Tag Archives: Belief

Valerie Tarico: Ancient Sumerian Origins of the Easter Story

Let’s start with the first part of the myth. Inanna and Jesus both travel to a big city, where they are arrested by soldiers, put on trial, convicted, sentenced to death, stripped of their clothes, tortured, hung up on a stake, and die. And then, after 3 days, they are resurrected from the dead. Now there are, to be sure, a number of significant differences between the stories. For one thing, one story is about a goddess and the other is about a divine man. But this is a specific pattern, a mythic template. When you are dealing with the question of whether these things actually happened, you have to deal with the fact that there is a mythic template here. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there wasn’t a real person, Jesus, who was crucified, but rather that, if there was, the story about it is structured and embellished in accordance with a pattern that was very ancient and widespread.

Valerie Tarico: Ancient Sumerian Origins of the Easter Story

obama and hell and christianity today

as i’ve spoken of before, the “hell” topic was one of the main bones of contention i ended up having with what most evangelical christians consider “orthodox”.

i did a big study on it in 2004, and abandoned the idea of hell once i actually got my mind around what the bible actually does and does not say about it.

as i recall from my studies, hell as a concept is virtually absent from the old testament, and there are three greek words used in the new testament that were translated as “hell” in the NIV (the evangelical’s translation of choice).

together these three words are used a grand total of fourteen (14) times in the new testament.

all but two of these uses are by jesus himself.

paul never mentions it.

“hell” as christians today think of it didn’t really come to be a common christian teaching until nearly 200 AD — no one in jesus audience would have ever thought that you went there forever simply for having the misfortune of being born.

“gehenna” is the most commonly used word for “hell” in the NT, and while it is never “defined” explicitly, what jesus probably meant when he used it what was everyone else at that time meant by it: a place, under the ground, where there was lots of fire, and where the sun got its heat and light from as it traveled under the ground on its trip back to the east, after it had set in the west.

if jesus believed (perhaps because he had some special knowledge from the Father) that hell was not an actual, physical, place which was literally under the ground, he didn’t seem to clue his listeners in, and they certainly would have thought this was what he meant when he used the word.

at the time, it was generally believed (jewish or not) that when a person died they went into the afterlife, or hades (hebrew: sheol), where they might face some sort of judgment.

jesus’ particularly jewish audience at the time were likely to believe that the pious would get to exchange their ticket to hell for a ticket to paradise, which meant they now had TWO tickets to paradise (every one was born with one of each) and could go there, immediately.

people who had committed adultry or had led their neighbors into wrongdoing had their one paradise ticket taken away and got another ticket to sheol handed to them: no escape.

a common phrase in jewish teaching was that it would have been better to not have been born than to be one of these people.

(christians familiar with their bibles will recognize that phrasing: jesus borrowed it.)

people who had themselves sinned, but had not lead other people to sin had to spend about only about one (1) year in gehenna, and then got to go up to paradise.

note: this is not a biblical teaching, as the bible doesn’t actually ever say anything on the subject. i’m just relaying what most people who happened to grow up the descendants of nomadic desert tribes in mesopotamia happen to believe on the subject.

so, that was the belief of MOST of the people who heard jesus say:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”

this was RADICAL teaching on this subject.

but did he mean it, literally?

to the people who believed that gehenna was under their ground, and supplied the sun with fire, jesus said that if they are angry with their brother, they are going to go there.

surely he didn’t actually mean it, literally, right?

what about when he said: “And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.”

did he mean this literally?

so, then, in which of the three times where we have jesus quoted as talking about gehenna is he speaking literally?

if it isn’t those two, it must be this one:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. … You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?”

other times the NIV says “hell” are:

2 Peter 2:4 — “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;”

here, the word peter uses is “tartarus” — and is generally thought to be a big, dark, essentially bottomless hole.

James 3:6 — “And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.”

the word used here is “gehenna”

Matthew 16:18 — “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

here, the word jesus uses is “hades”, rather than “gehenna”.

hades was believed in jesus’ time to be “the afterlife” — and did not necessarily imply someplace horrible, though it was believed to be rather gloomy, unless you happened to get to some sort of paradise.

so, there you have it: the entire new testament’s teaching on “hell” all summed up, with some history on what jesus’ contemporaries believed on the subject.

not one time does jesus ever mention being a christian.

not once does jesus lay out specific things one must believe in order to NOT go to hell.

not once does any other new testament writer.

the bible is more or less quiet on the entire matter of hell and who goes there or does not.

of course, this is NOT a view that is embraced 21st century evangelical christian culture, with its particular version of orthodoxy, where the text must be accepted as a whole: either all true or all a lie, right?

so, then, what about anyone who doesn’t poke out their own eyeball for enjoying checking out a hot chick?

anyway, when obama says:

“I think that the difficult thing about any religion, including Christianity, is that at some level there is a call to evangelize and prostelytize. There’s the belief, certainly in some quarters, that people haven’t embraced Jesus Christ as their personal savior that they’re going to hell…I find it hard that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell…I can’t imagine that my God would allow some little Hindu kid in India who never interacts with the Christian faith to somehow burn for all eternity…That’s just not part of my religious make-up.”

…i think you’ll find its actually a very biblical view.

its almost certainly the one jesus himself held, if we are to go by what we know of history combined with his teachings on the subject.

note: i cross-posted this as a comment on john crane’s blog here.

is this true: “all these things will be given to you”

recently i had reason to go back and examine the teachings of jesus in the book of matthew, chapter six:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.

Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’

For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

many christians accept this without much thought, and yet also basically ignore it, except as a mild emotional uplift when hard times come.

the basics are: “i am worried. i feel like i should not worry, because god is in control, therefore, i shall now feel better.”

but is the above quoted passage actually true?

is there evidence that god actually provides clothing food and water to those who seek his kingdom?

is it safe to assume that those who do not have such things are, then, not seeking god’s kingdom?

lovely article on “magical thinking”

No, at some level they believed that their insurance helped keep the plane aloft, according to psychologists with new experimental evidence of just how weirdly superstitious people can be.

We buy insurance not just for peace of mind or to protect ourselves financially, but because we share the ancient Greeks’ instinct for appeasing the gods.

We may not slaughter animals anymore to ward off a plague, but we think buying health insurance will keep us from getting sick. Our brains may understand meteorology, but in our guts we still think that not carrying an umbrella will make it rain, a belief that was demonstrated in experiments by Jane Risen of the University of Chicago and Thomas Gilovich of Cornell.

Travel Insurance – Magical Thinking – Appeasing the Gods, With Insurance – John Tierney – New York Times:

The Daily Detour: Does freedom require religion?

in response to The Daily Detour: Does freedom require religion?, i have a couple points to make:

We must be sure to separate the misapplication of a religious worldview from that worldview itself.

it seems to me that it is usually those who disagree with the truthiness of a specific worldview who say that actions by those who hold that worldview are the all-but-inevitable consequenses of that worldview.

conversely, those very same people tend to to be quick to apply the “misapplication” argument when confronted with misdeeds by those who hold a worldview similar to their own.

or more simply: you can’t say pol pot’s actions sprang from his beliefs and then turn around and someone like, say, cortez’ actions showed up in spite of his beliefs.

no: the evil that human beings do is because human beings do evil things, and no worldview can keep all of them from doing such things: even one that (mostly) preaches peace and compassion.

when it comes to the christian worldview, there is the “little” matter of the holy spirit and her influence on the human she inhabits.

to this, i can only answer that if god were real, and god actually sent a holy spririt to inhabit people’s hearts and help turn their minds, their actions would follow, always.

the bible says that god changes peoples hearts and minds and paul is explicit that it is a natural consequence of being saved that one acts in a godly way.

but clearly there are plenty examples of christians acting in a way that is antithetical to the way their faith says they will.

this is why there’s such an undercurrent in christian culture of the tension between freewill and god’s sovereignty.

gotta keep that freewill card around so the huge evidence of lack of obedience doesnt’ end up undermining the faith altogether.

my second point is that ideas either survive or do not survive.

ideas that are absurd do not survive.

very few people believe the earth is flat anymore because we accept the eidence presented to us: very very few of us get to see the thing from afar ourselves or understand the physics well enough to run tests on our own.

no one believes they can fly (at least no one who lives long enough to spread the idea).

but ideas that sound plausible can survive, and they can survive long enough to get refined and evolve to become more plausible.

this is, of course, the “religion as meme” idea, and it is fully capable of explaining why religion and specifically christianity describe the human condition quite well.

if they didn’t, they wouldn’t have survived.

ultimately, though, in the great sifting of ideas by humanit, the truthy ones will come to the top while the others are burned off.

this is why humans murder less than they used to, live longer, have healthier babies and are able to build rockets.

it is also why, eventually, we will shake off all notions of the supernatural to explain what is currently unexplainable.

thank god for it, too! 😉

six months without any water?

A meditating teenage boy in south-central Nepal is drawing the attention of scientists after attracting huge crowds in the past six months and earning himself the name Buddha-reincarnate.

They are mulling over how to examine him without disturbing his meditation.

Ram Bahadur Bamjan’s friends, relatives and managers say he has been meditating without drinking water for six months now and that he will carry on for another six years until he gains enlightenment.

Siddartha Gautama, who Buddhists believe later attained Nirvana, was born in 560 BC.

BBC story here

plankeye, followup

there’s been some contention as to my post on “plankeye”

i will concede that we are indeed to “make judgement” — even about people and what they are up to.

but the context of the verse you pulled out shows the difference between what jesus was referring to in john 7 and what he is teaching about in the sermon on the mount:

14 About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. 15 The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” 16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17 If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. 18 The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory, but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. 19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” 20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” 21 Jesus answered them, “I did one deed, and you all marvel at it. 22 Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. 23 If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well? 24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

both of these passages speak to not judging —- and both infer that in order to make wise decisions about how to treat people one needs to be in a place of humility before god, and seeking the true good of the other person.

the original thought behind the plankeye post was a friend pointing out how those who claim to follow christ’s teachings are often those who are most guilty of being judgmental — and unfairly judgmental at that, often with yucky results in the life of those being judged.

i was obviously, in my first post on this topic, not saying that one is never to decide whether something is right or wrong.

clearly to follow christ is to believe there IS a right.

but judging and condemning people is the wrong way to go about getting them to change their behavior, while encouraging and asking is the right way.

in fact, to do so is to make a right judgement: to “hold back” on force-feeding your “pearls” of “rightness” to those who are not able to digest them, and instead love and encourage and simply ask them to consider a better way.

so, i stand by my statement:

judging IS the plank in our eye.

and i’ll say it again using a different word, by way of expounding:

condemning IS the plank in our eye.

romans 14:13:

Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.

condemnation and judging puts a HUGE stumbling block in the way of those who would otherwise be attracted to the kingdom.

we who claim to live in the kingdom behave in unattractive ways, in ways that make people feel rejected, not loved, and so they turn and attack us.

just like jesus says they will in the passage i quoted above.

but if we simply ask people, without condemnation, they are more apt to find our message acceptable.

test everything, hold fast to what is good

i have been asked to post on my practice of exposing this board to beliefs or lines of thinking that i myself do not hold to.

this thread is meant to be an answer to that request.

in the interest of keeping it clear for those who won’t read more than a few sentences, i’ll make my main point up top, and flesh it out below:

the verses i have in mind, mostly are:

“…test everything; hold fast what is good.” (1 thes 5)

“…always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you”. (1 peter 3)

“Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” (1 cor 3)

my main point is this: all that is truth is god’s truth, and we are instructed in scripture to seek it out and claim it as our own.

all too often, christians take an anti-intellectual attitude. we tend to discourage critical , questioning, or creative thinking. we do this, i think, in a misguided attempt at “guarding the truth” — but the end result is that the truth is actually supressed, or more likely, never actually encountered.

many of us who grew up in christian homes, and almost all of us who grew up in western society, have heard some version of the gospel all our lives. it is impossible to get through life without encountering a version or other of it. the problem with this is that fimiliarity breeds contempt: as people have become accustomed to what they have heard is “the gospel”, and rejected or accepted that gospel, they then go through their lives thinking they have done just that: accepted or rejected the gospel.

in fact, i submit that they have done no such thing.

as paul makes clear, if it is not the actual gospel, it is really no gospel at all.

and the pop-culture version of the gospel is not the actual gospel that jesus preached.

i’ll make that point again, because i believe it is vitally important: the story that most people in western culture have accepted or rejected is not the gospel, but something else — something crippled and distorted.

i am not questioning the “salvation” of millions of people who hold some christian faith now or in times past (romans makes clear that god judges all people based on what they know and what they do with what they know — i believe we can trust the father in heaven to do the right thing with each and every human soul). rather, i am talking about something else: living life with jesus as mentor, for the good of those around us and to the glory of the father.

jesus asked no less than for people to abandon all they held dear, turn their lives in a new direction, and pursue love and justice.

thousands crowded around him because he taught with an authority they had never encountered on a subject they had heard all their lives: the message of god’s love.

the message he preached was that the kingdom of god was available in a way it never had been before, and that anyone and everyone would do so may enter into it.

some rejoiced at this, some balked.

a few turned very bitter, and eventually killed him for it — because his message was threatening the status quo, where they were comfortabely in power.

but he proved that he was who he claimed to be — the perfect revelation of the father — by not staying dead, and he turned the world on its ear by sending his students out to teach others what they had learned about how to live life: by loving people.

as a couple of generations passed, and it became clear that the story of this incredible news should be preserved in writing, some of these students set out to do just hat — and others set out to write to the groups of people who had started meeting together to encourage each other in this new faith.

a few of those letters of encouragement were saved, and eventually gathered together as part of the scripture.

the three verses i qutoed above are from some of those letters.

in it, we have clues from some of the earliest believes — some of jesus’ first stuents — about how to live this life he instructed us in living.

so little of jesus message had to do with holding to this or that theory about theology, or subscribing to any one system of belief.

rather, jesus message was about doing. about loving your neighbor, and about taking care of the poor, and about taking care of the single most important thing god ever created: the people around you.

and all of the letters to the early churches were geared towards encouraging people to that effort, and against allowing the ideas of the culture to invade and infect that pure message.

they were encouraged to try out the ideas that came along, and compare them to what they knew to be true, and to allow the spirit of the one true god to help them discern.

they were instructed to be thinkers: to be ready to give answers about this faith to questioners.

they were reminded that even when they think they know that they still don’t know what god knows.

in light of all of this, as society changes it is still our duty as people who are trying to be students of jesus the christ to test all things.

to truly think through issues and not simply cling to the thinking we have always held, but to constantly evaluate our heads and our hearts and the ideas we find around us so that we can grow in our faith.

i post ideas that some may dissagree with (and i may disagree with) to further this effort.

i believe that we as christians must think critically about the ideas that the world around us holds, so that we may meet those ideas head on: embracing what is true, rejecting what is false, and always doing so with the help of the spirit of god.

i believe that too few of us bother doing that, because we have grown up in a culture that discourages it, and that it is one of my duties to encourage right behaviour.

some of the ideas i present are not in line with scripture. some are.

we who are jesus’ disciples are under instruction to test them all, and to cling to those that are.

ignoring these ideas won’t make them go away, though. the world around us, the one we are called to be in, holds these ideas, and if we are to be the salt and light in this world, we are obligated to reach them in a gentle, understanding way.

i believe that by thinking through tough issues, and by evaluating more sides that we might be comfortable with, we can grow as a body of beleivers — we can gain a higher understanding of the truth.

i trust the holy spirit in the believer’s life to help them discern that which is false from that which is true.

it must be evident that “truth” is a funny sort of thing, since many of us here claim to have it, yet disagree on so very many things.

so let us approach ideas humbly, and with open minds, as we are instructed to. let us reason together. let us think critically and creatively about this faith.

“test everything; hold fast what is good.”

seven views of truth

tonight, whilst doing some “light” reading, i came across these seven things that people tend to mean when they speak of “truth”:

1. Reality – Sometimes, we use truth to mean “what’s out there,” or “what’s really, really, real.”

2. A human perception of reality – Sometimes we use the term to mean how an individual human or group of humans perceive what’s really out there. For example, in court, when a person swears to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, we understand only God could fulfill that promise, unless we defined truth to mean “an honest and full accounting of what you perceived.”

3. Knowledge about reality – Clearly, there’s always some degree of difference between #2 and #1 above, and when we weave our perceptions into coherent, conscious generalizations and call those generalizations knowledge, the difference isn’t erased. In other words, reality as seen and known by our infinite and wonderful God is always fuller and to some degree different than reality as seen and known by limited, situated humans. Scripture affirms this, reminding us that we know only in part.

4. Statements or propositions about reality – When we take our knowledge, which arises in the context of our imperfect perceptions about what’s really out there, and then we share that knowledge with others in statements, we have to admit we add new layers of imprecision – through the wonderful but sometimes imprecise interplay of encoded, sent, received, and interpreted symbols we call language. Human statements clearly do some justice to the realities they describe, but if even half of my critique of your column (an attempt to make true statements about reality, I don’t doubt) is valid, you have to admit that our very best attempts to make true statements about reality still aren’t perfect. For example, do you believe, looking back, that all the statements in your column were perfectly, completely, absolutely, objectively true? If you give anything less than an unqualified “yes,” you are being sensitive to the same concerns postmodern people have about these matters.

5. Moral or ethical judgments – The situation becomes even more complex when our statements are judgments about moral or ethical behavior. Even for those of use who claim to know God and have faith in the Bible: we need to look back over our own history and realize that just as there are disastrous consequences to claiming there is no such thing as legitimate moral judgment, there are also disastrous consequences to claiming that we have unquestionably legitimate moral judgment. Our ancestors judged slavery as morally justified, and brought in Scripture to enforce their point; we now judge slavery wrong, also using Scripture. Are we so naïve to think that all our judgments are finally right, just because we quote the Bible?

6. A belief system or world view – I think that the concept of world view is very powerful. And for that reason, it can be very dangerous. For example, I suspect that for many religious broadcasters and writers, “The Christian World View” means “The Modern Western Christian World View” or “The Calvinist Systematic Theology” or “A Syncretism of Christian Theology and Conservative Republican Politics,” but neither they nor their listeners realize it. Anyway, there’s a lot of mystique and fog around the term. Adding the words “The” and “Christian” in front of a worldview doesn’t guarantee this worldview is now 100% in synch with #1 above, but it sure can give that impression to unreflective people reading a column in Christianity Today, especially if they’re already feeling intimidated and afraid by all the changes in our world, and are hoping for reassurance.

7. A feeling of certainty – When some people use the word truth, I think they mean a feeling of certainty, security, and rest that means they no longer have to think or ask questions. In other words, truth means “case closed.” This exemption from further thought is something we all desire at times, I think, especially after a long hard day of reading a column in CT and criticizing it (and then criticizing the critique). But one only has to talk to a person hospitalized for psychosis to realize that a feeling of certainty can have very little in common with #1 above!

plankeye

a friend of mine recently wrote:

This is the very reason I stopped attending my youth group. It was so unwelcoming.

And, there’s something else, too. It seems to me, that rejection from the church crowd holds a bigger emotional consequence than rejection from other crowds. These are, after all, the people with whom you are supposed to be sharing God, a very intimate experience. It’s like rejection from a lover, in a way. Not to mention the fact, that church crowds are so darn good at rejection, and doing it group-wide. I have found that many churches are like giant rumor mills. If you get rejected at all, you get rejected ALL THE WAY.

no disciple of jesus’ could agree that the above statement about “our people” is the way it should be.

rather, all would say it would be best not to be this way.

so, what is it that prevents us from being the grace-filled, friendly, welcoming crowd that jesus himself clearly was?

plankeye

Matthew 7:1:

Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

(most people stop quoting this little section there, but jesus didn’t stop there….)

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.

i see a few things in there that, by and large, are missed, through lack of sheer studying, as far as i can tell.

first: judgment IS the plank in our own eye.

as soon as we stop trying to correct other people’s behavior, we are freed, by grace, to love them.

as soon as we stop trying to force them into doing what they can’t, they’ll stop feeling (and being!) judged.

as soon as we stop trying to “force feed” our “pearls of heavenly knowledge” to pigs…

you know that pigs can’t eat pearls, right?

…they’ll stop trying to bite us.

judgment is something that only ONLY only god can do.

but, we want people to change, right?

we want them to come to the place we are, where pearls are appreciated, and treasured, not rejected?

how do we do that, if not by judging?

Matthew 7:7:

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

asking for things is the key to obtaining what you want, in the kingdom of god.

you ask the father for things, so ask his kids.

simply turning your attitude from “demanding/shoving” to “asking” will make all the difference.

of course, to get rid of this judging and contemptive attitude, really, you need to go back to the passages of the sermon on the mount that lead up to it — the things where jesus teaches us how to be of his mind:

in reverse order:

do not be anxious
lay up treasures in heaven
fasting
how to pray
giving to the needy
loving your enemies
retaliation
oaths
divorce
lust
anger

…in all these little passages are deep deep mysteries of kingdom life — and the one follows the other: he put them in order for a reason.

once you have “worked out your salvation” in this order, and have (all with christ’s help) managed to lose judging, you are then, spiritually able to move on to:

the golden rule

the golden rule simply can’t be “done” apart from living out the sermon on the mount’s teachings.

but, through the spirit, if you seek to obey christ’s teachings in the sermon on the mount, by the time you’re ready to give up judging, you’re nature has changed so much that you are more than ready and willing to start doing to people — really and truly — what you wish they would do to you.

i could talk for hours about this, but i must get going on my day’s work.

dealing with “weaker brothers”

first off: i like the ESV.

bad NIV translation has spawned the phrase “weaker brother”, which implies that the person must be somehow “under” you, by the -er suffix.

the phrase, though, is simply “one who is weak in faith” — regardless of how they’re faith “stacks up” to yours.

anyway, on with the scripture:

Romans 14:1-3

Do Not Pass Judgment on One Another

1 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.

if someone, weak in the faith or not, is hounding you on an issue that the bible is vague (or silent) on: they are not living a life of love.

perhaps this person is weak in faith, but the instructions from paul are to be a two-way street: it is clear that we are simply to avoid judging one another on matters of opinion.

it is possible that they are otherwise quite strong in their faith, but simply have a hang-up in this one area… ?

either way, i think romans is fairly clear that you are to, as a matter of love, avoid “flaunting” your freedom.

this does not mean, in my opinion, that you are to avoid the activity in question altogether, but simply to do what seems best to avoid inflaming the issue with this person.

always in love, though, it is also clear that you are to “not allow what you regard as good be spoken of as evil.”

this may be where that terrible phrase, “agree to disagree” actually applies.

if it truly is a matter of opinion, then it is likely not a crucial matter, and you can likely serve the lord by dropping it humbly if the person is tryingto pick a fight.

if, however, they really are in need of restoration, keep this in mind:

Galations 6:1-3

Bear One Another’s Burdens

1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

i believe this warning to be sure you are not tempted to sin is aimed at thinking you are “better” than them, and will give them a “piece of your mind”, or whatnaught.

notice, too that the idea is to restore — NOT to correct, or punish, or condemn or judge.

restore, and gently.

if there’s any chance you will be unlikely to restore this person in total gentleness and love, it’s probably best left to a matter of prayer — let god sort them out. (he’s better at it anyway)

on “course joking”

where’s the line?

what defines “course joking” ?

is it simply using a (gasp!) curse-word?

is it lewdness?

is it always only in the ear of the beholder?

are there simply some things a christian should never say, under any circumstances?

(and if so, can you tell us without sinning???)

is what you ought not to joke about, or say, variable depending on whom you’re with? (and, yes, we know you’re always with god, that’s a given)

are there “levels” of course joking, with some stuff being okay for sally, but for jenny that would be a sin?

another point often brought up — by the more conservative among us, usually — is something along these lines:

“…but, if christians are not even supposed to give even the slightest impression of sinning…”

to which i resopnd: but jesus was accused of being a drunkard — surely those who did so got the impression he was a sinner?

also, this brings up a related point:

there is a verse that the KJV is very widely quoted, even by people who use the NIV or other translations normally:

1 Thess 5:22 (KJV) — “Abstain from all appearance of evil.”

this verse is often misused to say that everything a christian does should never be able to be confused with something evil, by anyone.

but, as with a lot of things, the king james 600 year old verbiage is getting in the way of what god was really saying:

most other translations say something more like:

ESV: Abstain from every form of evil.

anyway, back to course joking: when is what you say simply wrong?

the idea of what’s “obscene” has changed a BUNCH in the past 30 years.

(anyone in here seen the movie grease lately? — its filthy! filled with offensive language — that was perfectly acceptable in its day. and i bet that if the producers of that film saw what we put on tv during primetime, they’d flip thier lids, with the ammount of skin we show)

i don’t believe simply “offending someone” can be the gauge, as i have heard some contend.

this is because of what i read in John 6

The Words of Eternal Life

60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life…”

perhaps that’s a different “meaning” of the word offend than is often meant — but, there it is: clearly simply “if it offends, it’s wrong” won’t do as a test of what is or is not coarse joking.

in any case, our words can offend without being coarse joking — and coarse joking can be coarse joking, i think, w/o offending anyone in the room.

i think this just goes to point out, as i sit here and think about it, how wise jesus’ teachings are.

he really didn’t come with laws, as it’d be so easy to simply follow a list of laws and think we’re OK in god’s eyes (read: pharisees).

instead, he came with advice on real heart-change. changes in heart that result in sensitivity to the spirit, the fruit of which ends up being that things such as coarse joking naturally disappear from our behavior.

(or something along those lines)

i think that does NOT end the question, however:

since it was implied in my question that jesus does, in fact, hear everything anyway.

if we didn’t think god hears all we do, the question would be rather moot, even.

so, as it is, the question of “would you say it in front of jesus” is really just re-phrasing the question, in a way.

additionally, we get into the same problem of “…something jesus wouldn’t want to hear…” that we do with “what others don’t want to hear”.

who “decides” what jesus wants to hear and not hear from us?

that, really, was the point of my asking.

where do we end up drawing the line?

how do we end up drawing said line?

i submit that the lines we draw have little to do with jesus, the scripture, or leadings from the spirit so much as they have to do with the culture we’re brought up and live in.