“All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22)
I’m sure you’ve heard pastors quote this passage numerous times. I know I certainly have. In fact, I’ve heard a couple of Christians suggest that if you don’t have enemies, then you’re doing something wrong. But what does Jesus mean when He says the world will hate us Christians because of Him?
The answer you are most likely to hear is it’s because the message of the Gospel goes against the pluralistic message of the world. The world says, “All paths lead to the same destination,” but the Bible says, “there is no other name under heaven [other than Jesus] given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) The world also says, “Do whatever you want as long as you don’t hurt anybody,” but the Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Certainly that’s why Jesus said the world will hate us, right?
Well, I think that’s part of the reason, but not the whole reason.
If we look at Matthew chapter 10 in its entirety, we see that Jesus gives the twelve disciples that warning before sending them out to spread the message of the Kingdom of God throughout Israel. And while that message does include repentance and the forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:46-47), there’s also a social/political nature to the Gospel, which is:
1). Jesus is Lord, not Casar (or any other worldly emperor) 2). “Seek justice. Defend the oppressed.” (Isaiah 1:17) 3). The meek will inherit the earth, and the peacemakers will be called children of God (Matthew 5:5,9) 4). People “will beat their swords into plowshares . . . and will not train for war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4)
Now if that’s not a threatening message for the powers of this world, I don’t know what is!
Now that I’m almost finished with Marcus Borg’s Reading the Bible Again for the First Time, I want to share some of my thoughts. Naturally I’m not a biblical scholar, so I can’t fact check everything the book claims. But based on what little bit I do know about the Bible, I both agree and disagree with Borg on certain things.
Where I Agree With Borg:
The whole premise of the book is that we can take the Bible seriously without taking it literally. Throughout the book, Borg goes through the Bible and offers a way of reading the familiar stories as metaphors for how God works. And as I mentioned a couple of times before on this blog, I think a lot of Christians (not all, of course) put too much emphasis on whether or not the stories in the Bible are factual. Was the world really created in six twenty-four hour periods thousands of years ago? Was Jonah really swallowed up by a giant fish/whale? Did the sun really stand still? I think if we focus too much on whether or not these things really happened, we miss out on the message behind the story. For example, did the Red Sea really part? I don’t know, but I do know that God liberates His people from oppression, and that’s what I think the exodus is mainly about.
Where I Disagree With Borg:
Although he doesn’t talk about it much in this book, Borg is rather infamous for believing it doesn’t matter whether or not Jesus physically rose from the dead. As he explains in this video, Jesus definitely appeared to His disciples, but it was in a mystical vision. Yet in Reading the Bible . . ., Borg explains how Paul says we are crucified and resurrected with Christ, and how this means we are dead to sin and alive in Christ. Now, I’m not a theologian, but I think that if Jesus did not physically rise from the dead, then Paul’s illustration doesn’t work. If Christ only appeared to the disciples as a mystical vision, then does that mean we’re not really transformed? If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead with a new and glorified body, does that mean we won’t really have new and glorified bodies at the end of the age? Are we dead to everything, not just sin? This is why I prefer N. T. Wright over Borg.
Overall Reading the Bible Again for the First Time is a book that will definitely get your gears turning, but I’d take everything with a grain of salt. Or maybe two.
I know I haven't written much this past week, and that's because some stuff has come up . . . but this time it's good stuff!
For starters, I'm at a place right now spiritually where I want to explore different traditions within Christianity. The two traditions I'm especially interested in are the Anglican and Anabaptist traditions. This past Sunday I got a taste of the latter when Amy and I worshipped at Easton Church of the Brethren. I'm not sure if the COB is officially an Anabaptist denomination, but I know it definitely came out of the Radical Reformation. Anyway, this particular church is about half the size of the Lutheran church I've been attending for the past couple of years (which, itself, is a pretty small church). But everyone welcomed us and shook our hands after the service. Which is more than I can say about some of the other churches I've attended in the past. But I digress.
The pastor at Easton Church of the Brethren is hearing impaired and had a slurred speech, so I wasn't sure how it was going to work out. But I think he delivered a great message. At the end of the service, in honor of Martin Luther King Day, we sang "We Shall Overcome." Any church that sings "We Shall Overcome" automatically gets an A in my book!
Overall I had a wonderful time worshipping there. I felt welcomed, the preaching was good, and it was nice to hear a church actually talk about nonviolence. I have a feeling I'll be back soon.
The second thing is school-related. Today I went to Salisbury University to meet with a counselor. I had a crap load of questions about what I need to take. The woman went over which credits from community college would transfer over, what I still need to take, and how long it would take for me to get all my credits. The good news is Salisbury U. is a well-respected college, so I'm pretty sure I'll get a good education. The bad news is they don't offer a lot of online courses. And since I live about an hour away, and I work full-time, online courses would be easier for my current schedule. But I haven't scratched Salisbury off the list, though. I could certainly move closer to Salisbury so it won't be such a long commute.
So, yeah, that's where I am right now. If you could, please pray that God helps me make the right decision about college.
My friend Peter over at Emerging Christian recently posted this video of a DVD series produced by an ultra-conservative Christian group about resisting radical environmentalism, otherwise known as "The Green Dragon."
I don't know where to start!
1. I thought "green dragon" was what my friends used to call weed back in high school.
2. One of the so-called "experts" they interview is Bryan Fischer, a notorious ultra-right-winged fundamentalist who claims that:
3. Who exactly do they consider to be "radical environmentalists?" Do they mean eco-terrorists who often resort to violence, like the Animal Liberation Front? Or do they mean peaceful activists who challenge the way we consume and use the planet, like Wendell Berry? Something tells me this group is lumping both Berry and the eco-terrorists together.
If you want a good biblical argument for environmentalism, I suggest you read Jonathan Merritt's Green Like God, which cuts through the political rhetoric and goes straight to the Bible.
As for this DVD series, well let's say these guys must have been smoking some of that green dragon when they thought of this!
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I have a tendency to stereotype people. I take a group of people, pick out three of four loonies out of the bunch, and claim that those loonies represent that entire group of people. Past stereotyped groups include Republicans, Southern Baptists, feminists, jocks, potheads, country music fans, and Pentecostals. The latest group I find myself stereotyping is the Calvinists.
Last year when all the papers said it was hip to be Reformed, I naturally wanted to see what all the fuss was about, so I read everything I could about Calvinism. I listened to Mark Driscoll’s sermons, read John Piper’s Desiring God blog, and even re-read Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” While I never considered myself a Calvinist (I could never get into the whole Limited Atonement thing), I was fascinated and influenced by the Reformed tradition. Calvinism reminded me that God is bigger than my brokenness.
And then something went wrong. The more I listened to Driscoll, Paul Washer, and Charles Spurgeon (not his actual voice, though, but people quoting him), the more I felt guilty. There was so much talk about sin and damnation and total depravity that I wondered, “What happened to ‘saved by grace?’ Are my sins really forgiven? Because this sounds like I’m still guilty!” It all sounded like the bully god I tried to run away from in high school. After a while I became disillusioned with Calvinism, and thought that Calvinists were just all about fire and brimstone.
(For clarification, I’m NOT saying that we stop talking about sin in order for people to feel comfortable, like Joel Osteen. I’m just saying that when you’re constantly told that you should have been on that cross--no matter how true it may be--you start feeling like crap.)
Then last night while I was drifting off to sleep, I was thinking about all the different church traditions I’ve experienced when I thought about the Presbyterian Church Amy attends. As I thought about my experiences attending worship with Amy, I suddenly realized that out of all the times I’ve been to that church, I’ve never once left the church feeling guilty. Yes, they preach about sin, Hell, and judgment--but that’s not the primary focus. The message all boils down to the grace, beauty, and majesty of God. Then I realized maybe I was wrong.
For a guy who’s always talking about getting rid of the “us vs. them” mentality, I sure thrive on conflict. Hopefully some day I’ll learn to stop seeing people as either “for me” or “against me,” and remember that everyone is in the same boat no matter what their theological position is.
(For the record, though, those Pentecostals are still weird.)
Like most Americans, when I heard about the recent shooting in Arizona, I thought of only one thing: “Those tea baggers finally did it. Now they’re blowing people’s heads off. God help us!” It didn’t help that shortly after the shooting, I learned that Sarah Palin remove a picture from her website that had a map of the United States with gun crosshairs hovering over certain Democrat-led districts, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’s district. Aha, more fuel for the proverbial fire! But as the story progressed and I learned that Jarod Loughner probably was NOT a part of the Tea Party movement, I realized that I spoke too soon.
I also realized that my own rhetoric isn’t always so peaceful. In fact, to borrow a phrase from Jimmy Carter, I’ve committed violence in my heart many times.
You would think that, since I’m always talking about nonviolence and peace, I’m a pretty peaceful and compassionate person. In reality, though, sometimes I just want to smash some one’s face in. Fortunately, I have enough willpower to hold myself back, so I use words instead. And if you piss me off enough, I can come up with some really creative insults!
But, as Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, “anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ [an Aramaic term of contempt] is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” (Matthew 5:22)
Even though I do think it would be wise for the Tea Party movement to tone down their “lock and load” rhetoric, I can’t really say much because I still struggle with violence within my own heart.
Do you have violence in your heart? How do you handle it?
I'm currently reading Marcus Borg's Reading the Bible Again for the First Time. At first I wasn't sure what to make it of, having recently been disappointed by his novel Putting Away Childish Things. But this book is a hundred times better than I expected. In fact, it brings up a good question: should the Bible be interpreted literally?
According to Borg, contrary to what many Christians believe, the Bible is mostly a human product; mankind wrote it in response to real experiences with God. However, that doesn't mean the Bible does not hold any spiritual significance. On the contrary, the Bible is a sacrament as much as the bread and wine. God uses the Bible to communicate with us.
So then how should we read the Bible? According to Borg, it should be read through a historical-metaphorical lens. The Biblical writers often used memories and metaphors to explain their experiences with God. For example, while God may not have literally parted the Red Sea, Borg believes that that passage shows how God liberates His people from oppression.
Since I wasn't there when the Bible was being written, I can't say how much of it was written by God and how much by man. But I will say this: I do believe we shouldn't stress out about whether or not certain events in the Bible really happened or not. Instead, I think the number one thing we should ask ourselves is, "What is this telling me about God?" For example, we all know about the endless creationism vs. evolution debate. There are those who swear up and down that God created heaven and earth less than 10,000 years ago and in six twenty-four hour periods just like it says in Genesis. Others say that the creation account in Genesis should be taken metaphorically. Me, since I wasn't there when the world began, I can't say who is wrong and who is right. Instead, I focus on the message of the first three chapters of Genesis: how God made the world, and how mankind rebelled against Him.
What do you think? Should the Bible be interpreted literally? Does it really matter?
The other day while reading about the Magi in Matthew’s gospel, this part caught my attention: When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” (2:3-6)
I can’t help but wonder why the rabbis and scholars didn’t follow the Magi to see Jesus.
I always assumed they just didn’t know that the Magi were in town looking for the Messiah. But since the text says everyone in Jerusalem, along with King Herod, were disturbed by what the Magi were saying, maybe the priests did know. But if they knew that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, and that the Magi were looking for Him, wouldn’t you assume that the rabbis would leap for joy that their long-awaited liberator and king is finally here?
Maybe they were too afraid of Herod’s wrath if they acknowledged the birth of their long-awaited Messiah. Or maybe they aligned themselves up with Herod’s kingdom so much that they didn’t realize the True King had arrived. I don’t know.