Give Yourself to Others …

Posts Tagged ‘faith

Like many people, I’ve probably read 1 Corinthians 13, a thousand times.  The description of “love” by Paul, is beautifully inspiring.  I often read it when I perform weddings.

On a side note, the old King James Version translation of agape as “charity” is probably a better translation than “love.”  But that’s a topic for another time.

What I’ve missed in the thousands of times I’ve read 1 Cor 13 are the first three verses (this is from The Message):

13 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

2 If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Am I the only one who missed this?

I can be the smartest person in the world.  I can understand everything … even the greatest mysteries about God … I may have so much faith that I can perform miracles … I can be the most generous person in the world.

And if all of this is true, but I’m not loving others, the way Jesus loved me, then it’s all pointless.

If we are not loving towards one another, we’ve missed the whole point from Jesus.

Think about that, the next time you argue about doctrine!

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This is a great post by John Mark Hicks, who twice has suffered pre-mature death of family.  It speaks to the sadness of such loss in a way that only someone who has experienced it has the credibility to speak.

http://johnmarkhicks.wordpress.com/2009/08/25/sad-but-unafraid

I should have added a subtitle:  the trouble with bible study.

That’s probably a little misleading — intended to get your attention.  In my view, there are a couple of problems with most bible study.

And as background, let me describe my upbringing and education.  I was raised in a religious family.  We attended worship every Sunday, and until well into my 40’s, I probably attended some kind of Sunday morning bible class 50 our of 52 weeks a year.  In college, I had a minor concentration in Bible, which included two-years of Greek study.

I learned a lot over those years.  And in the broad scheme of things, I know the Text of the bible as well as or better than most.  But that’s beside the point.

Something no one ever said to me — straight out — is that studying an English translation of the bible is, by definition, studying someone’s opinion of what it says.  Because translating any text is a judgement.  Sure there are a lot of passages, where the meaning in pretty clear.  But if the meaning of a passage is controversial in anyway, then you can bet the translator is expressing an opinion.  That’s one reason why most translations are done by groups — so the groups have to argue and compromise on how the controversial passages translate from Greek to English.

Just a couple of examples:  baptism is a really poor translation of the Greek word, baptizo.  It should be translated “immersion” or “submersion.”  But the originally King James translators couldn’t translate it that way, because the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church were already baptizing by pouring and sprinkling.  So, they transliterated the Greek word to make a new English word, that they could define their own way.

Ekklesia is the Greek word generally translated “church.”  It really means “assemble.”  It was used to describe the assembly of the citizens of Athens when they gathered to vote on public issues.  Those Athenians were certainly not at “church.”  Church comes from the German word, kirche, which translates as cathedral.  By translating ekklesia as church, the King James translators kept the people coming to the cathedrals.

Next, have you ever tried to analyze the meaning of something your wrote 10 years ago?  Not likely.  We kind of know what we meant.  And most writing is not intended for granular dissection and analysis.  The Supreme Court often seeks to determine “Congressional Intent” when evaluating the cases before them.  They often find that while the language of a given statute is poor, the Congressional Intent is very clear.

I got so tired of the debates of the minutiae of biblical exegesis that I started looking for the big picture — what was God trying to tell me?  What was his intent.  I try to read long passages of the Text and then reflect on what it seems to be saying.  I think that gives me a clearer picture of what the writer was trying to get across.

In addition, like anyone who reads the Text, there are some passages that seem to be saying things that conflict with each other.  Rather than say that’s a huge problem, I thought there must be some more fundamental premise that allowed one writer to make one statement and a different writer to write something that, on the surface, conflicted with the first writer.

So that became my quest — what is the fundamental premise of the Text?

The more I contemplate the message that Christendom conveys to both believers and non-believers, the more convinced I am that overall, people get the wrong message about God, Jesus and what faith is supposed to be about.

I hope it goes without saying that I don’t think anyone’s doing it deliberately. We just get so caught up in some minutia that we focus on the wrong things, which just perpetuates a misdirection.

Obviously, I need to elaborate.

Here’s how I see the message of the New Testament writers:

  • God loves us, but in order to have a righteous relationship with God, we must be without sin, because God does not allow imperfection to be in his presence.
  • Man, by himself, is incapable of such perfection.
  • Because God loves us so much, he sent his Son, in the form of Jesus, a man, to earth to demonstrate what God expects of man.
  • In spite of his own perfection, Jesus was killed by man — but on his way to death, he says to God, based upon Jesus own love for man, “Blame me for all the sins of men.” In effect, Jesus says to God, I love men too much for them to be separated from you because of their sin.
  • God says, I cannot let Jesus carry the burden for all the sins of men, so I must forgive him, and as a result, forgive all the sins of men. And he raises Jesus from the dead, to let everyone know that Jesus was forgiven of the burden of men’s sin.
  • God then says to us, “If you will believe that Jesus was my son, and you will try to live as Jesus lived, then you’ll be okay with me.”

So what is required of man?

To believe that Jesus was the Son of God, that he died and was raised from death, resulting in the forgiveness of our sins; and that all God requires of us is to love one another, the way Jesus loved us, and died for us.

It’s when we try to elaborate on this message that we get messed up. When we try to build an organization that we get distracted from the message of God.

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Jesus never said this “loving” business would be easy. It’s anything but easy. And the question I’ve posed in the title of this post is just one example of how difficult it can be.

And I suppose the answer to the question lies in the manner of the disagreement.

It’s possible to get emotional and irrational when you disagree with people — especially if the topic of the disagreement focuses on deeply held beliefs — and that describes what most of us believe about spiritual matters — they are deeply held beliefs.

This is the moment to recall Romans 14:4 (NIV) – “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls.”

That is to say, God is your judge. And God is the judge of everyone else. You are not their judge. They are not your judge.

And my relationship with God is not based on how many people believe the same as I believe. It is not a popularity contest. It is not majority rules.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 [NIV]).

Our relationship with God is his gift to each of us. All he asks of us our faith. And Gods gift to me is not dependent upon his gift to you. Nor is yours dependent upon his gift to me.

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15 [NIV])

You need to know what you believe why you believe it. It must be your faith, not the faith of your “church” or the faith of your “evangelist” or the faith of your “pastor” or the faith of your spouse.

Your faith.

If your faith is your own, then you can disagree without being disagreeable. You can give yourself to others for their good expecting nothing in return.

After all, isn’t that what Jesus did. He loved all of us so much he died for us — all of us — even the ones who didn’t believe in him then, and those who don’t believe in him now. Certainly, he died for all of us who believe in him, but disagree about how to understand what the New Testament teaches.


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