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An enjoyable and fun read. I liked the points – apart from the slightly questionable theology of No.1. Could the following sub-failures be added:
1A. Too quick to miss a key point – Lk 12:33 – Jesus didn't say "Sell ALL your possessions" so your comment "needing to give their all to the poor" is an overstatement. See also below.
!B. Too quick to take an individual's challenge and turn it into a doctrine – Mt 19:21 – Would a paraphrase of this be better put, "get rid of ANYTHING that is a hindrance to you following me"?
1C. Too quick to stop quoting – how about Mt 26:11 "the poor will always be with you."
OK< I realise it was a quick paragraph but isn't the teaching – meet the need of the poor around you as much as you possibly can as God leads you in wise action to be as effective as possible. Thoughtless and prayerless giving to the masses of need means we soon join them, but hey it was a good challenge and we need to be reminded constantly.
Thanks for your writing and for the challenges.
Can we use point 3 to refute point 1? Maybe we need to define "rich." I'm wealthier than two-thirds of the world's population and yet just moved out of a car into a basement late last year.
Seriously, is there a "Top 10 Ways Christians tend to Succeed" coming? I think a lot of us pretty much got the failure part down and could use a little encouragment.
John, just by the titles i'm in agreement with what you've listed. When I have more time I'll read all. As a Christian I look at these topics and know that Christians totally think that they'll be saved if they follow certain "rules" that they have interpretted and feel are absolute about their salvation. My Christian walk is shifting because of this reveiw of what I believe, why I believe it and what does God really call us to do and be. Thanks for this dialog, I always appreciate what you write.
1. Too Much Money!! I absolutely agree that we have too much money and I say that to say this, how could we, when people in our cities are starving and not to mention around the world, be so selfish. So when Christ says if you have done this to the least of them, you have done this to me…. We are doing this to Christ and we should be ashamed!!
The book of Acts is a perfect book to reflect on how the church is supposed to handle the needs of its members and community. Remember the couple who sold their land and then lied about how much and gave only a portion to add to the pot of money for distribution to the members. Well, this is what the church is doing. How can a shepherd lead a flock and the flock starves or has needs that are not being fulfilled.
Imagine during the time when the goats will be separated from the lambs, well I can see churches being separated for their outpouring of charity to their local communities and congregants. Charity is the greatest gift!!!
I think the onset of denominations has been successful in limiting the original intent of the great commission. Not that it has not been successful, but dividing and conquering has always worked.
I think that America should be a Judao-Christian country with Mosaic and Levitical Laws present in our society and enforced. I don't really think that those laws forbid us or anyone else from coming to and prospering in America. They do however govern our ability to be pleasing/loving/obedient towards Father G-D. His words are life giving and guaranteed protection and provision for all who follow them.
Gays and Lesbians, well I personally think that if someone tells you they have known this, that they were gay, since they were 4 and 5, that it is safe to say that they are being governed by forces beyond their control at that age, but as a teen/adult age, we all have the power to choose. Other than that, Father says in his word in KJV Luke 17: 34- 37 the following,
 I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.
 Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
 Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
 And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.
And based on that, I will follow His ideas about salvation and reserve my understanding and judgement to let his thoughts and ideas which are higher than any earthly creatures prevail.
And. you go Kelly. Appreciate your response.
faith: good points! and it's because of them that I wrote, "Give your all to the poor," rather than "give everything you own to the poor," if you see the difference. But I definitely see what you're saying here.
Kelly: I'm "positive." Promise. (And yes, I know there's lots of great Christian music. Of course there is…)
Sam: A "Ways We Succeed" WOULD be a great piece. It's just not … this one, obviously.
Sabina: Bless your heart.
I suppose it's awfully progressive of Mr. Shore to note how Christians are "(#8)Too fixated on gays and lesbians." But I fear that even after a week's respite from the anti-Gay vitriol, it will be back to business as usual, since his position is so "unassailably Biblical."
But how so, exactly? Of course the Bible condemns rape and promiscuity and ritualistic pagan sexual practices. Of course the Bible provides us with a moral and ethical framework within which we might conduct our lives with decency and humility, regardless of our sexual orientation.
After his week's respite from being "too fixated on gays and lesbians," will Mr. Shore be back to clinging wistfully to the notion that Straight (i.e. heterosexual) couples get to date, get, engaged, get married, and build lives together in the context of monogamy and commitment, and that this is a GOOD thing … but for Gay couples to do exactly the same is automatically a BAD thing?
To me that's a pretty poor value judgment.
1. Um, no. Interesting, but it doesn't ring true to heart for me. It reminds me of the silly notion that poor people are more generous, and the rich are stingier. The Very Wealthy of my friends are some of the most generous, compassionate people I know. Their wealth allows them to help many. They could sell all and give it away, I suppose, but then they would be helping no one.
God blesses us in different ways for different purposes. It's not what we have — health, wealth, wisdom, etc. — but how we use it.
10. I have given up many associations because of this. I used be patient with the new born-againers who need to explain all of my faults to me. Now, I just grin and wave good-bye. Who wants to be around people who are so distressed by who you are that they feel compelled to fix you?
I know they will mature in time, but I always feel sad because I wonder how many people they will alienate from Christianity while they are trying on their new lifestyle.
11. Too focused on top 10 lists, 7 step programs and not the Word of God and prayer. Well these are my issues.
DaJuan: If you believe anything, believe this: You don't know me.
Hjordes: That's it. You're fired. Oh. Except for your comment on #10. So … you're hired again. BUT I'LL BE WATCHING YOU!!
Billy: I actually agree with you!
"If you believe anything, believe this: You don’t know me."
True enough. Hopefully by reading you commentary more often, I'll get to understand your perspective better.
I currently serve in full time ministry, have been for the last couple of years. All my work friends are Christians, so are my church friends. Two different sets of people. Once in the last two and half years has the gay issue been a topic of conversation. I don't know a single Christian that is obsessed over this. Neither is the ministry I serve with or the church I attend. This is not a hot button issue with anybody I know. Is it with anyone else?
DaJuan: That's very kind of you. Thanks.
Billy: Everything I post here on my WordPress site is stuff I've also posted on my "blog" at Crosswalk.com, the largest Christian website in the world. There, a great number of the articles and "blog" pieces published have to do with homsexuality. So in a sense I'm speaking, about that, to my fellow Crosswalk writers. You may not know this (and lucky you! sane you!), but Christian media is filled with concern over the whole gay … "issue."
Oh, I am informed about the gay "issue", what I'm saying is Christian media, in my humble opinion is getting it wrong. I don't believe it is a subject of preaching in most churches on any given Sunday morning. Neither is atheism.
Amen to that, Janiece.
Winey: Thanks for giving this such a careful and sensitive read. Wonderful. It's just … deeply gratifying.
Janiece: Amen again. Perfect.
BellJar: Yeah, I guess 10 IS just a beginning, isn't it? Still. I'm thinking these 10 are certainly enough for … this life, anyway. Thanks for the kind attitude.
Washed: If you don't know any Christians who too agressively present their faith to non-believers, then … I want to move into your neighborhood. Or go to your church. Or something. Cuz lucky you, for sure.
Kayoung: Wow. Thank YOU for those very kind words.
Cjescrabano: PLEASE go look, just for fun, at my book called "I'm OK–You're Not: The Message We're Sending Nonbelievers and Why We Should Stop." Find it atop the front page of this blog, on a little tab up there. Go look at one of the interviews I did on the book–or, better, go read its intro on the Catalyst page you'll see a link to. You'll DIE. I spent a whole BOOK basically raving about the EXACT stuff you've said here. Too much. Great. Thanks.
Beth: Amen to that.
Elizabeth: Yes, feel free to use that joke. If you wouldn't mind, though, please keep track of exactly how many times you use that joke in the course of a seven-day week. At the end of that week, please times that number by $1, and mail me the resultant amount. Because I like you, I'm prepared to make you this offer: You AND a friend can use the joke for $1.50 total each time. That's half off for one of you. This joke is also available at bulk discount; at a certain point , using it is practically FREE if you take advantage of my special, 6-month's usage prepay option.
Man, that was a lot of work for that one routine. Sorry.
Let me begin by responding to point 8: "It’s not like gay and lesbian people are going anywhere. They’ll all be there when we get back." I just wanted to let you know that at least one of us aren't there….I'm HERE and following your blog everyday! I can't even tell you how much I loved your recent series on writing. Just awesome!
#1 That's one I've personally struggled with for many years. Jesus' words on riches is so clear and yet…doggoneit….so hard to begin to know how to even do. Actually, maybe I do know how to do it but am just unwilling. And there in is the struggle. Wanting to do what I believe Jesus calls us to do and not saying yes to it. The angst on this one continues.
#3 Agreed. If we know without question all that God is saying in the bible, make you kind of wonder why we call it faith when no faith is needed.
Oh heck John, I could say something about all of them but then it's dinnertime and I'm the cook in the house so better to keep peace on the home front than babble on. Anyway, thanks for yet another great post my man!
Beth, I completely agree.
You're welcome to visit anytime you're in St. Louis, John. 😉 You'll find the link in my sidebar on my blog under Grace Baptist Church.
Thank you for great wisdom and insight.
Hey Brother – You’ve achieved a good level of maturity. Sounds like you’ve spent a bit too much time around those who aren’t quite. Perhaps you need a few more mature brethren to hang out with to stay positive. Whether we’re Pauls or Timothys or Silas’s – I look adamantly for people to help me grow & stretch. Whatever level we acheive, God’s design is for us to always need him desparately – humility is key.
2) We have the BEST music – oh my, just you wait for all the recommendations.
3) My heart has been heavy with the “force” that the body of Christ should be on the planet. No verbal evangelisim necessary. We should stick out like “name the cult” every where we step and speak. People should/do/will look across the street at us & think “There’s one of those Christians”
Smile John. Love John. Then give Him all the glory.
1. Too much money.
Nothing I could add to this, except how we spend our money is a critical piece too.
2. Too confident that God thinks we’re all that and a leather-bound gift Bible.
3. Too quick to believe that we know what God really means by what he says in the Bible.
If nothing in the Bible upsets, disturbs, or confounds you, you are not reading all of it.
4. Too action-oriented.
I don't know about this. In my experience, most believers (myself included) don't take enough action, in terms of assisting the poor, responding to needs, etc. Of course, we should do nothing in the absence of prayer, study, and reflection on Whom we worship.
5. Too invasive of others generally.
I think world history and American history have taught us that when church and state become intermingled, both lose.
6. Too invasive of others personally.
I agree whole-heartedly on this, but it presents a confounding dilemma: how do we fulfill the Great Commission in a non-invasive manner? This could be a whole post (hint-hint).
7. Too quick to abandon logic.
I remember taking a course on "personal evangelism" as an undergrad at a Christian college. We spent the whole semester talking about why, according to scripture, personal evangelism is important. I figured that most of the students were already convinced of that, otherwise we wouldn't be taking the course, right? I learned nothing about addressing other worldviews in a meaningful way.
8. Too fixated on gays and lesbians.
We need a meaningful response to clowns like Westboro Baptist Church.
9. Too insular.
10. Too quick to condemn fellow Christians.
"That they may all be one."
Now for the non-Chirstian response…
John, thank you for the post. And I would be happy to party with you any day (and yes, bring the music). I am lucky that many Chirstians I know live your list… unfortunately I run across some who don't. They tend to make me want to run acriss the street (or decide how an arrow in their backside looks).
My only concern is with your wealth comments… unfotunately, people temd to not apply that to themselves but the gov (and thus everyone), especially vocal Chistian politicians (really tired of hearing that we are a Christian nation and should give – by force – to others). Give your money away, but please keep yur hands off mine, I can decide how to give it away (or if I even want too).
Everything we do and say needs to be done as the Spirit leads us, including evangelism and giving. God knows the plans He has for everyone He created so we need to get out of His way and let His will be done. Obeying the Holy Spirit will put us exactly where He wants us, in the center of His perfect will. Not just acting on our own volition will keep us from doing a lot of things you mention.
Amen X 10.
I love #1 and #’s: 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 &10. Yeah! But #1 Rocks. You should read my poem The Rich Young American sometime.
‘Course now your feelin’ some o’ that #10 problem kick in. Rich in mercy and abounding in love… easy to read, say and attribute to God but very difficult to live. Judgment is so much easier not to mention the immediate satisfaction element…which gets us looping back to #2.
Thanks, Rick. And something tells me you’ve got a good sense of just WHY I ended with the #10 I did….
John-a great post, as always.
I agree with #1 whole heartedly but as many people do have trouble putting it into action in my life. Working hard on it everyday and trying to be an example to the little monsters.
5, 6, 8, 9, 10 all come down to judging others. Not my job. I had someone at another blog tell me that God gives believers the gift of judgment and discernment to use ON OTHERS!!!! I know God gave me those along with free will to use in my life on myself NOT on another human. My life is to love everyone that crosses my path NOT to judge them!
7 I am learning a lot about this from the people I blog with. Sometimes I just have to tell them that I can’t explain something to them using exact specific logic right now but will get back to them when I am able!
2,3,4 all good points to be considered every morning during morning prayer but #4 again speaks to me of love and grace!
I know it sounds simplistic but God didn’t really make it all that complicted to follow Him. We’re the ones who make it complicated.
I admit, I’m the worst when it comes to doing it without checking with “Daddy” (Abba) first and have gotten us into some messes because of it. If I’d just remember to say….”What’s Your will about this?” or “What should I say (or do) now?” FIRST my life would be so much easier and I’d please Him so much more.
I'm a Christian who enjoys your blog and I also happen to be a lesbian.
Yes, the condemnation, hate, etc directed towards us can sometimes get a bit much and not be Christ-like at all. But I have peace with God and the fact that "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved"
Looking forward to new posts!
John, wonderful post. I’m sure there are more than 10 ways on my list which tend to de-rail me everyday in my walk as a Christian but your list did identify the key ones. Thank you for sharing.
Now just on the gblt community, but maybe a little on the sexual immorality as well? I see too many Christians on hot-button issues online and in debate for gay rights, abortion, euthanasia, woman's role in church…can we get back to what Christ was really about with man, loving thy neighbor as yourself? This means helping them out as well!! I no longer hear about helping the poor and such anymore!!
Hi, John… you’ve got some good points here… I really like 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, and 10, but I have to take issue with number six.
I don’t know very many Christians, with the exception of my father, who is mentally ill, who are overly pushy with their faith and intrusive of others. That may be just the crowd I hang out with, but I don’t see many Christians witnessing and preaching the Bible at all. We have to remember Christ’s final words to us when He lit out for heaven to hang out with His Father for the next several thousands of years:
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen.
That’s rather direct, I think. I know, I know, someone’ll probably say “go back to number 3!” I still think there’s a lot of people who don’t share Christ enough or the right way.
My faves are #2, #3, and #4. Thank you for giving us all things to think about above the mundane. Blessings.–kathleen
Hi John! I just stumbled upon this post, and I am SO glad! This is AWESOME! You summarize so well so many things I’ve thought in the past 4 years since I moved into a neighborhood with some very devout Christians. One family in particular has taught me a lot because they tend to be on the Religious Right whereas my family is on the Liberal Left. And all too often, I have walked away from them angry and frustrated because of their attitude that their way is so much better than mine. I’m not even sure they even know what my way is. They’ve never asked me. And when the lady across the street had surgery and needed meals and transportation, where were they?
Nothing makes me angrier than the evangelists who come to my door to “save” me. They never ask me anything about myself. How do they know that I’m not already saved? What if I were some super-spiritual being who could save them?
I know the Bible says that we have to go out into the world and tell everyone about Christ, but every good salesperson knows that there’s a right way and a wrong way to do that. If someone comes up and starts preaching at me, I’m going to walk away faster than I can hang up on a telemarketer. But if they live their lives in a way, that makes me take notice, that is the strongest message of all.
Anyway, I’m printing this post out. It’s a keeper! Thank you.
I think you have great points here.
My opinion is that we are all saved and chosen before time having nothing to do with our “asking”. In other words, I believe He chose us — it’s out of our control whether people are saved, but it’s commanded from us in scripture to still preach the gospel. Seems contradictory, but then again — we are super finite in our ability to interpret scripture to begin with AND there are things we just won’t understand until we get to heaven. That will be one fine day, and I just can’t wait.
Also, I do believe that the best way to preach the gospel is to just live it.
LOL!!! I LOVED the one that said that “We are too confident that God thinks we are all that and a leather bound gift Bible.”
With your permission, I will have to use that one sometime… Too funny!!!! (And oh, so true!!!)
John, good post. We need to be talking about this stuff. It is important that we continually examine ourselves, ask ourselves what we are doing and why. Discipleship is, I think, the biggest challenge for the church in America today. Evangelism cannot happen on a large scale until discipleship improves greatly. We cannot lead others to Jesus unless we are following Him ourselves. And right now, there is too much talk and not enough walk. I speak as one who was one of the worst offenders in that regard. If all of us who consider ourselves Christians were doing everything Jesus commanded you would not be able to recognize the church in America (or America), it would be so different.
Kelly, you are not alone with a heavy heart about the force the church should be. “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
1. As Janiece said, the Spirit will tell us what to do with our wealth. The bible has a lot to say on this topic and we need to look at all of it. Very true that we cannot serve two masters.
2. Today I know that God looks upon me as if I was righteous because of the blood of Jesus, and I want to please Him, not grieve Him. In the past I was ignorant of the first thing and thoughtless as to the second.
3. Again as Janiece said, we're the ones who make it complicated. Most of the bible is very straightforward. God is not trying to fake us out. There are sections that are difficult. God wants us to explore those, to study, pray, seek greater understanding. We should approach them with an attitude of humility. We should be able to discuss them with each other in a brotherly and sisterly way.
4. I wish we were too action-oriented, if it would be the actions Jesus commanded: Tell people the good news, love one another, obey His commands, love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (granted, we are not really being persecuted today in America but we can pray for believers elsewhere), feed the hungry, heal the sick, clothe the naked, visit those in prison.
5. I agree and feel that taking control of the levers of state power and using them to impose 'Christianity' from the top down is not God's plan for the church. Just my opinion, I could be wrong. If we will hear/read God's Word, believe the Word and do what the Word says, there will be no need for such a scheme because there would be no stopping the church. It would spread like wildfire. We cannot impose belief. We cannot make the seed grow. We only sow the seed; God makes it grow.
6. We do need to sow the seed. Again, we must first be walking the walk, or trying to tell people would be worse than nothing – it would bring discredit to the name of Jesus. In my experience people will come to you and bring it up when they realize you are for real. The time will come when we must actually talk about what we believe. “…do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Matthew 10:19-20) Everyone and their spiritual journey is different. Mine is different from yours is different from the next person. Again be sensitive to the leading of the Spirit.
8. Agree. We need to stick to our beliefs but remember to do it the way Jesus would. There is a lot of room for improvement here. Exactly what the bible teaches regarding orientation vs. acts is another discussion.
9. Yes, If everybody we know is just like us we may need to get out more. For instance, if we know homosexuals it helps with no. 8.
10. Yes, there is way too much fratricide in the church. How can I get so obsessed with someone else's supposed theological failings when there is so much of what Christ commanded yet to be done?
I completely agree that we need to stop the fixation on gays and lesbians – a sin is a sin – we treat homosexuals as if they are committing the one unforgiving sin in our made up rule book. Do you see Christians hating those who have eating disorders, those who have affairs, etc…these are ALL sins against Christ and glorifying Him with our mind, soul, body, and heart. Who are we to say that this person over here who had an affair is OK because even though God said it was a sin, he's gonna be OK, but this person over here who is a lesbian is a goner and needs to told how horrible they are.
Keep sending these awesome blogs to me! When I first became a Christian many years ago I tried to attack people with Jesus. Of course, I did not realize that is what I was doing at the time. I mean, why wouldn't everyone want this miraculous Gift!!
Then, after a few horrible falls of my own, and much searching of His Word, I realized so many things. In trying to save the world, I became spiritual in my own eyes…like "Oh, I am so glad I am not like poor (YOU KNOW WHO)…and, "But by the Grace of God Go I" and many things to make myself feel okay. After a few falls, God showed me who I really was…and then forgave me! Now, the one thing I know for sure is this: I am to "LOVE" others and hope and pray for them. It is a comfort to know that He is so longsuffering with us. We need to realize that things are not always as they seem in someone else's life. People act different ways to fulfill some longing in their hearts. Jesus has so much compassion for us. Who are we to behave any different. You can get a whole lot farther with someone if you react and act in love, rather than attacking people with the Gospel.
Live out our faith…others will see.
Thanks so much for sending this my way. Thanks for including the fact that you still fail and struggle, as we all do.
I have one question and one point.
1) Is it possible that, by reading the scripture about the rich man as if it were addressed to a reader in the 21st Century (egocentric) rather than to a rich youn ruler living in the first century (historic), you are taking the verse out of context?
2) My statement has to do with your point number five. You stated that the Church and State don't belong together. I agree that America should recognize the freedom of religion but the message of the early disciples was most definitely political. When the state acts contrary to justice we, as Christians, are obliged to confront it and seek necessary changes.
Those living in the first century didn't delineate between the categories we so easily seperate of 'religion' and 'politics'. One hearing the message of the Gospel then would have heard that if Jesus Christ is kurios, Ceaser is not.
Russell: in a bit of hurry, but will do my best:
1. I don’t think so. Absolutes are absolutes. If the meaning of what Jesus said so often and plainly about believers in him giving their all to the poor can be validly reassessedin light of its “historical context,” then virtually anything he said can be. Which means eveything in the gospels is subject to relativistic reinterpretation. Which means it’s basically useless.
2. I’m not understanding the message of the early disciples being “definitely political.” Maybe I’m missing something; I just don’t see that. I certainly do see, though, where Jesus said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” It just seems to me that the Founding Fathers were right: Church and State belong apart, insofar as you don’t want public policy determined by religious conviction. Of course Christians should confront and oppose injustice. But justice isn’t a Christian concept or term; it’s a universal reality. ALL people, regardless of their religion, should oppose injustice.
John, evaluating scripture in its historical context does not render it useless. It allows us to more accurately understand scripture. All scripture is ‘culturally conditioned’. By interpreting his words to the rich young ruler as a timeless call for all Christians to “go and sell your possessions and give to the poor” you have unjustly condemned almost every Christian in America. I am sure that you well know that even the poorest Americans are far richer than those in Ethiopia or South Africa.
The popular hermeneutic of the West is to read scripture egocentrically, as if it were written directly to us making Jesus, primarily, a teacher of timeless truths. I don’t deny that Jesus taught timeless truths but we must first understand what he taught in context of its historical setting. The rich young ruler obviously valued money over devotion to Christ. There is no doubt that being ‘rich’ is the source of much temptation above that experienced by those who are poor, but to impugne those who are ‘rich’ on that basis is unjust.
The failure to consider the context, historical setting, the audience, and the speaker results in a multitude of absurdities. Suppose, for example, we read what Jesus told Peter at the last supper the same way. Here is the verse.
Mat 26:34 Jesus said to him, “I tell you the truth, on this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”
Should I assume from this verse that tonight I will deny Jesus three times before I hear a rooster crow in the morning. Of course not! We have to consider that Jesus was speaking to Peter the night before the crucifixion rather than read what he said from an egocentric perspective. I could provide a thousand other examples but I will simply ask you this question and maybe it could facilitate my point. Were you, a Gentile, who has never been subject to Torah, redeemed from the curse of the law?
On the subject of interpretation of scripture, we can learn a little from the way Jesus Himself interpreted scripture. He tended to point to the broader spiritual implications. He was neither historical/critical nor strictly literal in His interpretation. "Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD." (Leviticus 19:18) When He quoted this in Mt. 22:39, He did not say we should practice it only toward our spiritual brothers; His intent clearly was that it should be practiced toward all people. When He taught on murder He did not limit Himself to a literal interpretation of "You shall not commit murder" (Exodus 20:13) but included using our mouths to curse another human being, who was made in God's image, or even harboring hostility or hatred toward someone, as violations.
On wealth, it is our attitude toward it that matters. Are we its master and we use it for God's purposes (and it is ok to enjoy some of it)? "A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind." (Ecclesiastes 2:14) Or is it our master, and we seek mainly our own enjoyment of it? "Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless." (Ecclesiastes 5:10)
It seems hard to set an arbitrary income ceiling for Christians. The median income in the world might be $3000 a year or something, but we would be walking around destitute in this economy if we did that. Would that glorify God? But we can still resolve that we will seek to make a difference for others rather than seek to become rich ourselves. "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." (1 Timothy 6:6-10)
Russ: Yeah, of course you’re right: Context IS everything. And insofar as that’s true, everyone ultimately has to decide for himself what, relative to anything they believe, is absolute, and what subject to modifications based on relativistic considerations. Choosing between those two relative to any sort of belief system is just … part of being an adult, isn’t it?
Hi again John, I had a few moments to read your 10 things and I still am in agreement. I have been a “Christian” all my life but I did not feel the lord in my soul/spirit/being until much later as an adult. I feel that Christians get too caught up in practices and religion and get too far away from Christ’s message of loving each other and taking care of this world that we were blessed with. So Jersey I hear you! Unfortunately, my perspective has been bashed, which some Christians tend to do, but I am working hard to live a life that is inclusive and loving towards Gods people-and we all are whether that is accepted or not. I attempt to be an example of Christs hopes for us Christians and I will be the first to admit my humaness and that even as a Christian I’ve sinned, but I ask for forgiveness and ask God to fix that which is not acceptable so…..Thanks again John. I enjoy reading your blogs and the dialog it generates. Oh and I too am a Christian inspite of Christians who tried to make me “the mold” Christian. God is good!
"One is good for we Christians; one is good for everyone. As much as I personally would like it to be, America is not a Protestant country. It’s a Catholic country, and a Jewish country, and an atheist country, and a Buddhist country, and a Mormon country, and (yes) a Muslim country."
As far as I know Catholics are Christians as well, especially in the context of values. There's no need for a discrimination in terms.
Well said however, you're quite right =)
On #1, Paul wrote to the Corinthians that Jesus became poor so that we (his followers) would become rich. He also clarified what he meant: To have sufficiency for everything (assuming every necessity) and an abundance for every good work. This suggests to me that Christians possessing oodles of wealth is a good thing if they give alot of it to every good work. OT and NT make is clear that helping the poor to get out of poverty is a good work important to God. It is the love of money and an opulent lifestyle seems oxymoronic.
On #4, #5, #6, #8, #9, and #10, your point about tracking one’s own humility more than judging, intruding, selling, and endless doing this or that as if it all of it is God is a good one. Jesus’ doing was often preceded by either all night or early morning pray vigils. On the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said do not judge others and Paul later seconded it. Those who beat up or otherwise verbally abuse fellow citizens of the kingdom are promised severe punishment in the end. Nevertheless, Jesus did commanded his followers to meditate when the Holy Spirit came upon them; he told them to go and make disciples of all peoples and/or nations. We Christians do a lot of stuff not exactly relevant to that commission. We are told to judge others by their fruit (I don’t think he meant apples, oranges and the like) and by behaviors–like the Corinthians sexual immoral behavior. In Paul’s long list of hell reaping evils in Romans, homosexuality was not left out. I do not think Christians can drop the gay issue. For reasons beyond the sin, the gay agenda is a global one in which they seek to force all others to tolerate or accept their practice as something it is not. Training up children to believe the lies they intend everyone to believe is likely to have rotten consequences. But you are right, after we return from our heavenly rapture/resurrection, they will still be here–but not for long. The problem is how many will thy take with them. Sodom and Gomorrah was not merely about two gay cities. The story is about a society tolerant of immorality. Real homophobia or sinphobia is to have no relationship at all with gays or other non-believers. School and work and similar associations should provide plenty exposure. Of course, secularists have legalized the separation of religion from the public domain. That seems widely believed anyway.
On #2, #3, and #7, how incredibly true. One confusing doctrine is the Trinity. It is presented as a mystery revealed that cannot be understood because its a mystery. It appears to be intellectual dishonesty, Therefore, truth is not the most important aspect of Christian belief. It is no mystery. By inferences, the Trinity is three god-persons who make up one Godhead–not one mysterious god-person–who are like a family. God the father is the chief, Holy Spirit is the source of the son and life, and the Son carries out the family plans; hence, Jesus is redemption, redeemer, and Lord.
I doubt if this is anywhere near where you were heading with that comment, John, but it reminded me of what Gandhi said about being a Christian and a Jew and Muslim and a Hindu. We all have far more things in common than what we differ on, yet it is those differences which we continue to obsess us. Good post. You get a 100% plus 10 points for extra credit since you didn't get anything wrong.
An A-PLUS! Finally, I can die happy. SWEET! Thanks, brother.
ahhhh…I've lived the dream….
Hey man, you've taken on a year's worth here in summing up the failings of Christianity in one fell swoop. Lots of decent comments but one glaring failure you missed (in my opinion) — and you even stepped into it.
Imho, popular Christianity is a little like armchair psychology sometimes. I have worked in Christian media, worked for a church, and have a masters in lit (focused on religious dialog in Renaissance England) as well as seminary — and here's what I've noticed….
It's the nature of church to talk, talk, talk about what the Bible means. And yet scholars are every day discovering things that change our understanding of various passages. These are ancient books originally written in languages that are no longer spoken (or have changed a great deal) in cultural contexts that no longer exist to original audiences whose worldviews differ from ours in such HUGE ways I can't even think of a good comparison.
A little humility before the text will help us a great deal. We are learning new things about this book all the time. Case in point: the scripture popularly rendered "Train up a child in the way he should go, and he will not depart from it," we now know to be more accurately translated "Train up a child according to his own giftedness, and he will not depart from it." You might have been a Christian long enough for that one to hit home, but it would for many people who have used this one as guide for for raising their children! To my ear, the new translation makes so much more sense — it is more proverb-like.
To claim that we know what Jesus meant without doing even a little digging (popular Christianity / armchair psychology) often does more damage than good. I'm quite convinced that the Bible can be twisted to mean just about anything. If we claim it as our sacred book, we can do better than tossing around scriptures as if they were mathematical theorems that can be ripped from context and be pasted into a new one.
And there's so much good to gain from some serious digging into the text. And much to be gained by immersing ourselves in it until we (like Andy above, and others) bring out of it not just the meanings of passages but the spirit of various passages and books into our thinking. It really is alive — I believe that — but I believe that happens when we sit under it to learn from it and not when we stand over it to use as a proof text for our own ends.
Issues like homosexuality are hot-button issues of our day — especially in election years, probably. But I don't see this leaping from the text as a theme or major issue. We tend to use the Bible as a proof text here. Issues like loving your neighbor — huge, huge theme — don't hear people talking as much about it as the hot-button issues though. Wish I did. I mean, maybe instead of talking about how much money is ok to have, we could talk about the best ways to love with the money we've got.
Amen, John. Thanks.
John, I am not trying to be argumentative. I’m trying to point out that in order to understand how to apply scripture in our current culture, we must first understand it in the culture of first century Judaism. We are dealing with issues that are far different from those dealt with by the early church. You will agree there aren’t many people infiltrating churches attempting to convince believers of the necessity of circumcision.
But how can we apply the lessons Paul taught the Galatian church in light of our current culture? Are there similar situations that exist within the church where we might apply what he taught. I think there are. Anyhow, that is my point.
John-I recently stumbled across this site and find you very funny. Hope it's okay to point at that here you just sounded a little grouchy (maybe tired or hungry or fed up with nasty neighbors). Not that I thought you were trying to be funny (you weren't, were you?).
Anyway, the irony here is that many (dare I say most) of these posts proved your points about how hypercritical, judgmental, irritating, etc christians are by…re-iterating how hypercritical, judgmental, irritating, etc. other christians are. I'm going to end there and not tell you how your points apply to either everyone but me or no one I know.
Keep up the humor! I loved your article on words that should be banned from TV broadcasting. I laughed until I cried
Um. Yeah, that’s why I made a distinction between Protestants and Catholics, not between Christians and Catholics.
I doubt if this is anywhere near where you were heading with that comment, John, but it reminded me of what Gandhi said about being a Christian and a Jew and Muslim and a Hindu. We all have far more things in common than what we differ on, yet it is those differences which we continue to obsess us. Good post. You get a 100% plus 10 points for extra credit since you didn’t get anything wrong.
About your Top 10 Ways….
You talk about Homosexuality and then you refer to Gays.
Why do we as Christians who are all suppose to be Gay (in the happy sense) so readily accept the usage of a word that for years has meant happy to something that depicts those that are not really Gay ( Happy) ?
Because we weren't all born in 1906?
Sorry. That was extremely snarky. It seemed like such a FUNNY answer that I had to see it in print. Forgive me.
To be honest, "gay" has meant "male homosexual" for so long that's the only way I think of that word. I'm 50, and I don't EVER remember people saying, "I'm so gay it's Christmas," or, "Just being with you makes me feel so gay." So … to me, guy homosexual IS what "gay" means.
Jeannie: Thanks so much for your comment. What a day-maker. (Was I being grumpy? With the Catholic/Protestant guy, you mean? Nah. I mean … I guess I DO get a little grumpy sometimes when someone criticizes something they THINK I said, rather than what I actually said. You simply would not BELIEVE how often that happens to me: People just sort of attack (not that that guy did) without actually READING what it is they just assume you said. It does get a little … grueling. But. NO EXCUSE! So I apologize for my Revealed Snarkiness.
Shoot. Must go make breakfast. I have no idea if anyone even reads my responses to these comments, but let me real quick say how much each and every one of them means to me. That ANYONE would take time from their lives to share their response to something I wrote and sent out to Cyber World just … kills me. It's so great. THANKS TO YOU ALL!!!
Gd Article. I must disagree with one thing you wrote though … God yes does do the work .. but that doesnt mean we do nothing and let Him do all the work. No, because we must be lights to the world, and through us, God can do miracles. As Jesus said "you do not put Lamps in places where they can't be seen, no , you put them where they shine and can be seen" .Yes, i agree we should stop going to convert people in an overboard way preaching like nobodies business … but we still have the duty to do it, and i think we should continue this, but only with the help of the Holy Spirit, the direction of the Holy Spirit, and in a way that relates to God.
Thats what i think anyway.
God Bless You =D
No christian is perfect, only God is. We all have faults. Money? God does not condemn anyone who has money, its the love of it. We need money to eat, pay bills, medical expensives, etc, And God is the one who provides that, money. He is the one who owns the earth and everything on the earth, we are just stewards to what he has given us. Reading the bible well the king james version can confuse anyone. But with the other translations out today its has become much easier to understand the bible. But one must read the entire verses too. Not just a part of it. Which is what some people do.
We are to make disciples of the world too, as God told us to. But one cannot force Gods word on anyone. For some they just do not want to
hear it at all. And getting in a person face, only makes them reject God more. And Gay's and Lesbians, the bible tells us that they shall not see the kingdom of heaven. God did not create man for man, and woman for woman, realationships, nor to have sex with the same sex.
Just as God did not make a mistake when he created anyone, to make them think they should become the opposite sex. He does not make mistakes. God created man for woman and woman for man.
And we do have those Christians who think they are better than others. And think they are know it all's. The chapter and verse person. I just laugh at them. For they are no better than me. They are sinners, just like I am, and they have to ask God to forgive them of there sin's just as I do. God knows everyone's heart. And that is what he looks at.
The scriptural interpretation issue is a critical one because the Word is our life, and it is an indispensable part of the church's process of continuous reformation into the image of Christ. We've got to be able to use the Word, teach it, read, hear, believe and obey it. And people who like to read and who like to write stuff about religion, as we do, cannot be the only people doing this.
As Kath pointed out, the bible can be, and has, been misused to support many bogus religious, political and other ideas. In my opinion, ignorance of the bible by the mass of ordinary people in the church has, through history, made this much easier for these "wolfs in sheep's clothing". They cherry-pick scriptures to support their positions.
If we use a clear, accurate translation (and most of the major ones made in the last 100 years would qualify), look at everything the bible has to say on an issue, genuinely and sincerely want to understand what God is saying, ask God to help us understand what we are hearing/reading, talk about the things we're having difficulty understanding with like-minded Christian brothers and sisters, and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us through the Word, I'm convinced we will be compelled to go in the direction God wants. "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16)
57 – John, I would guess that most people read your responses. I always do. You have some wonderful posters, too… intelligent, interesting, funny people. I really look forward to these pages! They are my favorite relaxing thought+giggles-with-a-cup-of-coffee read.
# 6 has me Standing on my feet Shouting AMEN AMEN AMEN AMEN AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AMEN!
You are so very right. I honestly believe if we could get that one fundamental truth into the hearts, minds, and actions of every Christian the world we be a better place. God is a gentleman folks and if he was willing to allow me room to mess up and come to him of my own steam what makes any of us think it is our duty to hogtie other people to the cross until they scream salvation?
Thank you for being one of the few voices I hear that understand religion, faith and spirituality is a choice not a hostage situation!
Amen again for good measure!
John, very good points and well written, I wish I could be so eloquent and funny.
It would be a nicer world, I think, if more Christians read your list before opening their mouths.
Just one thing I have to disagree on – No 8, perhaps you should consider longer than just a week?
Have you done a similar list for us atheists?
I totally agree with your point #1. However, and I hope you don’t mind my saying so, I think “a rich Christian is an oxymoron” might be a bit unfair to rich Christians. I do know, and my wife and I have been personally tremendously blessed by, people who are rich and whom we sincerely believe are Christians. One of our friends is a Christian who owns companies and commercial buildings here in the Philippines, and he has actually set up businesses with the sole purpose of supporting churches and Christian organizations, seminaries, and individuals with the revenue from those businesses. God has honored his intentions and has blessed those businesses, and the man has already supported hundreds of poor Christians and has helped sponsor ministries which spread the Gospel in this country and in other Asian countries.
I doubt that “sell what you possess and give to the poor” is meant to be taken literally in terms of selling all of one’s possessions. I think it is in the same class as “if your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away…and if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away”. Otherwise we would have thousands of Christians with no eyes and hands…and penniless 😉 .
I think Jesus, as always, is addressing the heart more than outward actions. Because it is possible to obey God’s commands literally, like the Pharisees, and be insufferably (and damnably) self-righteous, to think in one’s heart, “Thank you, God, that you have given me such character as to be willing to sell off all my possessions and give to the poor, and not be like that one over there who refuses to sell off his business”. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13, “I can give away all that I have, and I can have my body burned, but if I don’t have love…” Jesus is targeting the heart, not the outward behavior. And only God sees the heart, so only He can truly know if a certain rich person is indeed a Christian or not.
That said, though, it is indeed sad that so many rich people, including people who identify themselves as Christians, who seem to be so focused on acquiring and enjoying luxuries and are completely blind to the poverty around them. As I pointed out last year in my posts The Simple Life and This is OBSCENE!, in a world where 19.7 percent of the population of Europe and Central Asia, 24.5 percent of the population of Latin America, and 31.1 percent of the population in South Asia, live on $2 or less per day, it is sad that people obsess on the latest gadgets and being seen in the “in” spots (and somebody even dares to concoct a $25,000 sundae!).
When I was in the Netherlands, I was shocked to learn that a meal at McDonald’s cost 7-10 euros! That was equivalent to 450-650 Philippine pesos, which could feed a child for a week in the Philippines! What if we saved that money by foregoing the burger, or foregoing eating out once a week in favor of cheaper meals at home, and use the money we save in supporting children in Asia or Africa? True, this is a question for everyone, but it is a question ESPECIALLY for Christians.
So, yes, we fail at having “too much”. But I would like to suggest that the definition of “too much” is in the heart, not in the visible wealth (or even lack of it, for that matter—even an ostensibly financially poor Christian can have “too much”, if his attitude towards what he does have, vis-a-vis his attitude towards his fellowmen, is not right).
God bless you, brother! Thanks for your always-stimulating posts.
God Bless. Thanks for this. As a Christian, I believe to do unto others as you would have others do unto you; and the Commandment given by Christ, love your brother as you would love yourself, says it all. We are all guilty of falling short of this. We should be reminded when we constantly throw food away after dinner time, when we fail to acknowledge the poor, when we gossip, when we cheat, when we judge, when we limit God's abilities . . . and the list goes on and on.
"I think maybe we should spend more time “just” living as Christians, and letting God worry about the non-Christians." You are so right. Certainly our God knows all; and knows the hearts of all. If He created non Christians, who am I to say it's wrong? . . That God's creation is wrong? Gonna add you to my blogroll for sure. Pass the love on Brother.
I agree with everything except letting God worry about non-Christians. I wouldn't negelect to tell my neighbor his house was on fire just because it would be hard to get him to believe me. Or because he might think I was crazy. Of course, that's an easy thing to convince someone of. But Jesus didn't say it would be easy. He said to just do it. In fact, Mt 28:19-20 is such an important thing he said that we call it the Great Commission. I don't like worrying about non-Christians, but I must.
I also was saved in spite of Christians' efforts — at least obnoxious Christians' efforts, but many other gentle, loving ones planted many a seed before I met the right woman who introduced me to the Right Man.
Hope I'm not beating a dead horse here, but I had a thought over the past few days…
John at one point (somewhere…maybe in another thread) you mentioned something to the effect of the early church perhaps proselytizing more 'aggressively' than we need to today. As you say in "I'm OK…" if anyone here in America wants to know more about God and/or Christianity, there are plenty of people and/or places they can get that information.
And I totally agree about us not having to be aggressive with our friends, but I'm not sure the early church had to be all that aggressive either. I wonder if they went out and said something like "If you want to know about Jesus, meet us at such & such a time," and whoever wanted to would show up. Whoever didn't–I don't think they necessarily went back to try to convince them.
I hear time & time again from missionaries…especially in 3rd world-ish countries…that they might go around in the morning to villages and say "church is at such & such a time," and people just show up because there's a hunger to know more about God. I do know a couple of the in-your-face types, but most are more mellow in their approach.
Anyway, my point is that, even in the first days of Christianity, I think the disciples more or less said "Hey, if you want to know more about Jesus, lemme know," rather than the crazy-aggressive approach many evangelicals take today. Sorta like "hey, your house is on fire." But then it's up to them to pursue it further if they want.
Thank you, and very well put. I, personally, need to keep numbers 2 & 3 in mind If none of us will ever be perfect until the LORD's return and earthly rule, then that must mean we must constantly be working to remain in HIS will.
Thanks, Lavrai, for stopping by and commenting. And good point you've made here, of course. Beautiful.
I’m going to give you a lot more credit for “works” and possibly “faith”, however, you seem to be overreaching with the gay comments. Even a short time Christian like myself understands the following admonition from Christ, “… be on your gaurd against the yeast of the Pharasees and Sadducees” (Mathew 16:6, NIV). I detect a little leaven in your words. Moreover, how dare you try to lull Christians into a sense of apathy towards this or any sin. Keep in mind, “…Till heaven and earth pass, not one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law…” (Mathew 5:18, KJV); so until God puts a moratorium on sodomy you shouldn’t either. Also, can you envision Christ giving that advice? I cannot. What I can envision is Christ confronting this sin(all sins for that matter) everytime it raises its ugly head and not “…just give it a rest for a while…”. Since when does Christ turn a deaf ear or a blind eye to sin? Shame on you!
R McMillan, I am not John, but I hope he'll forgive me if I step in here a moment …
As a short-time Christian (by your own description), mightn't a bit of humility on your part be called for here? Take out the religious vocabulary and your tone is alarmingly akin to a lot of the atheists who come in here and call John to task or dismiss the lot of us as a bunch of idiots.
"I'm going to give you credit .. "?? "I detect a little leaven …" ?? "How dare you .."??? Or the most annoying of the bunch, "Shame on you …"???
I say this with love: Personally, I can't envision Christ conducting Himself as you have here with another brother. That Bible you've freshly engaged with is a good way to examine and adjust one's OWN behavior. You may wish to consider that. As well as to walk the walk a while longer before reproving others.
here here Candace! (not counting the atheist thing…. but I suppose we are guilty too)
Casey,I actually reconsidered the atheist thing, but there was no way to edit my post!
Not that the comparison I made doesn't apply in some cases.
BUT when I think about how I would have come off, had I stumbled across this blog in my own non-believing days, I am faced with the reality that (for the most part) you heathens are soooooooooo much more polite and civil than I would have been (and indeed, than I WAS. Just not in the context of John's blog).
And I can also recall (with chagrin) times when, newly Christian, I acted a bit too much for comfort like R McMillan. My hubris (I pray) has been tempered with increasing maturity. I am hopeful his will as well.
Candace, who are you to step in? This man has publicly presented a perverse argument regarding a tenet of the Christian Faith and you are justifying him. Your words are also perverse and reminiscent of a sycophant or a shill. Moreover they're just plain ignorant. As for my relationship with God, I've had one for several years but not until recently did I start acting accordingly. Also, I'm quite aware of the virtue of taking correction from the brethren but your not qualified to say anything here. Moreover, as for the atheist comment, I debate atheists regularly with humility and sometimes a hard edge but it's always backed with scripture. This is something you clearly neglect to do, relying more on your own gut feelings and opinion. Bottom line, you haven't enlightened anyone with your glib comments but darkened an otherwise valid admonition. Don't condone sin in any way. I suggest that the author retract or rewrite his comments regarding homosexuals because they are not biblical and neither is your support of him.
RMcMillan: So that's twice, in your opening sentences, that you used the word "perverse." Fixate much?