Baptism’s Big But

I grew up immersed in Baptist culture (see what I did there?) Baptist doctrine and full immersion Baptism were the only truths I knew for a long time.  Any other beliefs were quickly and authoritatively labeled hellfire and brimstonely “wrong”. No discussion.

 

Especially related to the act of Baptism itself. Other methods, such as the dreaded “sprinkling” were mocked and torn down.  And, honestly, I never gave it that much  thought. I got myself dunked once upon a time during a stage in my life when I had blind, child-like faith and never looked back.

 

But as I’ve gotten older, something hasn’t been sitting right with me about most of the baptism services I’ve attended. What is supposed to be a joyful, amazing, holy, symbolic act just seems . . . awkward. Mechanical.  Granted, this is probably partly because of my hyper conservative background and denomination, but still. It’s made me wonder if we’re missing something.

 

Recently I’ve revisited this topic with a discussion in my small group.  One couple was pursuing membership in the church when it came to light that the husband has never been immersed.  He’s a mature believer and he’s had a baptism experience – but he’s never been dunked. And so, as is the case in most if not all of Baptist churches, he’s not allowed membership until he gets wet.

 

Now, I don’t know this guy very well, but he seems very humble. Thoughtful. Slow to speak. So when he says he doesn’t feel any conviction, any leading from God to be immersed, I believe him. When he says that his first baptism, though not a full immersion, was done as an adult when he was a believer and was meaningful to him, I believe him.

 

I mean, even the overwhelming conservative thought is that baptism doesn’t save you. That it’s an “outward expression of an inner change”.  So in that rite, a symbolic step in faith is a symbolic step in faith, right?  If we’re dealing with symbolism here, people – where is there room for legalism?

 

But.

 

What if we’re all getting it wrong, even the Baptists with their dunkin’ parties?  What if water baptism isn’t the whole picture?  Do you know how many times in the New Testament it says “John baptized with water, but . . .”

 

A lot. A disturbingly high number, as historical documents go.

“I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” – Mark 1:8

“I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come . . . He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” – Luke 3:16

“For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” – Jesus, Acts 1:5

“Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” – Peter, Acts 11:16

Or what about the stories when new believers didn’t have a full baptism experience?

“When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.” – Acts 8:14-17

“Apollos . . . knew only the baptism of John.” – Acts 18:25

 

What does that mean for us? We like to think that because we quote Matthew 28:19 verbatim (except, ya know, in English) we’re getting it right. But are we? Does simply saying ” I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” work the Spirit mojo 100 % of the time? I’m not convinced.

 

I’ve seen quite a few baptisms and rarely if ever have I felt like it was a truly spiritual experience. Is it really just symbolic like we so often claim? Because when I read the verses and stories above I’m not so sure. I’m not saying salvation is in baptism but I am saying, according to my bible, power is in baptism.

 

It digs at my soul when I read accounts of bona fide believers walking around and preaching having never received the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8, 18, 19)

To the point that sometimes I sincerely wonder, have I ever received the Holy Spirit? Truly? Is that why we struggle so? Is that why this walk seems so hard sometimes, because we’re floundering along in our own power while calling it the Holy Spirit?

 

Like any good Baptist, I was raised in an environment of giving only lip service to the Spirit. We give “him” just enough leash to convict us of sin or groan in prayer, but real power? Well, that’s a bit charismatic, isn’t it? That’s the stuff of Acts, not today.

 

Or is it?

 

Because I’ll be honest – I’d trade my baptism of John right here right now if it meant I could be sure of the indwelling power and presence of God’s Spirit.

 

I’m not denying the importance of baptism. I’m just pointing out that there’s more to it than just getting wet.

 

-Jessica

*photo by mikebaird via flickr

A Year of Biblical Womanhood {Or Accepting that Patriarchal Gender Roles are Part of The Matrix}

What does “biblical” womanhood mean?

 

For some reason, many people are horrified that anyone would write a book that might possibly come to the conclusion that perhaps June Cleaver, as wonderful as she was, is in fact not the standard for biblical womanhood.

 

I’ve even heard tell that (gasp) she might actually be fictional.

 

But the truth is, that’s not what Rachel Held Evans latest book is about.  Not exactly. People have made assumptions, have pointed their patriarchal fingers and slung works like “mockery”. They’ve jumped to conclusions and assigned reasonings and agendas to Rachel that I don’t think are fair or accurate.

 

A Year Of Biblical Womanhood isn’t about feminism, at least not in my opinion.

 

It’s about genuinely studying women of valor from the Bible. It’s about examining our roots, our history, our traditions (yes, even to our religion’s Jewish beginnings).  It’s about tearing down what we’ve been told to think about gender roles and using the Bible as our source for finding answers to the hard questions.

 

Rachel’s debunking the traditional understanding of the Proverbs 31 woman by learning what the poem means to Orthodox Jews is ground and bondage breaking. Her revealing the truth of Junia the female apostle who so often undergoes a sex-change in modern translations is eye-opening.  Her realization that cooking for her family is meditative and that there is power in silence and contemplative prayer is soul stirring.

 

This isn’t angry feminism. This is an honest attempt at truth seeking – even when the answers aren’t where you expected to find them. This isn’t judging or condemning, it’s the opposite – freeing for all.

 

However, it is about being open-minded – a concept that some take offense at. There’s a misunderstanding that being “open” means being willing to seek truth outside of the Bible and the Christian God. But that’s couldn’t be further from what Rachel is doing. This is about being willing to be open to the truth found within the Bible instead of glossing over the parts that don’t perfectly fit our current doctrines. Because, like Rachel says:

 

You find whatever you seek in the Bible.

 

Want to find support for war? It’s there. Want to find support for bigamy? There. Looking for viable evidence for gender oppression? Yep, it’s there. Searching for gender equality? Yep, it’s there, too. But sadly, so often that last point is blurred, hurried past.

 

At the end of the day, no matter how “just biblical” many patriarchal congregations are trying to be, they’re still picking and choosing. They’re blowing one New Testament command off as “cultural” but enforcing others that are just as much so.

 

And, if we’re being honest, it just doesn’t make sense. Why forbid a woman to teach, but not enforce covering her head when praying? Both have bona fide New Testament support.

 

This is exactly why we need to go so much deeper than reducing “biblical womanhood” to bullet points. Because the argument doesn’t hold up under careful scrutiny. We’ve over complicated almost every aspect of Christianity and gender roles are no exception.

 

As Rachel says:

“The Bible does not present us with a single model for womanhood, and the notion that it contains a sort of one-size-fits-all formula for how to be a woman of faith is a myth.”

 

There is no such thing as Biblical Womanhood. And the very thought terrifies some people. Like Keanu Reeves in The Matrix sitting in front of the young monk and being coaxed to accept the reality that “There is NO spoon”.

 

It’s as if we’ve taken away peoples hand rails while they’re on a suspension bridge staring down at an endless cavern. What do you hold on to, where do you find your sense of security now?

 

Well, it’s quite simple, really. Jesus didn’t leave us without parameters for biblical man or womanhood. On one side of the narrow bridge is the first greatest commandment and on the other side is the second greatest.

 

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.This is the first and greatest commandment.A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

 

No matter how elaborate you want to make your outline for biblical womanhood, biblical living, these are the only two headings available. Why bullet point yourself to death under such freeing and loving main points?

 

That is why there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. For we are all one in Christ Jesus. We are all equal in the grace of Christ.

 

I highly recommend reading Rachel Held Evans new book A Year Of biblical womanhood. It’s not mockery, it’s not sacrilegious, it’s a heart-felt and serious attempt to find God’s truth.

 

But please, for the love of Biblical Womanhood, don’t take my word for it. And don’t condemn it before your read it (as many seem to have done). Find a copy and read it for yourself. What’s the worst that could happen?

 

Jessica

Simon Peter Was Just a Dude.

All of my church life, as I’ve sat in mauve upholstered pews or the cold and uncomfortable metal folding chairs of Sunday school, I’ve heard the same story.

 

You know the one –  The backdrop is a quiet lake. Simon Peter and friends are mending their nets beside the shore.   Suddenly, a strange bearded man with majestic flowing hair appears – and the fishermen dramatically drop their nets and follow him without question.

 

I’ve fidgeted behind 30 year old laminate tables across from ladies wearing a little more make-up than normal and middle aged men stuffed into dress shirts. With more awkward silences than not we’ve pondered, we’ve grasped. We’ve squinted up at pedestals and feebly attempted to analyze 2000 year old actions of sandaled saints.

 

Eventually someone says they don’t know what they’d do if a stranger walked into their job and told them to follow. We cross and recross our legs, bob our heads in agreement.  Then we go home and remove our blazers and mascara, convinced we’ll never measure up to the caricatures of bravery that we’ve invented in our storybook Bible.

 

———————-

 

Sound familiar?  Well then I have good news for you. You can quit beating yourself over the head with that pedestal. I have it on good authority that:

 

The fishermen did not simply drop their nets and follow Jesus. (Gasp.  Shock.  Awe.)

 

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You see, Simon (Peter)’s brother, Andrew, was a disciple of John the Baptist.  John introduced Andrew to Jesus. (John 1:35-40) Andrew hung out with Jesus for a bit then ran and found his brother Simon (Peter) to tell him that he’d found the Messiah and brings Simon to meet him.

 

Then Jesus goes to a wedding, turns water into wine, yadda yadda.  Braids a whip, clears a temple. Confuses Nicodemus  with talk about being born again. Talks to a Samaritan woman by a well. You know, stuff like that.

 

Eventually Jesus finds himself strolling beside the lake and sees a couple of blokes that he’s hung out with before, Andrew and Peter.  They’re fishing because, ya know, they’re fishermen.  Jesus invites them along with him and they join – after all when a guy that you already believe is the Messiah says something cryptic about fishing for men, you’re likely to take the bait (ha).

 

They walk around a bit, cast some demons from people. Jesus goes to Peter’s home, rebukes a fever out of his mother-in-law so she can get back in the kitchen where she belongs (kidding).

 

The next morning Jesus sneaks off to pray and Peter’s all “Hey, everyone’s looking for you, man” and Jesus is all “Let’s go some place else.  That’s why I came”.

 

One day when Jesus is seriously being hounded by a crowd by the shore he sees the boats of some dudes he already knows – yup, you guessed it – Simon and Andrew.  He asks to bum their ride for a minute so he can teach the crowd from the safety of the water. When he’s finished speaking to the mulitude he tells Peter to let down his nets again.  Peter’s like, “Master, I’ve been fishing all night, but if you say so, then I’ll do it (because I trust you, I’ve followed you around long enough already to know that much).

 

Bada bing, bada boom, nets nearly break from all the fish, Peter freaks out and realizes anew how awesome Jesus is and what a sinner he himself is.  Jesus calms him down and again invites him to follow him and then Peter leaves everything behind.

 

This order of events is according to a chronological bible, with a bit of my paraphrasing thrown in.

 

 

What’s the point?  Simply that life is a journey, it’s a series of events. Faith rarely pivots on a singular melodramatic moment in time; Faith grows. (<<click to tweet)  It starts with a cornerstone, it develops a foundation, and then it increases one brick at a time.

 

It’s imperfect.

 

If you’re familiar with Peter’s story, you’re aware that he still struggled.  A lot.  His faith grew one mistake at a time. Eventually we get the image of him as a spiritual power house, preaching in Acts with the hem of his garment healing folks.  But he didn’t start there – by far. He was just a dude who got roped in by his brother to hanging out with some dude named Jesus.

 

So, here comes the moral of the story – don’t feel bad about your bricks. Life happens one layer at a time once we have our foundation in place.  We stack a row or two of blocks, crack a few, maybe knock down a section with our own bumbling, then we slap on a thin line of cement and start again.  Eventually, as we grow in wisdom and power and brick-laying truth, we build can build a faith that’s steady and strong.

 

Not a pedestal though.  Don’t build a pedestal.  Those things are dangerous.

 

-Jessica

*photo by Tatiana Sayig

Standing for Christian Values vs. Standing for Christ

spread christ, not christian values

When missionaries trek across the world in Jesus’ name, they have a short list of two priorities (after things like “pack 3 years worth of undies” or “don’t forget malaria medicine”They are:

 

  1. Don’t offend the people.
  2. Share the Good News.

 

My in-laws have worked for Christ in Africa for 2 decades now and are keenly aware of the necessity of  putting these principles in the proper order.

 

When new to a country, their first step in evangelism is not to oppose political legislation that differs from Christian values. Changing a law doesn’t change a heart. 

 

When going to a new village to sew seeds of love and grace in the name of Jesus, their first order of business is not to opp0se the village practices of polygamy. Changing a practice doesn’t change a heart.

 

The number one job of a missionary is not to spread “Christian values”.  The number one job of a missionary is to spread Christ. <– tweet this

 

It is imperative that we do not confuse the two. If you spread Christ, the values will follow.  It does not work the other way around. You cannot put the spiritual chicken before the egg.

 

Once a missionary has made friends with a culture and the soil is ripe for the Gospel, there are two things to consider in the delivery:

 

  1. Is this loving?
  2. Is this effective?

 

It’s been statistically proven that some tactics of sharing the Good News do more harm than good – particularly ones attacking and judgmental in nature.  These methods are not loving or effective and they can easily turn people off to Jesus – not because the cross offends them but because the Christian offends them.  If we are to be known by our love and make disciples we cannot begin by alienating and offending.

 

We are missionaries to whatever country we live in and the same principles stand whether we’re in Nigeria or America.

 

Our first step in evangelism cannot be to oppose political legislation that differs from Christian values. Changing a law doesn’t change a heart.

 

When going into a new neighborhood to sew seeds of love and grace in Jesus’ name, our first order of business cannot be to oppose the practices of gay marriage. Changing a practice doesn’t change a heart.

 

We must not put the chicken before the Holy Spirit egg.  Jesus comes first.  Love, grace, and acceptance comes first.  Discipleship comes later.

 

That is why I am not among the Christians that stand up in opposition to gay marriage (amoung other things).  If we are in the Father and He is in us, then we will be reflections of the mercy and grace found in Christ (who dined with those we oppose).  We must stop standing on soapboxes disguised as moral imperatives simply because someone else’s “brand” of sin bothers us more than others.

 

Christ dined with and died for all.  We must look deeper, love harder, and lift Christ higher.

 

-Jessica

 

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An Open Letter To Calvinists.

Dear Calvinists,

 

I know you mean well.  Or, at the very least, are sure you’re right.

 

But I refuse to engage in fruitless discussion.  I refuse to dispute the meanings of words that only cause divisions.  I won’t play scripture math with you – subtracting this, multiplying that.

 

I won’t argue about who God does or doesn’t call, who Jesus does or doesn’t save.

 

That’s not the commission I was given.

 

So, dear Calvinists, while I won’t agree to disagree – too much is at stake for that – I will agree to not disagree.

 

Because we both have better things to do, better love to share, better news to spread.

 

 

-Jessica

Perfect Unity in Christ: You’re Doing It Wrong

“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me … I pray that they will all be one … and may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.

 

May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.”

 

When I read these words of Jesus, some of his last living words, I don’t know whether to cry and mourn or inappropriately redirect my reaction to holding my sides and laughing hysterically.

 

What is WRONG with us?  One of Jesus’ last pleas was for us to be united.  Supernaturally, focused on the goal, united.  And now look at us.  Christians are probably the most divided of all of the world religions.  And it’s petty, and it’s wrong, and it’s infuriating.

 

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the disagreeing in itself that bothers me.  I’m okay with you thinking one thing or another about speaking in tongues, or predestination, or the sacraments.  But can’t we disagree peaceably?  Can’t we disagree without dividing?  Can’t we disagree without damning each other to Hell?  Can’t we disagree without usurping each others authority?

 

I am so tired of the passive-aggressiveness of it all.

 

I am so tired of the power trips.

 

I am so tired of not being supported.

 

I’m so tired of caring more about “safeguarding the doctrine” than about people.

 

We are killing our own cause, y’all. We have to stop drawing lines in the theological sand and then daring people to cross it. (And then pulling our support of them when they do)  We need, desperately, to unite in spirit while still allowing other believers to follower their own convictions and callings.

 

Because, I’ve got a news break for you.  You’re not right.  I’m not right.  None of us are fully right in our understanding of God and how to best follow Him. So quit looking down upon and ostracizing your brothers and sisters, just because they believe something different about peripheral issues.  That’s right, peripheral.

 

peripheral
-concerned with relatively minor, irrelevant, or superficial aspects of the subject in question.

 

You think my writing this post was preordained from since before the world began?  You believe that you speak to God in a personal prayer language/tongue that only the spirit can understand?  You believe that the wine and bread turn into real blood and flesh when you partake of it?  You believe that a church building is holy ground?

 

 

Well, I don’t.  I disagree with all of the above.  But we can still be friends. And I’m much more concerned about what we have in common.

 

The Father, The Son, The Spirit.

 

Here’s a crazy idea, let’s tear down all of these walls that divide us, one superficial brick at a time – and dare to have unity in Christ.

 

Let’s be known for our love. At this point, what do we have to lose?

 

 -Jessica

image by belka

The Five Stages of Grieving the Church

 

 

Denial

 

I’m not hurt.  Why does everyone think I’ve been hurt?  I’m leaving on principle.  On lots of principles.  I’d be happy to sit down and explain elaborately, theologically, on why I choose to not play a part in the institutional church anymore.  And it has nothing to do with being hurt.

 

Anger

 

Okay, so maybe I’m hurt.  Maybe I’ve been hurt.  And maybe it’s okay to be angry about it!  I mean, why is the system set up so often to exclude, set up to disconnect instead of connect, set up the very least efficient and effective way possible?  UGH!  Isn’t it okay to be angry about that?  It’s an outrage, a crying shame!  How are we ever going to fix it if we aren’t honest about all the things that are wrong!

 

Bargaining

Okay, what if we start our own church?  I know we’re not perfect, but we know the basics of how it should be done, what if we started there to see what could happen if church is grown in a more natural environment?  What if we build our own community, God?  Then will you bless us with your presence?

 

Depression

No one understands God.  No one wants authentic, real life, messy, imperfect community.  It’s a lost cause.  I’m tired of dealing with people who don’t think critically about their beliefs.  I’m so tired of dealing with all of the theological parrots, just repeating what they’ve been told without studying it, examining it, praying it.  I’m done with these people.

 

Acceptance

Grace.  Freedom.  The church is broken but it’s okay.  They’re just human.  They’re just growing, maturing, changing humans, just like me.  I cannot be a part of the broken system without anger and depression, but I can live my life in peace outside of it.  I can embrace the community of those around me, the ones that have been organically planted in my life.

 

I will pursue a life in pursuit of God.  And eschew any practice, or institution, that gets in the way of that.

 

-Jessica

*photo by chrisharvey

Mercator Jesus – Polarizing Issues.

 

There’s a version of a world map out there called the “Mercator Projection”.  It’s pretty famous, and also pretty infamous.  It’s useful for charting straight lines to things.

 

It’s absolutely useless for comparing how big things are.  Like countries.

 

 

And yet, this version of a world map has endured for more than 500 years.

 

What’s wrong with it?  Well, the closer you get to either pole, the more distorted the image becomes.  The images near the equator are fairly accurate, but the poles are never represented on one of these maps because, mathematically, the image becomes a literal infinity by the time it gets to the pole.

 

Look at Greenland, for example.

 

A less-informed person might consider Greenland to be a formidable “country” (technically, I think Denmark owns it…somehow…I don’t care…).  But, did you know that Greenland is actually smaller than the Democratic Republic of the Congo (a country on the equator)?  It’s also about ¼ the size of Brazil.

 

I’ve (very skillfully) (actually, very liberally-oversizedly) drawn those two nations onto the map, to help the less cartographically-gifted readers know what in the world I’m talking about.

 

 

But, on the map, Greenland looks like it could totally dominate those two in a country-sumo contest.

 

What’s my point?

 

Well, in the past three years I’ve run into quite a few people who can’t seem to decide which hill to die on, theologically speaking.  So they just choose them all—or at least a healthy handful.

 

I’ve run into other people who have chosen their Greenlands and Antarcticas as THE key issues about God.

 

They choose to blow these issues out of proportion, and—wait for it—“polarize” (bam!!!  I’m such a wordsmythe!) their would-be brethren depending on their particular views.

 

Now, here’s my two cents’ worth:  the Mercator Projection wasn’t the only thing to come out 500 years ago.  In the world of theology, we had a little thing called the Reformation.

 

Get over it.

 

There’s a reason Martin Luther was in his 20’s when he made those speeches!  Because once you get out of your 20’s you—hopefully—stop thinking you know everything or that you’re always right!

 

We’ve taken issue with some issues and chosen to run people off, refusing to let Jesus-loving people work at a time when volunteers are few and far between, just because they don’t agree on some really peripheral (like Greenland) issues (like Calvinism).

 

Instead, we’ve Mercator-ized our beliefs and decided that those disproportionate glacial hills up there by the poles are THE most important thing we can possibly defend, while the people in the jungles and deserts of the world are dying every day without anyone to tell them about Jesus because a bunch of pharisaical-level-of-rules-wanting theological nerds keep running off the workers!

 

So, what’s your Greenland?   And is it a hill worth dying on?  Is any hill, other than Calvary?

 

-Jeremy

Western Culture vs. Jesus’ Culture

 

Everything on this earth has a weakness.  Politicians seem to like to be in sex scandals and do things with money that would send me to prison.  That seems to be a common weakness for that kind of personality.  We’ll get back to this.

 

Western culture” is a term used to describe the massive group of cultures that have shared the same influences, which generally began in Europe.  It is defined—among several other things—by individualism (individual freedom), a preference for democracy (individual political freedom), capitalism (economic freedom), and a heavy Christian influence, which includes the Enlightenment, the Holy Roman Empire, and the Reformation.

 

The Reformation was (in theory) also about freedom.  Religious freedom.  That, and, cleaning up a bunch of corrupt leadership.  In the end, it wasn’t really much of a “reformation” as it was a “schism”, but the idea was that no man could make or break your relationship with God.  That was between you and God, and no priests allowed!  Especially that dang pope!

 

(Read that last bit in an ornery voice, because most of those Reformation guys were fairly ornery—and that’s putting it uber-mildly.)

 

Anyhow, everything has a weakness.  Well, the weakness in our individualist Western culture is undoubtedly:

 

 Selfishness. 

 

As consumers, we are used to being marketed to.  As voters, we are used to being…well…marketed to.  The political theories are all about freedom.  Heck, America was started because a bunch of wanna-be capitalists didn’t like paying some other guy’s taxes!  They wanted to have their say in the process.

 

Now, if you’re American, you’re probably not familiar with an unbiased look at American history, but let’s face it:  we stole our land from the Native Americans, we stole Florida from Spain, and we stole the entire western half of our nation from Mexico (who had stolen it from some other Native Americans).  Ever heard of Manifest Destiny?  It’s basically a ridiculous excuse for selfishness on a national level, that blames God for why we get to have everything our way.

 

In other words:  it’s all about me!  I get what I want, when I want, and everyone else should bend to accommodate my needs!

 

Other, non-western, cultures aren’t nearly as “me” centered.  People study this, believe it or not.  They listen to politicians in Asia, who use words like “we” and “our”.  In the west, the “you” and “I” count is through the roof compared to them.

 

So, let’s look at Jesus, and see how reading his teachings through the lens of Western culture might—just might—affect how you understand what he’s saying.

 

Read Matthew 7:3-5.  The thing about taking the plank out of your own eye.

 

Now, I have it on good authority (mine) that if you try to correct a westerner about something, the common response is, “Don’t you judge me!” (insert z-snap here).

 

Then, if you try to say, “I’m not judging you, but Jesus said we can know about other people by looking at the fruit of their lives.”, they’ll inevitably whip out Matthew 7 to prove that you shouldn’t “judge” them.

 

Because in the West, “it’s all about me”.  I don’t like being told what to do.  I can do whatever I want.  No man can tell me what to do.  Only God can judge me (we miss you 2-Pac!…sort of…).

 

Did I mention that Jesus wasn’t from America?

 

Obviously, Jesus wasn’t saying, “You can’t correct anyone ever for any reason, unless you’re perfect first.”  But that’s what would-be corrected people try to say if you do.  Believe me.  There’s a reason Jaime Pressley yells “Don’t you judge me!” all the time in My Name is Earl.

 

But Jesus clearly wasn’t saying that, because he also said things like Matthew 7:15-20—that’s right:  it’s in the same chapter!  Or Matthew 18:15-20.

 

Now, if you read that NON-WESTERN teaching in Matthew 7, and try to understand its NON-WESTERN context, it makes a lot more sense.

 

Our cultural lens is not the best one for reading the Bible, because the Bible is a collection of definitely Non-Western writings.  Not to mention their antiquity.

 

Once again, a reminder:   Jesus =/= an American

 

So, if a non-westerner were to read this, they might ask, “How can we apply this verse to ourselves?” or, “How does this teaching apply to our group?”

 

At that point, common sense prevails, and the obvious teaching becomes obvious once again:

 

You can correct people, and help them, and guide them through their problems, just as long as you don’t have the same exact problem in a massive, unrepentant, hypocritical way.

 

In other words:  don’t hold a lit cigarette and lecture someone about smoking.

 

That’s it.

 

My point isn’t to teach a verse though, my point is to raise awareness that our Western weakness is selfishness.  We are so self-centered, and ethno-centered, that we repeatedly have a blue-eyed Jesus…

 

Jeremy

Are you Square-Peg, Round-Holing Your Theology? {A Comic}

 

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There’s a nearly 1000-year-old rule called Ockham’s Razor.  It (or “he”—that is, Mr. Ockham) says that the simplest explanation is the most plausible one.  It was sort of a medieval plea for common sense.

 

Later on, Einstein would say, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

 

I went to seminary.  I did.  I enjoyed it, and I learned a lot of big words.  But, I can’t use them in a conversation… unless you’ve also been to a seminary.

 

One of the things I enjoyed about seminary was that the professors would always speak to the rooms full of pastor-students and say something like, “How many of you have heard X in a sermon before?  Most of you?  You’ve probably even taught it, haven’t you?  Well, it’s a boldfaced lie, and you need to stop it.”

 

The pastor-students would generally make agreeing noises and take lots of notes.

 

But then, they’d graduate and act like they’d never been shown a better, simpler way of doing anything.

 

I went to seminary.  I did.  I paid about $10,000 out of my own pockets to do it.  You know what I learned?  Three things:

 

1.  God is love.
2.  The simplest answer really is usually the rightest.
3.  No one cares about the first two when they’re making theology.

 

Jeremy