A little over 20 years ago, I began my second major journey in my life. I told my pastor I thought God wanted me to be a pastor. My very first assignment – he said, “You need to know what you believe.” He asked me to take a look at the impeccability of Christ. Basically, it has to do with whether or not Christ could have sinned. Before I knew it, I was debating the concept with people, drawing diagrams and proving my point. I blame my propensity to debate on my Grandpa Joe and, like a good soldier, I passed it on to a couple of my children.
Debating and discussing ideas can be a positive endeavor – we don’t have enough good discussions any more! Unfortunately, much of Christianity has become about being certain about what we believe. This often leads to an intense need to be right. If we are not careful, we confuse God with our thoughts about God. We trade our faith and our trust in God for a concise set of beliefs that are either handed down to us or contrived in our own minds. We know that our minds are limited, but find ourselves trusting our own thinking more that the Spirit of God who is able to “guide us into all truth”.
Somewhere along the way, I developed a phrase that goes something like this, “I have an uneasy suspicion that I might be wrong.” I believe that is a healthy way to approach any belief system. If my doctrine cannot stand up to questioning, then it’s not a very reliable belief system. Unfortunately most of Christianity cries out “don’t ask question, just believe!” It’s similar to our political discussions that go something “I’m right–you’re wrong–sit down and shut up!”
For some time, God has been drawing me in a different direction. Little by little, my beliefs have changed. Experiences and interactions with the Bible have drawn me to feel stronger about certain things and less certain about others. Again, certainty is not necessarily the goal, but some things were just impossible to defend anymore and I can’t just ignore them like they are not there.
From my vantage point, this is the the journey I see ahead of me.
A More Christ-like God
Jesus said “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” Paul said, “In Him (Jesus) dwells all the fullness of the godhead bodily.” So, the answer to the question “What is God like” is answered when we look at the life of Jesus. God is exactly like Jesus! When Jesus says things like “love your enemies” and “Father forgive them” and “turn the other cheek,” we can take it to the bank – THAT is what God is like!
A More Honest Look at Scripture
My professor always told me to let the clear interpret the unclear. The picture of God that we see in Jesus is very clear. He even summarized all of the Old Testament (the law and the prophets) into a simple set of commands (Love God and Love Others). Unfortunately, that brings into question the notion of an angry God and creates some conflict that I have always been comfortable dismissing. But, that’s okay — I can still trust God while I’m sorting it out – in a way it brings a peace I haven’t had in a long time.
It is important to understand that especially the origin books (Genesis through Judges) were written by tribal people with very primitive views about how gods, including their God, interacted with humans. It is also important to realize the Bible can still be a revelation from God and not be 100% historically accurate. We cannot try to make the Bible behave in a way it was never intended to. Jesus (the Word of God) must be the lens through which we interpret the Scriptures. I consider it a mistake to diminish the example of Jesus to prove what we want the Bible to say or think it says.
A More Loving Lifestyle
Our world has become very dualistic. Our political world is more polarized that it has ever been. We have lost the ability to debate and discuss ideas – we simply vote party lines, even if those choices violate our very core beliefs. Unfortunately, this is also evident in our churches where an “us against them” is the norm instead of the exception. We pay lip service to love and grace, but the way we treat certain people groups, animals, and the environment usually does not reflect the ideals that Jesus taught.
I have devoted the second half of my life to being more kind to all people in the world. It is not my job to punish those I disagree with – it is my responsibility to love them. I will also avoid all cruelty to animals. For multiple reasons, we have decided against eating any animal products. We believe this is the most responsible thing for us to do for our “temple” and for God’s creatures. We also do everything we can to preserve the physical world God has placed us in. I know it won’t last forever (in it’s current form), but I don’t believe I have permission to misuse or destroy it.
A More Contemplative Approach
I want to get back to a relationship with God. I no longer want to defend a denominational group or a religious belief system. I don’t think Jesus started a religion – He started a revolution and challenged us to deeper relationship. I want to be part of a relationship with the Trinity just like the Trinity experiences within itself. Jesus never said “agree to this belief system.” Instead, he said “follow me” and, as Bob Goff says, “They just went and did stuff together.”
Thank you for the time you took to share in my journey. I would love for you to pray with me in my journey. If I can do anything to help you in your journey, it would be my pleasure to invest that time in you. If you disagree with my conclusions, praise God that he gave us all minds and hearts to seek Him.
Blessings on your journey,