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.

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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.

Easier Said Then Done

“It’s not that I don’t want everyone to go to heaven. I do!”, is the sort of line I get A LOT when I am talking to a fellow friend about the doctrine of Hell. I have been warned numerous times to be careful that I am reading the actual Bible rather then what I want it to be saying. For some reason almost every person I debate with about the Doctrine of Hell, seems to think that they would be just fine and even want everyone to be saved, “just that is NOT how God works“.

So I might be one of the only Christians that does not know whether or not I “want” everyone to be saved. I mean I guess I could say something like, “I want everyone to be saved!” out of ignorance, but I do not feel like it rings true. There are and have been some really evil people out there. Can we really say that we want someone who is responsible for the murdering of thousands if not millions (Hitler, Caesar, Kiangsi Kahn, etc…) to be saved? Can someone look at a man who is raping their daughter and say that they still love them? Sorry that I bring up horrific images, but they get more and more common every day.

I was walking home from work the other day and someone screamed at me, scaring the HIBAJEEBIES out of me. It was around midnight and they were doing it just for “fun”. I personally did not think it was “FUN”. I was angry and was tempted to throw a rock at their back window (10 year baseball pitching experience). It is sort of funny, because what I was doing before those people interrupted me, was praying.

When I say that I believe that God has everlasting love for even the least of us I am talking about a truly AMAZING thing. To love, is a very hard thing to do. To have everlasting love, is something that I can not come close to putting my head around. Love demands for you to be selfless and humble. Two qualities even “Christians” have a really hard time with.

Instead of throwing the rock, I chose to pray for the people who yelled at me. It was HARD!!! I needed to grit my teeth and work hard to find meaningful words to pray for these people. It is easy to say something but often it is really hard to actually mean it.

I am not an expert at loving. I have a very hard time trying to love those who are even the closest to me (sometimes they can be harder to really love). I think that everlasting love is something ONLY God can do. It is not a small thing to say that God has EVERLASTING love. But He does.

Even though we might falter, even though we might not believe it or accept it, Jesus loves us. He loves us to the point that we put Him on the cross and He still asked God to forgive us. Jesus will ALWAYS be there for us. This is something I can not say about myself.

I think that the true risk and the hardest thing of all is to be able to love those who do not deserve it. Believing that all will be saved is HARD (at least for me), but it is also exciting. It gives me hope for mankind and compassion for even the most evil people. I am a man with faults who will miss his chance to love some people who might need it, but I serve a God who loves without restriction and without measure and whose bond can not be broken.

Everlasting Love

I must first apologize that I have not been updating the post on a consistent basis lately. One of the reasons I did not get anything written this last week was because of a rather long conversation I had with a friend on facebook, about God’s everlasting Love and His everlasting Judgment.

Unlike most Christians I do not believe in a everlasting Hell. My main argument would be that the Bible in fact points against the existence of a Hell where you go to be tortured for all eternity. The second argument would be that the Bible points to a God who has everlasting love for us and it would seem that a loving God would not punish for the sake of hardening our hearts and hurting us. Instead, I think He would punish us like good parents punish their child, when the child goes astray. A loving parent punishes to help the child understand his or her wrong and turn from it. The third argument, would be that I am not able to worship a God that is willing to send (or allow) millions upon millions of people to be tormented forever and ever.

I must say the conversation my friend and I were having ended with a bit of a unsatisfied result. We needed to, “agree to disagree” because my friend thought I was not willing to change my view and I must say that I was beginning to feel the same about him.

The conversation did however allow me to think a bit more deeply about who I believe my God is. So, I can not complain about the time I took to have the long conversation. The more I look into the God I find in the Christian Bible, the more I am convinced that he has a immeasurable amount of love.

Through out the conversation I had with my friend, I was told about or quoted scripture that seemed to point out that “God can not be mocked” and “we reap what we sow”. I have a really hard time with these scriptures. Of course these seem to be typical points of view that come from many different religions. I have heard about many religions that seemed to take their God as a Great Authority, that would not stand for being mocked. I also have heard about many religions that have huge consequences for going against the “law”, and let you indeed “reap what you sow”.

I guess my problem is that those gods in those other religions I have heard and read about are not the God I fell in love with. When we look at Jesus’ example on this earth, we see something that is uncommon in other religions. We see a God who was willing to sacrifice everything.

The reason why I have problems with verses that talk about God not being willing to be mocked or us reaping what we deserve, is that Jesus’ example on this earth contradicted those verses. Jesus was mocked all through out His life, and Jesus forgave many people who did not deserve forgiveness. When Jesus tells us to forgive 7 times 70 (meaning without measure), He is in fact telling us to not treat others based on what they “deserve”, but rather based on how we as individuals want to be treated ourselves. When Jesus was crucified and mocked he still asked God to forgive those who crucifyed Him.

Why should we think that God changes His example after we die. I am told that we only have this life time to choose God. After we die, God’s love suddenly looks a lot different. If we have not chosen God we are sent to Hell to be tormented forever and ever. Somehow most Christians think that this is not contradicting God’s everlasting love.

I am touching on one of my greatest frustrations, in this post. Christians do not understand why so many people are not wanting to have anything to do with the Christian God now a days. Might it be because they see Him and His people as judgmental and condemning? If you have not “accepted Jesus into your heart”, most Christians would say that you deserve a eternal Hell. Why would a non-Christian want to have anything to do with someone who thinks that lowly of them?

Jesus came to this earth for all of us. When Jesus died on the cross, He died for us all. I often hear of how we are so undeserving of Gods love. How we are like filthy rags to Him and if we have not chosen Him, we are as good as the Devil himself.

I think, if these things were true God would be a idiot for dying on the cross. The truth is that Jesus saw the good in us and that is why He was willing to give everything to let us truly live. When the Bible says that Jesus died for us (Romans 5:8), it means just that, He died for ALL of us. Jesus saw the good in even the least of us, He was a personal God that cared just as much about our examples as our words.

Even if you have not confessed God as your savior. Even if you have not gone to Church or sat down to pray a certain prayer. God loves you! It does not matter what you do or how deep in sin you already are.

The greatest difference between my thinking and my friend’s was who WINS at the end. Sadly for many people, my friend thinks that sin and evil will win out at the end. I personally think that my God is greater then any sin or demon. You might go through a lot of pain before you and the world find God, but I am convinced that God will never give up. I am convinced that my God is a God of everlasting love that will always be there for us and that He will win in the end.