Musings and Readings of the Gospels – Introduction
When I first became a Christian, I didn’t know anything about the bible. I didn’t know that the Book of Psalms was in the Old Testament, I didn’t know the difference between the Gospels (the stories of Jesus in the first 4 books of the New Testament) and the Epistles (the letters of the New Testament). Now that I’ve been a Christian for awhile, I’ve of course read scripture often, I try to read at least a little bit each day. I’ve read the “bible in one year” reading plans a few times; I know the structure of the bible, and I know were to find things. And I usually know how to respond to someone with scripture if I disagree with them or if I’m trying to make a point.
But there are still a lot of unanswered questions out there. Right now I’m reading a book called “Faith or Force,” which addresses the question of whether Christians should EVER go to war. If so, when is it justified? Wars occurred frequently in the Old Testament, and sometimes at the command of God. There are other “life questions” that also arise quite often. If we see a homeless person on the street, should we give them money? There are so many of them, we can’t help them all. So which ones do we help? Some people would recall the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) and say a resounding YES, help them all! People in need are “our neighbors” and we should help them! Others would say that Jesus says that the poor will always be among us, which He did say in (Matthew 26:11 and Mark 14:7).
Then there are political issues. The following phrase has become quite common lately, and it crosses my mind several times per day when I see Facebook posts or hear some comments. It is “haters gonna hate.” I believe that our politics and our beliefs in morality and all kinds of issues have turned people on both sides into an angry cycle of “us vs. them.” We hear things like: They are persecuting us because we can’t pray in school. People on welfare should get a job. Obama is a Muslim. America is going to be punished if we don’t support Israel. Immigrants should go home. People on the other side say Christians hate people who aren’t like themselves, that they are a bunch of closed-minded people who are judgmental and who refuse to love people as they are . They believe Christians will soon become obsolete because our beliefs are outdated and irrelevant to today’s world. There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground.
To be honest, I’m not sure how to respond to all of this. I don’t know if I can help to fix what makes people feel angry or persecuted. I agree that some aspects of Christianity are being pushed back in America, and I don’t like it. I firmly believe that our God is the one true God; I wonder why anyone would want to live without Him, or worse, to worship another God who isn’t like my God, who is our loving creator. I love Him with all of my heart! I think the world would be a better place if we all accepted Jesus Christ to be our personal Savior, and I pray that everyone will come to know this.
Maybe some people don’t like Christians; maybe they don’t like our morality, maybe they think we are boring…I don’t know. Before I had a real relationship with Jesus I bought a pin that said “The Moral Majority is Neither.” I still keep it. I think people perceive Christians as being “holier than thou,” thinking we are perfect and they are not. I know that our God is a moral God, He has His standards, and they are very good ones. But the fact is, we try to be moral, we try to act like Jesus, but we ALL fall short. This is why God died for our sins. We ALL sin, we just do different ones.
All I can do is pray for guidance so that my actions will reveal that the Christian life is the best life, the best option, that anyone can have. We do have fun, we are happy, we have peace and contentment and joy, although we also have sorrow and grief like everyone else. But we have Jesus. This is a gift, and it’s a gift that we should be sharing with others.
So are Christians in America persecuted? Many Christians say that we are being persecuted here in America because we cannot practice our beliefs openly like we used to. This is true, our country is changing, and I’m not sure what we can do about it. Things used to be much simpler, now it’s more complicated. But I think that while all of this is happening, our reaction will be very important. We cannot forget that our first relationship is with God, and we cannot forget that we are only here in this world temporarily. I do think that we are commanded to help to make the world a better place while we are here, and I believe we can still do this. Remember who was ruling when Jesus was on this earth – the Romans. Christians were really persecuted then. Really persecuted! How did they respond? Jesus didn’t say much about politics, but He talked a lot about PEOPLE. He said “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s…but he said heal the sick, feed My sheep, help the poor, blessed is he who mourns… Christianity survived Roman times and it will continue to survive. But why did it survive? It survived because of Christians who stood their ground and kept telling people about Jesus, even at the risk of death.
Christians in other countries are being put to death, tortured, or forced to abandon their homes, and we get very upset because we may have to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. I’m not saying we should be forced to bake the cakes, in fact one bakery that was sued received a lot of donations from Christians to help them with their legal battles. Christians came together and supported each other in a positive way, and that’s a really good thing. We should stand together and support each other always. But I personally would bake the cake with loving hands, and I would tell them that Jesus loves them and has a better plan for their lives, and that if they would ever like to hear about Jesus, I would like to share the Good News about Him. I mean, where do we draw the line? If you have an Iphone, you’re already supporting a business that supports gay issues, so sell a cake already. Or don’t do it and pay the fine (if there really is one). It’s your choice really. Will all of this lead to pastors having to marry gay couples? I don’t think it will because there is still a separation of church and state, and why on earth would anyone want someone to marry them who doesn’t share their joy for the occasion? There are plenty of others who will marry them if it comes to that.
But having said all of this, even if the worst happens, how are we supposed to respond? This is what I want to explore. I don’t think anger or violence are the answers. I think that as Christians we have to remember who we are – we are sinners too, who are forgiven by a loving God, and who will have eternal life in heaven that will be paradise. We are people who are loved by an all-forgiving, all powerful God. We are powerful people. God gives us everything we need to survive, no matter what the circumstances, until He calls us home to heaven. We aren’t supposed to worry.
People often quote the scripture where Jesus says that the world will hate us, but that doesn’t mean we have to give them a reason to do so. It’s easy to get someone to hate you, but I don’t think that’s what God meant. I still think that we are supposed to be kind and loving and respond to everything the way Jesus would. And yes, Jesus got mad, but I believe that He was mad at the Pharisees who were making religion more important than a relationship with God. Because, in a nutshell, if we are Christians, our relationship with Jesus is what defines us – not what the World is doing, not our lack of sin (because none of us have a lack of sin anyway, we just have different ones). So, I don’t think that acting bitter or angry about what’s going on in our world really solves anything.
This doesn’t mean, however, that we are powerless or that we can’t or shouldn’t do anything about our beliefs. There are many many ways we can reach out and help. Jesus encourages it. But how? If we really have a passion for a cause, then we should do something. We may not win, but we can at least do something. My mantra in my “older” age has been when I complain “can I do something to change it? If so, change it. If I can’t change it, then let it go.” But our actions should be based on reality. We have to think outside of the box to change the world. I do not like abortion and I want to stop abortions. Being a republican doesn’t stop abortions. But opening a maternity home for pregnant women who don’t have any place to go, helping them to raise their children or to plan an adoption into a loving family – these things I can do. I don’t like poverty. How can I fix it? By helping to educate children so they can get better jobs in the future, or teaching people to read so they can get a good job. I don’t like crime, what steps can I take to prevent it?
I believe that the answers to all of these questions and how we should respond and cause real change in this world can be found in the Gospels – in the words of Jesus Himself. The entire bible points to one message – Jesus coming to save us from our sins so we can have eternal life with Him. He could have done that from heaven, but He came to earth and lived as a man. He spoke to us, He served, He set examples for us to follow. He was here to show us how to act while we are here. If we really love Jesus; if we really have faith in Him, then everything we do should be based on what Jesus taught us and how He conducted Himself when He was here.
So, I’ve decided to read the Gospels over and over again. with the hope that someday soon I will be able to know how Jesus Christ would respond in ANY situation, and I would hope that I will be able to respond in the same way (at least most of the time). Sometimes that will be with anger, Jesus got angry; sometimes I will weep, He wept. Sometimes I will have to let people go because they they continue to hurt me or because they will never get it, Jesus had to do this sometimes. Sometimes I will just pray, just as Jesus did. In many different situations, Jesus responded differently. I hope to find an answer about how Jesus would respond to every situation in my life, from His examples, and I hope to respond the same way.
If you would like to join me on this journey, I welcome you, and I hope you will offer your comments and feedback about what YOU think. You see, I think differently from most evangelical Christians about things. So, should I just start agreeing with all of them, or should I really study the Word of God and see what it says to me? I’m going to read His Word and learn. Come with me! We may agree sometimes, disagree sometimes, and we may not find all of the answers, but the journey will be worth it.