Christian unity. It has such a reassuring sound to it. To be unified in Christ is to be in a position of not merely mutual acceptance but in a position of locking arms and co-laboring for the accomplishment of something far bigger than any one of us. The problem is the reality in which we live. There are so many approaches and opinions on what Christianity is and even stands for, the idea of unity gets lost in the confusion of doctrines and denominations. Is the state of Christianity supposed to be like this? What do the Scriptures say Christian unity really is? What should we be doing to accomplish it? When do doctrine, character and tradition belong together? When are there legitimate reasons for such things to divide?
Several weeks ago (see Part 1) we began a journey down what might be considered a tricky path as we took a first step towards addressing an enormous subject – perceived Bible contradictions. This is a huge undertaking, not only because of the Bible’s very nature, being ancient and authored by several over many centuries, but because of the emotional reactions from the opposing sides as well. Many people and groups have “exposed” what they have concluded are blatant contradictions within its pages and are not shy about advertising their findings – just look online! Then there are those of us who do believe that the Bible IS the inspired word of God and are convinced that the scriptures are sound and harmonious. Part 2 of the task we are taking on is simple – address these reported contradictions one at a time in an effort to clear up what we believe are errant conclusions.
We have all seen arrogance. Sometimes it comes across as ultimate confidence and a sense of indestructibility and we might admire it. Sometimes it comes across as a cocky, self-absorbed perspective and we are appalled by it. The point is, whether we are looking at someone in their self-proclaimed loftiness in a positive or a negative way, we are still seeing an ego gone awry. Having addressed what we see in others, we now need to look in the mirror. Are we, in our blessed positions of Christian faith, arrogant because we believe that we have the truth of God’s word? Be careful with this answer, because in some ways it might be a trick question! Is there a difference between arrogance and confidence, personal pride and being pompous?
The King James Bible says righteousness and judgment (although this word judgment should more accurately be translated as "righteousness") are the foundation of God’s throne. This picture language shows us that God does indeed judge everyone, and everything and His judgments are based on that which is right and equitable. So, how does it work? Does God have a “rubber stamp” approach as He looks at people, governments, institutions and angels that proclaims “Guilty!” or “Innocent!”? Not at all! On the contrary, God’s approach to and methods for judgment are varied and even complex. How do we sort all this out? Who gets judged when, how does it happen and what are they scrutinized for? How do we decipher God’s patterns of judgment so we can appreciate His unbiased conclusions?
There is probably no role we as humans play that is more taken for granted than that of being a mother. From carrying the unborn to feeding and protecting the newborn to nurturing the toddler to teaching the child, she quietly continues. From understanding the adolescent to challenging the young adult to supporting the independent adult to caring for the grandchildren, a mom simply goes about the business of building and enhancing life. She rarely if ever gets time off, does not get paid and often does not receive much in the way of gratitude. Yet she perseveres, driven by the deep and scarcely understood motivation of selfless, protective and cultivating love. It is time to stop, observe and appreciate the love, power and influence of moms!
The Bible is a big, complex and deeply misunderstood book. It was written over a period of 1,500 years by up to 40 authors. It was written in three different languages. To make matters more complicated, it has been translated a myriad of times through the last few thousand years and has suffered the unfortunate treatment of being altered along the way by some of its translators. Many (especially atheists) have enthusiastically pointed out numerous glaring contradictions in its pages. In the midst of all this, we confidently proclaim the Bible is the inspired and harmonious word of God! Who is right? Is the Bible contradictory or can each and every contradiction be explained?
Criticism. We don’t like it. For the vast majority of us, receiving it invokes feelings of angst, anger and resentment. Being criticized usually ends in a sense of being defeated and often leads us to resentment and a desire to lash out at whoever has been critical to give them a taste of their own medicine. These are bad results no matter how we view them. Have you ever noticed how much more free-flowing being critical is than grace and kindness? With all of this being said, it may come across as somewhat shocking how important criticism is in Christianity. It turns out that we all need to be shown our faults, weaknesses and inconsistencies in order to be better followers of Jesus. The key is in why the critical observations are made and how they are delivered. Once we understand these two things, we can then be open to the masterful art of positive criticism!
You can learn a lot about someone if you know how they pray and what they pray for, especially when they are in the midst of crisis. When we are in trauma, do we suddenly reach up to God with greater fervor and feelings of faith than we normally would? Do we focus just on ourselves and our need for help and put all else aside? On the last night and day of his human life, Jesus offered three distinct prayers to his Father as his human life was in its final traumatic chapter. We all know the end of this story brings unequivocal victory over sin and death. By examining these three prayers, we can also better know the heart, mind, devotion and strength that led to achieving such a victory.
What comes to mind when we think about the Last Supper? Perhaps you envision the famous Leonardo da Vinci painting which captures the moment Jesus revealed there was a traitor in their midst. Maybe you focus on Jesus helping his Apostles to prepare for the trauma of his coming crucifixion. Perhaps you dwell on Jesus washing his follower’s feet or maybe it comes down to the simple ritual he asked them to keep in remembrance of him. The fact is, the events of those few hours give us a profoundly deep glimpse into the heart and mind of Jesus and his overwhelming loyalty to those who followed him. As usual with any biblical account there are details buried within the story telling of the four Gospels that make these events come alive on a level that we often overlook.
Have you ever thought about what it means to be given "the spirit of power and love and sound mind" as stated in 2 Timothy 1:7? With this spirit of power, shouldn't all enemies of God cower before us as we call them out for what they are? With this spirit of love, shouldn't we be able to bridge any gap and overcome any difference among us? With this spirit of a sound mind, which means sound judgment or discipline, shouldn't we be able to see through the traps of the adversary and the cunning selfishness of our own minds and always think, speak and act in exact accordance with God’s will? If it were only that easy! The fact is, we need to develop these things and engage them as tools in our everyday fight against all things godless. So, instead of imagining ourselves as superhero avengers who have the power to call out evil, let us instead see ourselves as blessed to be learning how to use what God has given!