Born A Sinner

Through out my childhood of being raised in the Church I was told by my pastors and Sunday school teachers  I was born a sinner. It was the great warning given to the Church. All you need to do is look at the Bible and you can see how sinful we really are. Verses like Psalms 58:3 “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies”, Proverbs 22:15 “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him”, and Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”, have all been used to prove we are sick and evil creatures. The trump card when trying to prove our original sinful nature often comes from John 8:44 when Jesus was talking to a group of Jews who questioned who he was and the truth he spoke. He said, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires”.  Gosh! It can’t get much worse then being told you are the devils child.

Knowing these verses are part of most Christians foundational beliefs you can see why they have such a hard time connecting to the secular world. The foundation of our faith tells us not to trust the world. We are told the world is an evil place full of deceit and folly. Quite literally all of you non-Christians are considered no better then the devil. Am I the only one here who sees how this is setting both sides up for failure?

Let me first explain my original philosophy on what my job was as a Christian. When I was still part of the Church my main mission was to bring people to Jesus. The world outside the Church was a world in need of salvation. It was a world all damned to hell unless I and my fellow Christians did something about it. We were God’s soldiers. We were sent into the world to invite people to our youth groups and bible studies so they could be converted to Christianity. The main mission was to see the secular friends we invited to Church raise their hands when asked if they wanted to give their souls to Jesus and go up to the front of the alter so they could accept Jesus into their hearts. The Church rejoiced with “Hallelujah” and clapping when our pastor told us at the beginning of service, “We had twenty five people give their soul to God last week”.

I believed it was my job as a Christian to protect my soul from the evils of the world. Those who did not know Jesus were enemies in the eyes of the Church. I may have had secular friends but I was careful not to be influenced by them. I was warned numerous times their hearts were evil and if I let down my guard I would fall into their sinful ways. My secular friends were those who went out drinking, disobeyed their parents, and thought only of themselves. I never cared enough to know who they were; learn about their hobbies, understand their views on life, or hear about what they wanted to do in the future. I didn’t get to know these things because I was so convinced it wasn’t worth anything unless they first accepted Jesus into their hearts. I was ignorant and naive. I had the audacity to believe they should care about me and my views without giving a crap about theirs. I pursued relationships thinking myself superior and neglecting the truth in my secular friends lives. Is there any greater sin then denying Jesus where he is evident? That is what I did for a good portion of my life. It is what much of the Church still does today.

Christians must understand when they deny Jesus in the lives of nonbelievers, they are look in the faces of Mahatma Gandhi, Tenzin Gyatso (the Dali Lama), and Malala Yousafzai and say “God does not live in you”. I like to bring up these names to Christians when discussing salvation and truth. Most Christians I know still stick to the idea God is only in Christianity. Even more Christians I know stick to the idea that “accepting Jesus” (becoming Christian) is the most important thing we can do in this life. Well Mahatma Gandhi, Tenzin Gyatso, and Malala Yousafzai are not Christian and either did not or will not convert to the Christian faith. Much of their humanitarian work is inspired by their personal faith in Buddhism, Islam, or Hindu. As a youth being raised in a Christian Church I would have been worried about these peoples souls. I would have looked past the work they have done for God because they don’t attribute their faith to the right name. I would have said I, as a 14 year old Christian boy who was mostly just minding his own business not doing anything for the poor, the sick, or the uneducated, was closer to God then these people. Can’t you see something is wrong with this picture?

I am sure a good portion of you would reply, “Nope”.  There is nothing wrong with the way I once thought. The problem I am making in my last paragraph is putting works ahead of faith. When I first began to question these things the biggest argument was always, “God does not judge us based on works but rather faith”. All the things I see non-Christians do for others is done out of their selfish sinful nature. It sure looks as if the sixteen year old girl Malala is advocating for education for all and pushing towards non-violence because of her faith and her love for the others, but in reality she is just trying to fill the empty void that only can truly be filled by Jesus Christ. Sure Gandhi might have been the main one responsible for the freedom of the Indian people from Europe and might have saved countless lives through advocating fighting with none violence, but he was a Hindu when he died and thus suffering in an eternal Hell. After countless conversations of putting up with these arguments and trying to diplomatically reply to why I don’t agree with them I want to give you a definitive answer to what I think of this line of thinking. BULL SHIT!

I am tired of needing to argue whether humanitarians who have done greater things then I could imagine are in question of damnation. I am tired of talking to Christian friends who deny God in a sixteen year old girl who was able to forgive the man who shot her, or in a man who has spent his whole life teaching the importance of living for others, or in a leader who won a war through not being willing to pick up a sword or fire a gun.  I am tired of seeing Christians constantly give sin and “the devil” more power and influence then their own God. How narrow minded is it to say our God can only be seen in one religion?!  How naive is it for us Christians to say we have a monopoly on truth?! Not only does this hurt our ability to recognize God in others, it hurts our ability to recognize His absence in ourselves. Thinking ourselves closer to God then people like Malala, The Dali Lama, and Gandhi, allows us to feel good about living a mediocre life where we go to our Bible studies and Church services but don’t live our faith out in the regular world. It is so much easier to ignore people when you see them as the child of the devil instead of a child of God. Words like, “I believe in Jesus” become more important to us then feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the poor, and taking care of the sick.

Realize when I am talking about feeding the hungry, sheltering the poor, and taking care of the sick, I am talking about spiritual growth. We mistake doing these things as physical acts of goodness. I rather believe those who are committed to these things are people who have a spiritual urge to do them. Whether they know it or not, someone has put the need to help others in their heart. I watch someone like Malala speak about her faith in God and I can no longer help but see my savior in the God she speaks of.

This I know is blasphemy to some of my friends. Many of the Christians who have stuck through reading this are probably throwing my comments out just because I have not used verses to back up my statements. I don’t want to get into a bible thumping debate. For some reasons Christians think the world should put a huge amount of weight on what they say the Bible says, even though they think very little of the other religious books of faith. However, I do want to close this post with one verse. Genesis 1: 27, “So God created mankind in his own image,in the image of God he created them;male and female he created them”. Human kind was not created by the devil. We were not created in the image of the devil. We were created by God, in His image. We are all born children of God. Let us not forget we are seeing God’s creation when looking into the faces of Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and Atheists. And Let us not be so naive to think God isn’t seen in those faiths. I consider myself to still be a Christian but I am not willing to limit God and His wonders to my personal faith. The more I look into other faiths and religions the more I can see God in them. I want to learn from the scientist inspired by the beauty of evolution. I want to understand the peace seen in Hinduism. I want to look upon the true face of God. The only way we will be able to do this is if we open ourselves to all of God’s creation.

Leap of Faith

I remember a few years ago having a vision. I was standing on a high cliff on the top of a mountain and a voice whispering in the wind seemed to be telling me to jump. Logic was disagreeing with the voice. Logic told me if I jumped I would fall into the abyss and never be heard from again. Logic told me I shouldn’t be anywhere near the cliff, let alone considering to jump. However, part of me felt like jumping and seeing exactly what might happen. Part of me knew I would not be free unless I jumped. For some illogical reason I felt like if I jumped I just might fly.

This vision came at a time when I was leaving organized church. I had already deserted a few key doctrines held by the church, such as woman not being able to hold a position of leadership and the belief in eternal damnation where all who were not Christian were destined to go. I felt like I had already jumped. I was in the process of falling into the abyss and wondering when God was going to come and give me flight.

The actual jumping part was not hard for me. I didn’t know where I would go if I jumped but I knew I wanted no part of where I was at. I hated how we as the church seemed to think “faith” was just about making it to a building every Sunday morning and going to one or two small groups during the week. I hated the double standards of the church, how they preached for us to help the needy and love our neighbors yet had hardly any ministries supporting those areas. We were told to rebel against abortion but did nothing to help those babies who were being born under abusive situations. We were told to rebel against homosexuals and their lifestyles without ever trying to understand who those people were. The idea we were supposed to give our offering to support our pastors salaries also bugged me. Being told this money was going to God seemed to be slightly misleading. Very little of the money seemed to be making any difference what so ever. The organized Church was just supporting the constant routine of coming on Sundays and a few nights during the week to talk and agree with a bunch of like minded people.

So there I was falling into the abyss, finally liberated from all the double standards and hypocrisy of the Church. When was God going to catch me and give me flight? When was I going to finally be free? I had been waiting, and falling, for quite a while before I finally realized, my God would not tell me to jump if he did not already think I could fly. It was up to me to choose to rise up and fly above the mountains. Then I realized, the hard part was not the jumping or “letting go”. What was difficult was the “being free” part, aka– flying.

Letting go of doctrines and organized Church has opened up many things for me. I feel free now as if I can look into any religion and talk to any type of race or class and find good fruit in them. However, the hard part is being able to choose to take advantage of this new freedom. I personally find “flying” to be quite difficult. Maybe it is because I am scared of heights and rather have something solid below my feet so I don’t need to rely so heavily on God. Letting go of doctrines and structured religions forces one to need to rely on God more. If you stop relying on God you will just fall into the abyss. Flying away from where you have felt safe and going to new places with different philosophies and views is scary. During my flights I have seen some of the pain and suffering my ignorance has created. I have seen how blindly holding onto one view can deeply effect other peoples views.

We will not get anywhere unless we choose to let go and start relying on God. Being open is the only way we are really able to be free. However, it is important we do not be rebellious of one established view only to fall into another.  We also should make sure we are not jumping off a structured view only to fall into the abyss. Where ever there is life there is also Jesus. True freedom is only achieved when you are able to fly and see life in all the places it reigns. God never wanted us to get stuck in one point of view. God is infinite and we will always be learning more about Him. I have not yet come across a person who does not have some kind of knowledge on who God is.

If you want nothing to do with this world then jump and go into the abyss. If you want to feel safe and comfortable stay on solid ground and don’t jump. If you want true freedom and to make a difference then choose to jump and fly above the mountains. You will need to see things that might hurt and offend you. You will need to rely on a God who might feel all but absent at times. But things will not change unless we stop nailing each other down and choose to search out the one True God; who can be found in every person and religion and who is whispering for you to take the leap of faith and rely completely on Him.

(This post is part of a Synhcroblog I am doing. I apologize for being so late on this post, I was supposed to have it done about 4 or 5 days ago. Anyway, better late then never and here are the links to the other synchroblogs)

To Question The Church

Is it okay to question the Church? I personally would have to answer this question yes, especially if I consider myself part the Church. In the past I have been taught a lot of doctrine from the Church that has never really been questioned by those who taught me. When I began to question this doctrine I found out quickly that I was not supposed to. With some friends it seemed that every time I asked a question I was accused of “arguing” and told my questions were not legitimate.

Throughout Churches history we slowly treated doctrine (our theories about what the Bible says) as if it was actually what scripture says, or “the infallible word of God”. When I get into a debate about a doctrine, such as the existence of eternal Hell, the main argument I hear is something like, “The Bible clearly says that there is a eternal Hell”. However, when I point out verses from the Bible, that counter what my debaters say the Bible “clearly says”, I am told, “I guess I will need to trust God with those verses”, even though the verses clearly contradict each other. It is not a matter of not understanding. It is a matter of choosing to give a specific interpretation of a verse more weight because it lines up with what we have been taught the Bible says AND saying the contradictory verse just can’t be understood and therefore must be left to God. This makes me quickly realize that it is not the Bible that most are using to support things like eternal hell. Besides, there are many other things that the Bible “Clearly speaks against” that a modern day Christian is just fine doing. Things like: cutting your hair, women speaking in Church, or people getting tattoos, are all accepted now a days, even though parts of the Bible clearly speaks against such behavior.

Doctrine is what the Church relies on to determine its identity and guide its behavior all the while calling it the Bible. The reason why there are 2000+ denominations of Christianity, is because very few agree on all the same doctrines (interpretations of the Bible). Sadly, the reason why most denominations can not work together for the betterment of society, is because each of their doctrines can not be questioned. If everyone thinks they are right, they must think everyone else is wrong. And, another doctrine most of us are taught is: we should not be unequally yoked (or in other words, we should not work with people who don’t think like we do).

I have found that the Church gets away with ignorance because it is willing to be exclusive. On the outside we claim that our God is willing to accept and forgive any sinner, but on the inside we build our church on foundational doctrines that are described as “infallible”, and as soon as someone starts to reject or question these “foundational doctrines” they are quickly excluded. Making our doctrine god allows us to be in control. When our doctrine is the ruler however, we can quickly become ignorant  through denying any other points of view.

I am convinced more than ever before that my God is absolute. However, we must come to the realization that none of us know God absolutely. Questioning and testing faith is one of the best ways to separate the truth from the lies and find out who God truly is. If I believe that my doctrine is truth then it is up for debate. When others come with different views I will truly try to listen. When used in the right way, testing and questioning are like fire. If we truly have faith in our doctrine we will allow the fire to test it. Through constant questioning and testing some of our views will change and some will burn away, but the truth will hold and get stronger through this refining fire of testing and questioning.

If the Church is to be a beacon for the World, we must come together and build on strong foundations. Strong foundations can only come from vigorous study and questioning. Questioning is a crucial aspect to the growth of the Church. Everyone has a mind of their own, everyone sees things from a different angle and sometimes in a different light. I have found that many non-Christians are able to see my faith in a way I can not, their insight can be greatly helpful. We as Christians have made statements to what Christianity is about, such as loving others, providing for the needy, and showing the outside world Jesus. However, when we are told by non-Christians that they are not seeing this “Jesus“ we claim to be representing, we need to take them seriously.

One of my core beliefs is that my God is strong enough to be questioned. I have talked to people who are scared of questioning interpretations of the Bible because they think that if we drop one doctrine we need to be willing to drop them all. I agree that we need to be willing to drop everything we have come to believe. If my goal is to seek Gods heart, anything is up for exam.

To question the Church means questioning ourselves and that means opening ourselves up. If we let down our walls we will show others who we truly are, full of strengths and faults like everyone else. However, if we as the Church are willing to open ourselves up, we stop being exclusive. I believe truths like: God is a loving God, will last through even the most intense questioning. When someone is faced with a undeniable truth he is forced to own his prejudices. Even if the person with the prejudices is stuck in his ways, he is severely crippled when it comes to gaining followers. True questioning reveals truth and truth is what will change this world.

Questioning will not break my faith in God, it will only strengthen my knowledge of Him. The lie is when we make doctrine more important then God. To question the Church is something I must do. I am part of the Church and although my individual faith has flaws, through the Church as a whole (if the rest are willing to engage in questioning with me) we can create a very accurate representation of the one True God. But, we must be willing to seek Him out, no matter how vigorous the questioner or how numerous the questions.

Faith

“The emptiness in your heart will only be filled by Christ” is a comment usually made by Christians when talking to non-Christians about God. Sadly, very few Christians are close to knowing what the statement means.

I have been talking about Hell lately, or the lack of it. The doctrine of eternal Hell (which I do NOT think is biblical) brings many frustrations up for me. One of the greatest frustrations I have is what the concept of Hell does to our concept of salvation and evangelizing.

Many Christians think that there is a black and white line. We either believe in Jesus or we do not. So many Christians think it is a perfectly good answer to say that the only way you will be fulfilled is by “accepting Jesus into your heart”, without going into any more detail of what that means or how to really do it. With the doctrine of Hell, we create a “in or out” concept of salvation. You either know God or you do not. This “in or out” concept creates a sort of evangelizing where the Christians think that they have complete truth and non-Christian views are completely false. Thus we Christians are able to ignore the non-Christians while trying to throw our beliefs at them. We as Christians do not allow ourselves much growth. The concentration is on whether you are in or you are out, rather then on the continual growth of our faith.

Our unwillingness to see what may be true in another person’s faith is yet another reason why someone would not be too interested in Christianity. Christians have become a bit “holier then thou” based on the principles of their beliefs. I personally would not be interested in a friend who did not care about what I had to say because they thought I was completely false and deserving of an Eternal punishment. Through out the years I have found out that true friendship can not be built on a relationship that only goes one way. If you do not consider the person who you are talking to as significant, it will show.

I refuse to think that Jesus took pity on us because we were completely evil. I think that Jesus saw good in all of us and that is why He chose to save us. When I look at friends who are non-Christians I can not help but see some of God through them. I have been taught my whole life that they are nothing without becoming “Christians“, but I see the opposite in front of my eyes. I have just as many non-Christians friends as Christian friends that help at the local food bank, are kind to those around them, and seem to be following their God given dream.

I want to break the concept of one group being more superior then another. That line of thinking will not help either our evangelizing or our personal growth in our own faith. I am tired of Christians thinking answers like , “The emptiness in your heart will only be filled by Christ”, are good enough. The truth is that many people who claim to be following Jesus are not and many people who have not even heard of Jesus are choosing to follow Him. Truly following Jesus goes farther then just a few words. It is a life walk and everything needs to be taken into consideration.

Faith is a constant growth, not a black and white line. Just telling a friend, “you must choose Christ”, can NOT be good enough anymore. We need to know what “choosing Christ” means. We can no longer ignore the evidence of God in those around us, just because they have not claimed themselves as Christian. Shallow outside looks will not suffice we need to be willing to look deep into someone’s soul. This will call for you to be willing to open up to others just as much as you want them to open up to you.

Accepting Christ means that you are accepting what he did. The revelation of what Christ did on the Cross is simply indescribable. It has been a constant journey for me. I see more and more of the power of Jesus’ sacrifice every day, it is a revelation that will never end.

Accepting Christ, also calls you to act. I am accepting Jesus’ sacrifice through the way I am choosing to live. It is more then just a few words, it is about picking that belief up and choosing to walk with it. I have a responsibility to follow Him, for He is alive.

I think that everyone sees part of the revelation of Jesus Christ. When I see people pursuing their God given Vision such as art, writing, film, medicine, etc… I see them pursuing Jesus. We can NOT ignore God in others anymore. When it starts to be more about discovering God and less about who is right we will begin to see true change in this world.

It is true, “The emptiness in your heart will only be filled by Christ”. But, we need to be willing to look into what that means. And we can no longer deny faith where it clearly stands.