lives alone must be our witness whether they point to our Lord, or away from Him.
Friday, June 18, 2010
When a baby is born to new parent the first question that usually comes to mind is … now what? For nine months the eager couple has waited in anticipation, undergoing changes in their bodies and minds. They have dealt with strange food cravings, disciplined breathing exercises, weight gain, and uncertainty about how a wife’s body morph’s over time to accommodate the new family member. But now, it is finally born. The baby has entered the world; so again, now what?
Christians who are born again go through a very similar process. We are introduced to the gospel of Christ, the idea that an all-powerful omniscient creator God has an interest in freeing us from the pain of evil we have been slaves to. He dies in our place, and is resurrected to conquer our death. His life of perfection is traded for our life of failure. And we are given the reward He is entitled to while He takes on our punishment. We marvel at this picture definition of love showered on us as individuals. We are drawn to the foot of the cross and in humility accept His strength for our weakness, and in so doing, find all things truly are possible because of God. It is liberating. It is exhilarating. It is freedom. And like the new born baby who enters the world … now what?
Are there other truths that are important in our lives past the submission of our will to Christ? Do these teachings or truths lead us to a better understanding of the character of our God? Do they affect our salvation, or influence it in some way or another? Or have we learned all that is truly important, and none of the rest of it really matters? Yes ,,, and no. We have indeed learned all the is TRULY important in that the process of saving us from evil and redeeming us to our loving Father God is by far the most important thing we need to know. Through our submission to Christ, He leads us to His truth, in His time, in His way – so no, we are not done learning yet, there is more for us to know, just nothing more important than the basis of what we learn in “how” to be saved. For if we do not submit our will to Christ first; He is unable to lead us. When we lead, we do a lousy job, so it is most important to submit first in order that we can be taught.
So what are some of the truths that Christ will lead you to His time and in His way? There is no one right answer. There are many. And some will be more important to you for your personal growth in your relationship with Christ than would matter to me in mine. Salvation is highly individualized. For instance, there are some who desperately need to learn the lesson of tithing. This practice God setup from as far back as man can remember. The patriarch Abraham gave ten percent of his increase to a priest of the Lord whose name was Melchizedek. Keep in mind that the children of Israel did not exist when this took place, so Melchizedek was not an Israelite let alone a Levite. He was likely a Canaanite who still chose to serve the living God in ministry. And Abraham did not record exactly how he was given the instructions for tithing. Malachi was the most prolific writer on the subject and he would not enter the scene for almost 2000 years. Our best guess then, is that God directed the practice from Adam by word of mouth to Noah, and then to the succeeding generations, until Moses formally recorded it on scrolls.
So we know tithing is a very old practice, but this does not address “why” it was setup. Obviously it was NOT just to support the priesthood as a formal Levite tribe dedicated to the service of God in His temple did not exist during the first instance of the gift. While the funds did support priests, God did not set it up to make His servants rich. Nor did He set it up to make His obedient followers poor. You see it just does not make sense to pay tithe from a financial perspective. Often if a person truly gives God ten percent of their earnings (whether before or after tax), on paper they become insolvent. They are budgetarily unable to pay required bills and still pay tithe. One could argue that this is due to Americans over extending themselves in debts they should not acquire, but even the frugal can face hard choices when it comes to paying tithe. God does not need the money, for the scripture says … “the cattle on a thousand hills are mine.” So since He owns everything anyway what is the point of us “suffering” in order to follow His directives?
The answer and the lesson is faith. It takes faith, or trust, to value the directions or word of God more than logic or common sense. It does not make financial sense to pay tithe. But those that do ALWAYS seem to meet their bills and find a way to manage their money. They never quite know how. For it is not a logical practice, yet it does not cause the hardships one would expect to endure over it. Faith over what appear to be facts teaches us that our God is greater than our imaginations, greater than our logic, greater than our reality. For us to give what He asks teaches us to prioritize money properly. Yes we need it to survive, but no it is NOT our god. We freely return to God what is already His and we are liberated in the process. We are set free from the bondage of the pursuit of wealth that can never be achieved. We find rest in His assurances that everything will be OK, it will all work out, even though it does not seem clear right now. When we see the effects of our faithful giving result in a ministry that brings another soul to Christ, another repentant sinner who now stands under the foot of the cross as our new brother in the faith; we can hardly restrain ourselves from wanting to give even more to the cause. We become like Oscar Schindler at the end of the war who now finds no value in his jewelry and wealth, only in how many Jews he might have saved through the sale of them.
You see just a simple practice like tithing can take on deep and profound meaning in our lives if we let Him lead, and examine truth for more than just a mere physical obedience. While all of us need these truths, some of us need them now, more than others do. The naturally charitable who give of themselves all the time still need this truth, but perhaps not as critically as the one who has never spent a dime on anyone but himself. The truth may apply to both, but may be needed by the latter more than the former.
Does tithing then affect our salvation? No. Does it influence it? Perhaps. The truths of tithing are revealed to us to begin the process of changing our character from the self-absorbed to the service obsessed. While we rebel against the idea of changing who we are, we prevent God from freeing us from the pain our selfishness inevitably brings to our lives. While we selfishly cling to the illusion of control of our funds, we remain in bondage to the pursuit of acquiring them. We are never made free from the stress of survival. We worry incessantly over having enough, and never know the freedom of giving what we cannot afford to give. Can God still save the person who cannot bring themselves to pay tithe? Yes. But that person lives a life of pain and forgiveness, rather than one of freedom and joy. The end result may be the same; that God forgives his erring servants their greed, but the journey is RADICALLY different here on earth. Those that embrace the truths of tithing become deeply blessed, and freed from much self-inflicted pain. There is no substitute for this, only choices that lead to freedom or misery along the way.
We are not saved or lost based on our tithe and offerings. We are not condemned by our theft of them from God any more than we are condemned by the remainder of our character deficiencies. We can still claim forgiveness even for the sins we know we commit. But clinging to sin is like clinging to cancer. We poison ourselves with our selfishness instead of freeing ourselves through submission of our will to Christ. Change is not a natural phenomenon, but is a reality when we submit to Christ. Christ can take our heart of stone and break it on His rock, the Cornerstone of our faith. He can shatter our heart of stone into a million pieces, and then make for us a heart of flesh once again. He can restore our ability to feel each other’s burdens and delights. He can help us take care of each other. He can free us from selfishness and liberate us into His service to others. And in so doing, our journey home to heaven becomes one filled with joy instead of sorrow. Our lives become something wonderful as we embrace the kingdom of God in the here and now.
I cannot possibly tell you all the truths that Christ so desperately wants to reveal to you in your life, and in your journey back to Him. I do not know them all. No one could. But I know your process is meant for you, your journey is real, and we will spend all of our lives – not just in this world, but in the world to come – learning at the feet of Jesus that which He would have us to know. Learning is an infinite process that begins now. No matter how far we get, we have miles to go. And no matter where we are, we are richly blessed for being led to this point. For our part then, we must remain open, humble and willing to be led. We must focus on the message not the messenger. We must embrace truth, even the kind that causes us to change our thinking, motives, and behaviors by submitting our will to Christ. And in this everything will matter, and our lives will carry meaning we have not even dreamed of to date.
Friday, June 11, 2010
Logic dictates a few truths about the nature of a Supreme Being we call God. Evil self-destructs over time, so a true God must only contain what we call good, no evil of any kind. As we can see that both evil and good exist in our world, something must have gone wrong with the plans of God. A God of love could not demand our affections but only ask for them. A God of love must somehow let us know what is going with Himself and with evil in order for us to make an informed choice of whether to love Him or not. Obviously someone chose not to love Him as evil now exists.
The question for us is where to go to find this communication from God to us regarding the state of things. In the beginning of our world, when man used 100% of his brain instead of the meager percentage we use now, God spoke directly with mankind. He walked with Adam and Eve in the perfection of the Garden of Eden in the evenings together. Adam and Eve passed their knowledge of God down orally to their children, and children’s children. Even Noah lived for 400 years after the flood. But in the years that followed, man’s life expectancy was greatly reduced, and his knowledge of God began to fade from the earth until Abraham. Abraham began a quest to find God once again, and God heard his pleas. God spoke directly with Abraham, and even visited him a few times in person in the guise of a traveler.
Abraham was blessed of God and began passing his information on God down through his genealogy who also had a few personal experiences with God (Jacob wrestling with the Angel, and dreaming of the ladder to heaven; Joseph interpreting dreams to pharaoh, etc.). But over the years the children of Israel became slaves in the land of Egypt, and began losing sight of God once again. Moses came and restored the reality of God in the eyes, minds, and hearts of the people once again. Moses in the time He spent with God in the mountains of Sinai began writing the first few “books” of the Bible, originally called the Torah. This was the first written manuscript of communication between God and man. It was written by Moses but inspired by God. The man was not perfect, but the communication would have to be, or the message of God would not come cleanly to His people and we would be misled. We cannot make an informed decision to love someone, based on half-truths, innuendo, or outright lies and misrepresentations. Therefore Logic again dictates that God must be accurate in His communication with us, or the point of communicating itself would be lost.
Over the next few centuries as the history of God’s originally chosen people would unfold. Leaders, Prophets, Judges, Priests, Kings, and humble servants would arise and chronicle the interactions of God with His people. Their hope was founded in the original promises of God to Adam and Eve, that a Messiah would come. The Messiah would take away the sins of the people, redeem them to God, and be our deliverer. Many prophesied about the details a Messiah would fulfill in His lifetime. But by the time of his predicted appearing the children of Israel had so degraded their view of God, that they wished only for a deliverer from the bondage of Rome. They had lost sight of the greater mission of the promised Messiah, to redeem them to God. So when Christ appeared on the scene, the religious leaders of the day thought only to maintain their power and control over the masses, and rejected the cornerstone of their faith.
After the ascension of our Lord to heaven, His disciples began once again chronicling the interactions of our God with His people, as well as His extension of Salvation to ALL men, not just those of Israel. Many new books were written, generally carrying the name of the Author, again inspired by the Holy Spirit but written by men. In roughly 325 AD the council of Nicaea under Roman emperor Constantine, sifted through the manuscripts of the day, sorting out the historical from the sacred and compiling what is now known as our Bible. Our Bible is then a collection of smaller books, written by authors from time of Moses until the time of the disciples, last of which was John the Revelator who penned the last book from the Isle of Patmos.
There were always books that claimed divine inspiration but for one reason or another were not included in the 66 volumes that now comprise our Bible. Might we have lost something important in the collecting process? Possibly. But remember the point of communication from God is to allow us to make an informed decision about whether to love Him or not. If what we were missing were critical enough to affect that decision, our decisions would be moot. Therefore Logic dictates that the information included in the Bible must be accurate and complete enough to make our informed decisions. And so we now use the Bible as our basis of truth. We compare new communication with the messages we read within it to determine the validity of the new information. If it builds upon what we know, we tend to be accepting, if it destroys what is written, we tend to reject it.
Logic dictates other less positive news for us as well. The presence of evil in our world creates a virtual guarantee that despite its final outcome in loss, it will nonetheless war with fervor against all that is good. One of the most effective ways of countering the influence of good in the world is to develop alternative ideas to it. People will not choose pain if the alternate choice of joy is available. But people may become confused if there are several choices available which all claim to result in joy, when in fact only one does. And so comes the invention of counterfeits, items that resemble the original, but are lacking in the quality or content of the original masterwork. In the spiritual world, this required counterfeiting the mission of our Messiah. Horace was introduced in Egyptian religions with many of the same characteristics we were to expect in our Messiah. But Horace does not meet all the requirements and so the counterfeit is revealed. Still, just the existence of a single counterfeit is enough to destroy the faith of many in what is real.
So where Good offers us the volume of the Bible, Evil must also present some alternatives to keep us confused. Enter all the other competitor books claiming divine inspiration for their origin, but all have one single element in common; they each and every one – undo principle teachings of the Bible. The Quran may be the most insidious. This is because outright lies are easier to detect, and dispute. But lies mixed with half-truths are much harder to ferret out and reveal the distinctions that cause the errors they produce. The Islamic faith traces back its God to the same God of Abraham. The Quran accepts many of the Biblical patriarchs as “prophets” of God, including Christ. So by not denying Him outright, the Quran attempts to reduce His role in our Salvation, denying His divinity. But the end result of this teaching winds up with the same religious basis of every other counterfeit religious system – the idea that man can save himself and achieve perfection by sheer will and the actions he performs.
Evil must attack the key principles of our Salvation in order to defeat it. Evil first attacks the idea that we even need to be “saved”. Evil markets evil to us as fun, excitement, and the only reason for living – why would anyone want to be saved from that? Next, for those who see through the illusions that evil presents in its marketing, evil suggests that if you do need to be saved, you can do it yourself. This idea of self-reliance, and focus on self, is the base principle for all that is evil in the first place. Keeping self at the center of our religion, defeats Christ’s ability to offer us real change. If we believe we can in effect, save ourselves, we do not need a Savior, and therefore are excellent candidates for religions systems such as Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, or even New Agers. Then for those who see through this illusion of self-based salvation, evil offers competing Saviors. Enter the dynamic cult figures such as Jim Jones or David Koresh; men who use the Bible to mislead sheep into following them hook, line, and sinker. Though the numbers are smaller, the principle of counterfeiting what God offers is an effective strategy against the good our God offers.
Next, in order to muddy the water further, evil introduces external written manuscripts as having equal weight with what is found in existing scripture. The gospel of Judas was recently discovered in Palestine, and as such it is immediately offered equal weight with any other gospel by those who do not believe in the scriptures anyway. The same phenomenon happens with the gospel of Mary Magdalene, and Mary the Mother of Christ. There is no way to verify the authors are who they claim to be, in addition, like always, these “gospels” disagree with the truths we know from the real Bible. But it is not just with old texts that falsehood arises, ideas like those of Joseph Smith and the Mormon faith arise. More modern texts have arrived that offer alternative ideas to those of the original scriptures.
And this entire conversation to this point has only dealt with the written forms of communication between God and us. There is an entirely different method that He sometimes, albeit rarely employs, that is face to face communication through prophecy, dreams, and real world encounter. Many claim to have heard from God directly, and most then usually begin by telling us how scripture is mistaken. That of course is the first clue the source of their supernatural experience is probably NOT of God. Truth as we have discussed can deepen, but not be overturned in its fundamental form. I make a distinction between the doctrines we may cling to that are supposed to be ideas that help us understand some characteristic about God, and the idea that our God exists, and is who He says He is. The latter is fundamental and cannot be undone, the former is more subjective and may in fact completely change as our knowledge of truth deepens. The idea that you can save yourself is a fundamental lie that cannot be altered, while the process for how Christ removes sin from you is up for much further discussion.
We should be open to finding more meaning in the scriptures we read than just what meets the eye. For example there are those that suggest the story of the flood is not literal, but only an allegory about the eventual destruction of evil in our world. This is one of those deceptive half-truths. The story is an excellent allegory, and could be used to teach us real world lessons for life right now. But it remains also a literal story of the history of God’s interaction with us. Where prophecy is concerned often there is more than one meaning that could be applied. Perhaps this is just another deepening of truth rather than discarding of it. Perhaps we should apply multiple meanings and see where each leads. As discussed before the most effective part of the process of studying truth begins with submitting the will, the ideas, and the dreams of the student to the Master – Christ.
Logic allows us a degree of certainty that our Bible is accurate, literal, inspired of God, preserved by Him over the years, and given to us as a gift to discern truth from error. Without this fundamental tool we would not have a basis to make an informed decision regarding the character of God who offers us unconditional love and hopes to see it returned. We can safely place our faith in both our God and His written word to us, and safely ignore what we come across that lies in conflict with what we know to be true. While it is good to evolve doctrines, and deepen truth, it will not ever change the fact that Christ is our Lord, Son of the living God, and Savior. Our Bible established this fact, and our lives will affirm it when lived in submission to Him.
Friday, June 4, 2010
People of all walks of life find themselves in the pursuit of truth. News reporters believe it to be their job. Men of science believe it is found in discovery, observation, and verification. Those who study philosophy and religion search for the deeper meanings of life. And the populous accept what most of these searchers assert as truth they can rely upon. You could define truth by saying it is an absolute. Truth remains constant no matter what perspective you look at it from. But I would suggest there is more to it than that. I believe that truth, just like science, is more of a process than a destination.
You could say for example that the sun in our solar system is yellowish red in color. This would be the truth, a fact if you will. But there is much more about our sun than one simple characteristic. Our sun is a certain size, certain composition, certain distance from our planet – it provides light during the day and is reflected off of our moon at night. Our sun could destroy our planet were it not for the atmosphere that wraps our earth like a blanket. All of these other facts do not diminish the original truth we stated; rather they provide more context, more details, more information, more character if you will. While the color of our sun is a truth, it is not the most important truth about our sun. A deeper study of our sun provides a much more thorough understanding of the central star in our solar system. In fact a study of other stars throughout the universe, and the life cycles they go through, reveals what kind of star our sun is, and why it is the color it is.
Science takes pride in providing truth about our physical world around us. However many of the scientific truths we assume are true are based on theories that have not been proved absolutely true, only based on the best knowledge we have to date. Science then, leaves open the idea, that over time as study methods become better, new information may affirm, alter, and completely obliterate old theories and accepted truths. No scientist is thrilled at this prospect, to be proved wrong that is, but all must be willing to accept it, or they can no longer consider themselves objective scientists.
When it comes to matters of religion, men have been much more rigid in their application of what is truth. Instead of looking at a truth as being capable of further study, of a deepened understanding, of being able to evolve as our knowledge increases; men have put boundaries around truth and decided it is limited to a singular interpretation where all others are wrong. And yet in matters of religion which often deal more with the non-physical matters of life such as motives, behavior, emotions, intentions, and classifications such as good and evil all of which are much harder to observe; we treat ideas like concrete that cannot be altered rather than sand that could fill entirely different shapes over time. Men of religion are even more reluctant than men of science to be proven wrong. They make no allowance for it. And the result is that truth becomes stagnant, confined to the box the searcher has created for it, and argued to the death it is right without ever trying to get a better understanding of what he may have initially come across. Men of science rightly criticize men of religion in this behavior.
So why are religious believers so much more adamant that their interpretation of truth is the only viable one to be had? It could be this is how they were raised. It could be this is how their particular church has presented any “truth” to them; that they must be on guard against alternative ideas about truth, that they must act defensively to preserve their truth or it will be destroyed by evil. But this type of paranoia seems less required by God’s truth than by His competitors. The priests sought to silence the message of Christ by killing Him - A lot of good that did, His resurrection only spread His message like wildfire throughout the world. The Catholic Church was responsible for trying to keep scripture away from the common people for more than 1200 years, they failed. The Bible was meticulously copied by Waldensians living in caves during this time, and completely liberated by the invention of the printing press. God’s truth simply cannot be destroyed by His enemies.
For some reason, religious men tend to believe that accepting any alternative ideas about the truths they hold to will somehow result in them losing their Salvation. As such they put a heavy penalty on any who challenge the least of the truths they espouse. They begin to equate behavior, and accepting everything the church states, as equivalent to Salvation itself. All truths become equally important in order to defend them all. But our simple analogy of the sun defeats this idea. Yes our sun is in fact yellowish red, but this is not the most important fact about the sun. Why it is this color may be entirely more important than the fact that it is. The same could be applied to most every doctrine of truth we hold in a given church. Most Christian churches teach the idea that God continues to want a tithe brought into His storehouse. This practice of tithing sets aside ten percent of a person’s increase as a freewill offering to the Lord. The practice of tithing is established throughout the Bible and could be considered a truth. However as with the sun analogy, “why” God established this practice may be entirely more important than the fact that He did. Determining why God set this up tells us more about His character and our own, than merely following what is proscribed without any further study on the matter. Determining “why” should not alter the original set of facts or truth, but may add an entirely new dimension to this practice than merely rote obedience.
It is unfortunate that human ego seems to be the reason why men are so reluctant to allow their versions of truth (i.e. the interpretations of scripture they espouse) to be challenged. If Christ is really to lead us, why would we fear engaging in discussion or debate when behind His banner. But therein lies the problem, we Christians charge out on to the battlefield attempting to prove only that we are right, and expecting that God is only on our side. Oops. This is not Christ leading, it is our pride, our arrogance and our ego. And it is folly. Turns out Christ was trying to lead us to a better understanding of His truth, and did not want us fighting on the battlefield in the first place. But how do we get this message when already engaged in battle? First we must stop fighting. Our truths should be self-evident, if they are not, then perhaps there is room to learn rather than to teach. We must stop approaching every discussion with paranoid ideas that the devil is behind all ideas different than our own. In this mindset, the Holy Spirit can show us nothing, as we simply won’t let Him.
Humility is the key to the discovery of truth. We must be willing to learn in order to learn. We must be willing to be led rather than always asserting our leadership on a topic. We must learn to discuss, and with it, truly learn to listen to what someone else has to say. Blanket disregard for the opinions of others should foretell how they will feel about what you have to say. If you tune out someone who disagrees with your position, they will in-turn tune you out. What results then is merely noise. Attempting to listen to someone means not only listening to the words, but to the meaning they are trying to convey. Often our choice of language is less than ideal. We speak harshly, defensively, or make rash statements we would rather take back. When trying to listen, we must learn to temper our anger, embrace patience, and search out meaning without accepting personal insult. In this effort we can finally begin a dialogue on truth.
Lest you think your version of Christianity needs no further leadership from Christ on a given point of doctrine, I would point you to the example of Peter. Peter was Jewish by descent and carried with him the natural inclination to discuss truth with only his fellow Jews. The he dreamed a dream of all manner of unclean animals and was bidden by the Lord to eat. He refused. He was bidden again. When he awoke he knew the meaning of his dream was meant to coax him out of his long accepted prejudice and embrace the freedom of the gospel to ALL men. But bottom line, Peter was wrong. Peter who had accepted Christ, been with Him the longest, was most famous among the twelve, and worked many miracles with the power of the Holy Spirit – was still wrong about how/who he shared the gospel with. His humanity still managed to interfere with the work of the Lord. And if an apostle of Christ could still be so deceived, do we really think ourselves above all reproof and correction?
Realizing that there are 38,000 Christian churches and only one Christ says that many of us must be mistaken about views we hold to be true. We simply cannot all be right about everything. It would be arrogance to think that only I am right in the face of 38,000 other competing views. This does not mean we are all wrong about everything either. This puts us in the perfect position of seeking truth. The time to sort out what is correct, reverse what is incorrect, and come to a deeper understanding of what remains is upon us. We are in a perfect position to allow Christ to begin leading us once again. We can in humility open the word of God without pretense or prejudice, but to try to understand what He would have us understand. Our ideas of truth can now finally evolve with our depth of understanding. It begins and ends with humility, and in humility we can finally begin.