Thursday, September 5, 2013

How would it be if some of what we thought we knew was wrong?

I was inspired by a video I saw not long ago by Ellis Delaney, a folk art singer. Her song is entitled "How would it be?"  and you can take a look at the video here before reading my thoughts further.
Ellis Delaney Video How Would It Be?

How would it be if some of what we knew about this world was turned upside down? What if what we have learned about life, culture, the world, cause and effect, community, and our Christian faith was actually different from what we think? How would we cope with this new information? Would we be stuck in our old paradigms squandering for meaning or would we be able to adapt, to change, to grow into what was needed in order to survive?

In the 21st century church, we still talk about the famous times called the Reformation, marked by many as the defining point where God and mankind were reintroduced in relationship and where the spiritual reform took place. We have been talking about reformation since then. I happen to be a Presbyterian minister and since my short time in the faith (40 years) our particular branch has touted itself as a Reformed Body of believers. We talk about being "reformed and always reforming," but when has reform actually took place, reform that brought into clearer focus what God has done for humanity in Jesus Christ?

As Christians we are guided by the Bible. More than just a book, it is a story, a message, teachings, instructions, God's revealed plan for humanity. What if those words that we have read over and over have been interpreted through tainted lens of culture, lens of agendas, and a worldview dominated by power and agenda? Let me offer an example of one of the chief verses that we use in our faith - John 3:16. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life." Simple, straightforward, easily understood, right?

In our denominations and churches, preachers and teachers use this verse to state what it so eloquently says and we come up with the idea that whoever confesses their sin, confesses Jesus as Lord, and believes in his name will be saved; thus evangelism to the world to tell people about Jesus so that they can profess their belief in Jesus. But what if, and I say just what if, what this verse seems to say is not what we have taught that it says. What if this verse is about God providing and not about our doing? I would propose that John 3:16 says everything about how God views what He has made and His redemptive plan to redeem what sin has corrupted. John 3:16 is not as much about our role to accept  what God has done but rather to realize what he has changed so that we can have what he created us to have and that is life and life eternal. It is God who loves. It is not us who believe. God opens our eyes and hearts to accept, believe, and even begin to understand. It is God who gives, and it is God who saves. Even our role to believe is a provision by God himself. We were created to believe, not necessarily to come to some life altering point of decision or to be turned around by a life event.  Not that we can't learn from events and circumstances. God's giving of his only son is not just a special reservation for an elected few. The salvation for everlasting life is given by God to all and I would propose that God has chosen to give that salvation freely to everyone, and not just Christians as we so seem to be taught.

What if God's gift of Jesus is for everyone, regardless of belief or ability to believe? What if, regardless of a person's ability to understand the mysteries of God, religion, spiritual ideas, or the like, people are redeemed, saved, purchased by the blood of Christ? What is the world is full of people who have already been redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb?

What if we have it wrong and have missed the mark, taken a theological detour in our quest to teach and learn truth, God's truth not man's truth? What if in our desire to be true to biblical authority, reformed teaching and understanding, biblical principles and ideas, that we have detoured from what God has done and made teaching about protecting a particular worldview, preserving what we think is true and not fully depending upon God?

Read Romans 4: 6-9 from The Message, "David confirms this way of looking at it, saying that the one who trusts God to do the putting-everything-right without insisting on having a say in it is one fortunate man: Fortunate those whose crimes are carted off, whose sins are wiped clean from the slate. Fortunate the person against whom the Lord does not keep score. Do you think for a minute that this blessing is only pronounced over those of us who keep our religious ways and are circumcised? Or do you think it possible that the blessing could be given to those who never even heard of our ways, who were never brought up in the disciplines of God? We all agree, don't we, that it was by embracing what God did for him that Abraham was declared fit before God?" (Romans 4:6-9 MSG)

Look at that part of the verse where it says, "Or do you think it is possible that the blessing could be given to those who never even heard of our ways, who were never brought up in the disciplines of God?" We now know that Paul was referring to Gentiles, which is a term that refers to everyone non Jewish. Everyone non-Jewish. Think about that in his time. Now think about it in out time. In our time Gentile would equate to everyone not Christian.

Do we not realize that the blessing of God, the provision of God in Christ, God's son given to the world because of God's love is for everyone, to everyone, a gift to us, to them? God's gift to those we hate; God's gift to evil people. God's gift to those who do not believe like we do; God's gift to those who sin. God's gift to everyone, of every race, creed, culture, religion, belief, non-belief - ie the world. God still loved and loves the world and God is continually offering the gift of his only son to the world.

What are the implications of this? Just listen to what we have interpreted the holy scriptures to say. In our churches, we are the insiders and the sinners are the outsiders. Heterosexuals are in God's plan for humanity and homosexuals are outside God's plan for humanity. Men are appointed by God to serve in positions of leadership and women are excluded from positions of leadership. Are these actual biblical ideals put forth in scripture or gross misinterpretations by generations and generations of Christians?

The Gospel is radical, illogical, not fair, and absolute. God redeems mankind even without mankind's permission, understanding, or opinion. Perhaps that is what makes the day of judgment so profound, after understanding who and what we are it will be plainly visible God's wonderful gift given.

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