Tag Archives: Theology

Not In My Name

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Not In My Name | LazyHippieMama.comThis is not my usual post. I know that many of you come here for gardening tips or homeschooling support and I love that! I hope that, even though this is different it is a benefit to your spirit. I also hope that you will stick with me, regardless of your religious beliefs. Consider it a personal favor to hear me out. It would mean a great deal to me because this is heavy on my heart to the point where I’m literally dreaming about it at night. It’s high-time I say what I’ve been choking back for a long time and, since I’ve got this little corner of the blogosphere to call my own… here it is.

A few weeks ago, my sister-in-law shared an extraordinarily powerful story about a close friend of hers who is Israeli. I won’t go into all of the details here but it came down to a moment when this young woman, along with a small number (relatively speaking) of her like-minded countrymen very literally placed themselves in between two armies. Both armies were committing acts of unspeakable violence against civilians and the true battle between the opposing forces was about to commence. These protestors stepped out into no-man’s land and said – to both sides – you will not do this in my name. I am a citizen of Israel and I stand for peace. If you want to kill each other you will need to kill me and all of these peace loving people between you first. 

They did not end the war, but they stopped that battle. It could have gone very differently for them, but thankfully, that day, the voice of peace prevailed. That day, in that place, lives were spared.

I have thought about that story for weeks.

“You will not do this in my name.”

I think about that every single day.

You see, I call myself “a Christian.” I truly believe that Jesus Christ was the son of God.

You believe differently, you say?

I have no beef with you.

I love the part in the movie, The Stand, when Nick Andros tells Mother Abigail, “But I don’t believe in God.” And she starts laughing and embraces him and says, “That’s OK, Nick. God believes in you.”

See, as a Christian, I accept the Bible as the message of God. Today’s post isn’t to debate how literal the stories of the prophets were meant to be taken or whether or not the correct number of gospels were included. Frankly, for what I have to say today, none of that matters because the Bible has one over-arching theme: Love.

When asked to choose a single commandment, out of hundreds (thousands?) that stood out as the most important, Jesus answered, “Love God with all of your heart, your mind, your strength.” Then he offered the runner up as well. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” His next statement was immensely powerful. “All of the other commands are hung upon this.”

You simply can’t, in good conscious, call yourself a Christian – a follower of Christ – unless you accept that loving God and loving others is the most important thing we can do.

“But who is my neighbor?” The guy in the story asks.

And Jesus goes on to tell the parable of The Good Samaritan. If you haven’t read it before it’s worth a glimpse so I linked to it here. Basically, it’s a story about a Jewish man who is badly beaten and robbed. He is then left in the gutter to die by the religious and political leaders of his own country. Finally, a foreigner from the nation most despised by the Jews – a people considered so spiritually filthy that to converse with them meant ritual cleansing would be needed – picked him up, clothed him, took him to safety and provided for his ongoing care. That foreigner was the man’s true neighbor.

So Jesus was saying we are supposed to love not just those who think and act and look as we do, but even those (especially those?) who are completely different from us in every way.

And what does love look like?

The Bible tells us this:

Love is patient.

Love is kind.

It does not envy.

It does not boast

It is not proud.

It does not dishonor others.

It is not self-seeking

It is not easily angered

It keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. 

(From 1 Corinthians 13)

If you call yourself a Christian then your entire spiritual belief system is based upon the belief that God Himself loved THE ENTIRE WORLD with such a powerful, all-encompassing love that He took on flesh, was born as a man, took on the failings of EVERY person, died and conquered death, creating a pathway for EACH of us to be restored to right-relationship with the Divine.

Not some people or American people or good people or most people.  ALL people.

“Christian” means, “a follower of Christ.”

“Leave your nets and follow me,” Jesus said.

“Take up your cross and follow me,” Jesus said.

There is a whole universe of stuff that is open for interpretation and debate in the Bible and in Jesus’ teachings but that one message was given again and again in simple, clear, unmistakable terms.

God’s love is immeasurable. It is universal. It is eternal.

God’s love is for every person of every time in every place.

God’s love is consistent, selfless and without bounds.

AND

We are to love as God loves.

A quick glimpse at history tells us that Jesus lived in a time and society where many were worshipping other gods in ways that were very different from the way that the Jews worshipped. He was surrounded by people who didn’t follow the God of the Old Testament. He often encountered prostitutes and “loose women,” thieves, liars, cheats and other “undesirables.”

He showed love to all of them. He was no moral relativist. He stood firm in telling them, “what you’ve been doing is wrong. Don’t do it any more.” But he didn’t shun them or yell at them or berate them. He didn’t order them to be imprisoned or killed. On the contrary, he invited them with dinner, visited them in their homes and socialized with them. He loved them, even while disagreeing with them.

He loved them.

Do you know who he yelled at and berated on a pretty regular basis?  Those who thought they were so clean and righteous and generally wonderful that they had the authority to pass moral judgement on those different from themselves.

Hmmm….

So… here we are in “The Year Of Our Lord, 2014.”

Every day I see and hear people who put on their pretty clothes and go to church on Sunday and proudly call themselves, “Christian,” spewing hatred.

There are a lot of versions of this. Hatred toward abortionists and those who have had abortions. Hatred against homosexuals and those who are advocating for equal rights. Hatred toward illegal immigrants. Hatred toward drug addicts. Hatred toward Muslims.

So much hatred toward Muslims!

In this swirling sea of hate, I occasionally see this pop up on social media. It’s just a t-shirt, but the message is extraordinary and powerful – because it is the MOST IMPORTANT bit of instruction God ever gave mankind.

Not In My Name | LazyHippieMama.com

Jesus held people to a high standard of clean living. He told them, “it is wrong to have adulterous relationships. You’ve sinned in stealing. You must be truthful in your business dealings.”

Because otherwise you’ll burn in Hell?

No… because if you love your neighbor as yourself you won’t sleep with your neighbor’s wife or steal from your employer or cheat your client. Love doesn’t act that way.

And there is NO GREATER COMMANDMENT than to love.

If you are living as Christ lived you will love your neighbors. ALL of your neighbors. Not most of them. ALL of them. Every. Single. One.

Love the neighbors who are a little dislikable – the ones who are obnoxiously political, the ones who are bossy, rude and selfish. The bullies and brutes and the jerks.

Love the neighbors who are truly despicable – the rapists and the murders, the child molesters and the terrorists.

Does that mean you have to smile and hug them and say, “what you’ve done is perfectly OK.”

OF COURSE NOT!

That’s not what Jesus did.

But neither did Jesus wish anyone dead and gone. He didn’t cheer for their destruction or pray for their death.

Instead, he prayed for their restoration to God’s own heart and cheered at their salvation.

This is the core of my faith. It is the rock-hard, solid, center of what a life time of spiritual seeking has brought me to.

It seems that there are clear sides being drawn up. On one side are “Christians” who are opposed to anyone with a different view having so much as a voice to express their own opinion and who are screaming for the blood of the infidel.

On the other side are those who denounce anyone with a faith in a higher power as an ignorant buffoon at best and a hateful warmonger at worst.

And I feel that the time has come for me to stand, as my SIL’s friend stood, between warring factions, and say, “I am a Christian and you will not do this in my name.”

Just to be clear, no, I’m not saying that me sharing my faith on Facebook from the safety of my living room is in any way on the same level as what those protestors in the Middle East did.  I’m simply saying this:

To those who call themselves Christian while cheering at the destruction or suffering of any member of God’s creation I say, “Do what you will, but do not count my name among your numbers. I am not with you.”

To those who have been hurt by “Christians” I say, “Not all ‘Christians’ are like those who hurt you. In fact, most of us aren’t. Most of us are trying hard to live a life of love. Sometimes we fall a bit (or significantly more than a bit) short. We’re only human after all. But, really, truly, most of us believe that Jesus loves you and so do we.”

And love never fails.

*After I published this I came across an article on Huffington Post talking about the massive number of Muslims creating a #NotInMyName movement. I LOVE THIS! My heart is buoyed by the idea that, all over the globe, men and women are standing firm for peace!

Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?

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If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve!

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October Daily: If You Cannot Find a Way Out, Look Up!

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Day 13 – Comment on this: If you cannot find a way out, look up.

I would say, not only do I believe in this statement, but I would take it a step further and say we ought not be focused on trying to find a way out at all. We ought to constantly, consciously, direct our attention upward.

When I was learning to drive I consistently took curves and turns too sharply.  My instructor told me, “it’s because you’re focused on the curve of road, directly in front of the car.  Look further ahead. Don’t look at where you are.  Focus your attention onto where you want to be.”  When I did so, the car “miraculously” stayed right in the center of the lane.

Likewise, life is a road rife with twists and turns and obstacles of every sort.  If one focuses their attention on the obstacles surrounding them in the immediate moment it becomes easy to panic or despair.

On the other hand, I have found that when I direct my energy toward being in Communion with That Which Is Above – if I focus on the ultimate goal of being in harmony with Source, with The One who created me (and created you, too, as a special, beautiful, important part of a greater whole) the hazards blur into the periphery and I end up traveling life’s paths exactly in the center of the lane.

It is only when I stop “looking up” and try to take matters into my own hands and use my own, fallible, wisdom that my wheels skid off the road.

The Bible promises that, “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  (Romans 8:28)

I don’t think we are ever promised that “all things will be good,” or that “everything will feel good,” or that “at every moment you will see nothing but good.”  But we can be confident that there is a plan, that we are part of it, and that the whole big crazy thing is in the hands of One that knows infinitely more than we do and has our (and everyone else’s) best interests at heart.  So why waste time and energy fretting about “finding a way out,” when you can just “look up” at the indescribable beauty that surrounds us (and incorporates us!) and continue to move forward in faith?

By all means, look up!

Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?

Why not follow LazyHippieMama on WordPress, by email, Facebook or Twitter to get all the updates.

If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve! 

 

 

All Hope Is Dead…. But That’s Just The Beginning

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From the other blog:

…..Now Jesus was dead and they were locked in this room and they were utterly helpless.  All hope was gone.  They couldn’t even take care of his body properly.  Saturday was the Sabbath day and all work was forbidden.  They had no choice but to let the corpse lie in the tomb and rot until Sunday morning.   They didn’t have a single thing to do for an entire day and night but to sit in that room with their thoughts of death and betrayal and failure and loss and hopelessness….

read the rest: All Hope Is Dead…. But That’s Just The Beginning.

What Twilight, Breaking Dawn Part 2 Taught Me About Witnessing

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I grew up in a conservative evangelical church.  We were told all the time that it was our duty to “witness.”  People “went witnessing.”  If I said I knew a non-Christian I was asked, “Did you witness to her?”At some point, as I got older I started to question all this “witnessing.”  What exactly does that mean? What if they don’t want to hear about my beliefs? Who am I to tell them what they should believe?  Witnessing seemed an awful lot like Bible thumping and, as I’ve written about before, I’m not a big fan of the thumpers.  Somewhere along the line I just sort-of struck that word from my vocabulary.  I didn’t want anyone telling me why I should leave my faith for theirs. It seemed I should… you know… do unto others…

read the rest here:  What Twilight, Breaking Dawn Part 2 Taught Me About Witnessing.

Theological Thursday – Is God Mad At Us? (Part Two)

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MP900433113Read Part One, here.

Ezekiel, Chapter 7, is one of those passages where God is anything other than warm and fuzzy.  We are given a fairly gruesome picture of the wrath that is about to be poured out by a very angry God.

I don’t know why this passage, more than any other, struck a chord with me.  There are countless examples of similar warnings in the Old Testament.  One websites lists some 30+ examples of the wrath of God, often with tens of thousands of people being killed by God.

And yet when someone like Pat Robertson links a natural disaster, such as the earthquake in Haiti, to a human action, such as a “pact with the devil” we all raise up together against him.

“A loving God would never do such a thing!” We shout….

Click here, to read the rest.

 

Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?  

Why not follow LazyHippieMama on WordPress, by email or Facebook to get all the updates.  

If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve!

Theological Thursday – Is God Mad at Us?

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angrygod1We all pick and choose which parts of the Bible we focus on.

The Bible is a collection of such immensely profound books that it can be overwhelming.  Add to that thousands of years of ancient tradition and interpretation and it can be hard to know where to start.

By my way of thinking (and, if you disagree, please feel free to comment so we can learn from one another!)  it makes sense to start with the gospels, that is, the books of “Matthew, Mark, Luke and John” since those are the four books that relate the actual life, words and teachings of Jesus.  If I am going to call myself a follower of Jesus, that seems like the best place to start…..

Read the rest at The Curious Theologian

 

Whoops! I almost forgot it was Thursday!  Thanks for your patience while I work out how best to manage two blogs.  I hope you enjoy them both!

Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?  Why not follow LazyHippieMama on WordPress, by email or Facebook to get all the updates.  If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve!

 

Theological Thursday – Christianity is Simple, Not Easy

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MP900444315 (1)I’m a libertarian at heart.  Stop making rules, for goodness sake!  The more you make the more muddled the whole mess becomes.

I’m not talking about politics.

I’m talking about the OTHER topic…. religion.

Christianity isn’t about rules.  It is pure and simple and beautiful.  It is this:

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.  Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

 

James 1:26-27

James, the brother of Jesus, gives us a pretty clear-cut idea of what is expected of us, if we are to be in right relationship with God.

1) Control your tongue.

2) Care for those unable to care for themselves.

3) Do not become polluted by the world.

Simple, but by no means easy.

My tongue moves at least twice as fast as my brain most days.

It’s messy and inconvenient to care for the downtrodden.  It takes time and resources I would rather use taking care of myself and my family.

Do not become polluted.  *sigh*  That’s a big one.  The original Greek here is aspilos. It means, “without spot, defect or blemish.”

It brings to mind a clean, white shirt.  If I spill red sauce on my white shirt it doesn’t ruin the actual integrity of the fabric.  The shirt will still protect me from the elements and cover my nakedness.  But it appears to be ruined.  It is spotted.  It is blemished. The appearance of a problem makes the shirt worthless.

Christianity is not a list of rules.  In fact, the Apostle Paul tells us it gives us freedom from rules.  But… it’s important to live a life that is free from even the appearance of sin.

That’s a hard standard for me to hold myself to, but it makes sense if you think about it.  If you call yourself a Christian, people will watch your every move to see what makes you different.

We are called to move through the world as beacons of hope and light and love.

We cannot do that if we are fighting against the world.

You will never argue someone into the Kingdom of God.

You will never harass someone into believing.

Control your tongue.  Care for people.  Be without blemish.

Paul was a little more wordy (always), but he said the same thing:

“… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law… Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

Galatians 5:22-26

If you are acting in a way that is hateful toward anyone, stirring up strife with anyone, creating discord among any group with your words or actions, neglecting anyone who is needy (including the needy of spirit, who may be materially wealthy), etc, I suggest you are not living a truly Christian life.

Jesus himself taught this lesson.

(They asked) him this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:37-40

Don’t misunderstand.  I love the traditions of the church!

I think the robes and candles and stained glass windows are gorgeous.  The music moves my soul!  The worship services restore my weary spirit and inspire me.

But those things are man-made.  They serve a good, worthy and important purpose, but they are not the heart of the church.

The heart of the church is love, expressed through service to our fellow man.

It is not the given mission of the followers of Christ to judge the world.

Nor to rule the world.

Not even to save the world.

Only God can do those things.

We are but His (or Her, if you prefer) meager servants.

“But how can I serve someone/something as Vast and Powerful as God?”

Matthew 25:34-40 tells us.

We feed the hungry, clothe the naked, tend to the sick, and visit those in prison.

I implore my fellow Christians to lay down your placards and stop chanting your slogans.  Stop yelling from the street corners and trying to argue people into Heaven.

Control your tongue.

Care for those who can’t care for themselves.

Be without blemish.

When we all do that, the world will be powerfully transformed.  Not through our efforts or our words or our great powers of logic and reasoning, but by the Love of God flowing through our every action.

It may not be easy, but it’s really quite simple.

Theological Thursday – Jesus and Mrs. Of-Nazareth

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Well, it’s been all over Facebook.

Good Morning America talked about it.

I’m sure it’s been discussed on the radio and in the newspapers and around water coolers everywhere.

Jesus had a wife.

Well….

Maybe.

According to one newly discovered source, dated some few hundred years after Jesus’ life on earth, and limited to a handful of fragmented sentences, it may be possible that he mentioned a wife.

As I understand it, this is a picture of that new source in its entirety.

Image from http://www.hds.harvard.edu credit Karen King 2012

It’s kind of small.

And it hasn’t been subjected to much testing, although their doesn’t seem to be any serious debate about the authenticity of its age.

Uhm.

My world is not rocked.

Here’s the thing…

Dan Brown wrote about this 10 years ago!

This is not a new debate.  It’s been a subject of discussion for pretty much as long as the Christian church has had any sort of official organization.  The Bible makes no mention of Jesus ever having been married or having a wife.  It also makes no mention of him NOT having a wife (which, frankly, in that time and place would probably have been worth mentioning as it was very uncommon for a man of his age).

Obviously, church tradition, over time, has favored the “no-wife” argument and there are some valid reasons for that.

But if, some day, we find irrefutable evidence that he did get married…  how does that change the fact that he was sent from God, lived a sinless life, died on the cross and rose again?

How does being married make the sermon on the mount any less extraordinary?

How does having a wife make his miracles less valid?

Over time, our understanding of things changes.  A thousand years ago breaking a piece of moldy bread over the body of a sick person while chanting would be called witchcraft.  Now, we understand that, while perhaps not the best way of doing things, it could heal someone… not because of any magic, but because bread mold has antibiotic properties.  Our understanding has changed.

Modern day Christians tend to say that they believe this or that because the Bible says it’s so…  but when we REALLY read the Bible, does it say what we think it does?  Or have we grown up in a powerful and well-ingrained tradition that interprets things a certain way?

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not knocking tradition.  I think that it’s important to embrace our history.  But, assuming you believe that the scripture is divinely inspired, nowhere does the Bible give church history an equal importance.  There are the words of God, given through the prophets and His own Son, and then there is everything else.

If, in time, all evidence shows that the earth is young or old, that dinosaurs (Leviathans) did or did not exist in the time of Job, that Mary (the mother of Jesus) did or did not have other children of her womb, or… yes… even that Jesus was or was not married….

well…

then that’s the truth.  And it doesn’t necessarily contradict the Bible.  Your faith needs to be strong enough to survive the misunderstandings of your intellect.

St. Augustine once said, “Miracles happen, not in opposition to nature, but in opposition to what we know of nature.”

Now, if, in time, all evidence shows that Jesus was NOT an actual person, that he never performed a single miracle, that he did NOT die on the cross or that (by far the most important thing of all) he did not rise again…

well…

THAT would rock my world and shake my faith.

The rest is just details.

Try not to get too worked up about it.

The world, time, all things, are delightfully mysterious.  Accept that humanity is young and sophomoric and that we still have an awful lot to learn, and go forward in faith that the Wonderful Creator, who is behind all of it, has your best interests well in hand.

Theological Thursday – No More Bible Thumping!

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I have a problem with “Bible thumpers.”

You know… those folks who will beat you over the head with the Word of God in order that you might “get saved.”

This is why:

If you are a Christian, living as Christ instructed, you will never need to “thump” anyone to get their attention.

Your life… your every thought and action and reaction in life should radiate like a bright shining light in the world.

In fact, we are told that, as Christians, we are like a bright light on a hill.  Everyone for miles around can’t help but notice it.

I wonder, sometimes, if my life looks any different to the world than the lives of all those around me.  Is it obvious that I’m a Christian?

Consider this bit of a letter written by Paul and Timothy to the church at Phillipi (emphasis, mine):

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

Or these words, from Jesus:

A new command I give you.  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

John 13:34-35

Do you show that kind of trust?  Do you have that kind of peace? Are you NEVER anxious about ANYTHING?  Do you love your brothers and sisters with the kind of love that Christ showed… the kind of love that was endlessly patient, endlessly forgiving and completely without self-interest?

If you do… if you even come close… then you will never have a need to shove your beliefs in the face of anybody.  People will clamor to know what gives you the “peace that passes all understanding.”

“How can you be so calm in this storm?”

“How can you forgive him after he did THAT?”

“How can you get out of bed in the morning knowing that?”

“How can you give something to that person, not knowing what they will do with it?”

“How…..?”

When these questions are asked, THEN you have the perfect opportunity to share, gently and kindly and with love, The Good News of Jesus.  Share the Bible! Tell its wonderful stories! Explain the extraordinary message of Hope contained in those beautiful, sacred pages!

When they ask, be ready to tell!

If no one has ever asked you a question like that, maybe you should check to see if you are “hiding your light under a basket.”

And, we must never forget that the Bible tells us that it is through the Grace of God that people are given “ears to hear” the message.

Perhaps that person you are bludgeoning with your Good Book hasn’t yet reached the place where they are ready to accept what you know.  That’s OK.  It’s not your place or your business to make them ready.  It’s not my place. It’s not the place of the pastor or the priest or the bishop or the pope.  It’s God’s business to prepare their hearts and bring them close to Him (or Her, if you prefer).

Don’t worry about someone else’s faith.

“Be anxious about NOTHING.” Remember?  That includes being anxious about your neighbor’s beliefs.

Leave it to God to bring those people to you (or to whomever they need to be close to) when the time is right.

Be a shining light.  Always.

In all things, show love.

God is love. (1 John 4:8)

What does that look like?

Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast.  It is not proud. It is not rude. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrong. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Please, stop thumping people with your Bible.

I’m afraid that society, as a whole, is getting a headache from it!

Just love.  Have faith.  Allow the peace that transcends all rationality wash over you.  And know that God is in control.

And guess what?  If you do that, you may find that the Joy of the Kingdom of God isn’t so very far away at all.

Theological Thursday – Too Many Rules? Not Enough?

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As I type this I am nursing my fourth cup of beautiful, dark, steamy, fabulous, rich coffee for today. Is it a sin to consume caffeine?

Some Christian churches have a lot of rules for their members.  Like….  A  LOT.  Volume upon volume of rules that no one could ever hope to follow in their entirety.

There are rules about what you should wear and what you should eat, rules about whom you should marry and at what age.  There are rules about covering your hair and cutting your hair and braiding your hair and looking upon the hair of a married woman.  There are rules about modern conveniences and rules about speaking up in church.

Some churches have a lot of rules.

There are other Christian churches that simply say, “We believe in God and Jesus and we strive to be loving.”  And they let their membership work out, for themselves, exactly what that means.

Most fall somewhere in the middle.

I’ve noticed, though, in this age of the dawning of the modern hippie (hehehe.  That’s me.), that there is a tendency for us to look down upon any organization that imposes rigid structure upon its members.

I’ve been guilty of that.  Very guilty. Many times.

But I recently read something in the Bible that talks about this very situation.

When the Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Romans he was addressing a unique situation.  You see, Jesus was a Jew.  The Jews were a pretty exclusive group.  With rare exception, only those born to the faith were thought to be “worthy.”  Jesus opened up a whole new world of thinking by saying that his message of God’s Love was for the Jews AND the gentiles (every body else).

The Roman church was a hodge-podge.  These people came from every conceivable background and they, apparently, were getting into arguments over the details.  Is it ok to eat meat?  Is it ok to drink wine? Do I have to wash my hands before I eat? Do I have to cover my hair?  Do I have to stop working on the Sabbath?

No one could agree on anything beyond accepting Jesus as the Messiah.

Gee.  Good thing that never happens in the modern church.  (sarcasm absolutely intended)

So Paul wrote to them with these wise words:

Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.  The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him.  Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls, and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand… He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God…. Whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord…

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another.  Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way… if your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love… for the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food…

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

-Romans 14:1-15:7

In 2,000 years, one would hope that people would have matured a little.  Sadly, it seems we are still fighting the same battles.

I purpose, since 2012 is the end of the age and all (nothing like putting random Mayan reference into Christian theology), we make this the year that we take Paul’s advice.

Do you know a Christian who is good and decent and full of love for God and humans who follows tons of rules?

Great! Praise that person for their faith and their discipline!  They love God! They are doing the very best they know how to live according to the convictions of their heart in honor to be pleasing to Him.

Do you know a Christian who is good and decent and full of love for God and humans that seems to have very few boundaries?

Great!  Praise that person for the freedom they have found within their faith! They love God! They are doing the very best they know how to live according to the convictions of their heart in honor to be pleasing to Him.

And if you have a certain freedom…. Let’s say you feel God made grapes, so it’s perfectly fine to enjoy a glass of wine…. That’s wonderful.  But when you are hosting dinner for someone who struggles with keeping their drink moderate, perhaps you should serve sparkling juice instead.

It is not your job to take a person from where they are and push them into the place you want them to be.  If you both accept Jesus as Messiah, the rest is just details.  Perhaps it’s fun or interesting to discuss and debate.  If we never talked about these things, we would never be challenged to grow.  But be careful not to be hurtful or judgmental in your discussions.

It IS your job to love. Always. Unconditionally.  Everyone. At all times. Exactly where they are.

Remember, when asked what the greatest of all the commandments (read: rules) was, Jesus himself answered,

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

-Matthew 22:37-39

Pray and know God’s will for you.  Be confident that He will speak to your heart, and rest well in the knowledge that He will speak to the heart of others, as well.

Well said, Mark Lowry!