This morning I decided to drag out my Bible and read for a bit. I’ve gotten really burnt out on that in the past and have had to just put it away for awhile and clear my head. I tend to over think things and get frustrated easily when things don’t fit together quite right. Seriously….who actually (I mean, really) thinks that reading the Bible is FUN? It’s choppy. The language is difficult and it can be overwhelming to try and fit the ending with the beginning. It’s just not an entertaining sort of book for me. Anyway…this morning I read a few different places. I read in Psalms for awhile and then I skipped to a page in Matthew. I just thought I’d write out some of my questions I had and sort of process through them. For some reason it helps me to make sense of things when I write them out. So here goes.
I’ll start with the section “Prayer” in Matthew 6. In church I’ve been taught that God wants to be my friend. He wants me to be open with Him always and talk to Him about absolutely everything. But then in vs. 7 it says “and when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” Well shit. I’m screwed. I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve spent babbling and blubbering to God about some problem I’m having…..thinking that God was hearing me because I was praying and He wants me to talk to Him. I never understood this chapter, really. Jesus is teaching us how to pray and giving us a clear example in the “Lord’s Prayer.” so what does this mean? Are we supposed to say those words only or just keep it short and simple? God doesn’t wanna be bothered with all of our nonsense babbling?
Okay, now back up to the section under “Love for Enemies.” I’ve been told (both in church, as well as in psychology classes and family counseling classes as well as my own counseling encounters)….that you need to set clear boundaries with people and not let them walk all over you. You have to practice self love and nurture your self by taking time away from the world to just be alone and pamper your mind and body. Otherwise you’ll be cranky, irritable, and blow up angry with built up resentments at the people who are constantly using and abusing you. But that’s not what the Bible says. You are supposed to let the person strike you again on the other cheek if they hit you….and if they steal something, let them keep that plus anything else they want to steal from you. Somehow…this righteousness will give you favor in God’s eyes???? I’ve heard many church explanations that say you will get your reward from God if you adhere to this teaching. So I’m left with a black eye, my stuff stolen, but it’s okay because I’m going to Heaven. It just sounds absurd to me. I don’t understand it. I don’t understand why church teaches boundaries along with the psychology world and in the same breath says that the Bible is God’s “instruction book for life” when they don’t really follow what the Bible says and sort of teach something that goes against it. And if anybody ever calls them on this little misnomer…their explanation is that this is the way the Bible is to be interpreted for today’s world. It just sounds like a cover-up for their own lack of understanding and confusion. I’ve heard SO many people try to explain away the real teachings of the Bible because they don’t see how it can fit for today’s world. It’s from a different language, different culture, whole different era of life…how can it be taken seriously today??? These aren’t necessarily just my own questions, but I think that most people have these questions but deny them because they aren’t SUPPOSED to question scripture because it is “God’s Word” and is sacred. Like they are afraid they’d get struck by a lightning bolt if they were caught questioning the validity of the Bible?
I found myself wondering this morning about why God couldn’t have made it something more simple. Why all this heartache and struggle to do good things when I’m not ABLE to be as good as the Bible says I should be. I just can’t do it. I’m not a nice person. I’m rather evil-hearted, actually. I do bad things. I think bad things. I never used to think I was so bad. Somehow I was sinning less back when I was breaking the 9th and 10th commandments rather than now when I am breaking the 7th and 4th commandments. Back when I was just lying and being secretly jealous of other people I thought I was more worthy of God’s love and I was being a good little Christian, but just had a few flaws. And now…due to my warped ideas of salvation and sin….I feel like a horrible and unlovable christian because I am having sex outside of marriage and I’m not attending church on a regular basis. I grew up in a church where the sins of the outside world were made out to be far worse than the little sins inside the church….the sins that were a little more socially acceptable. But that’s just what church taught.
I’m learning that God and salvation and Jesus and his death on the cross….mean something WAAAAY different than I thought it meant. God let his son die because HE KNEW that no human was capable of being good. As soon as I accept the idea that Jesus took my punishment for every bad thing I’ll ever do or think….I have to try and be good again. But that just defeats the whole purpose of salvation. The point is that I CAN’T be good. Jesus died because I CAN’T BE GOOD!!!! So why do I put myself through the heartache and self-punishment when I’m not good….and just remember that it’s all going to be okay because my punishment has been relieved on Jesus’ back. Why do I still feel ashamed for my wrongs, when I am not going to have to pay for them? I sometimes equate the wrong things that I do with who I am. I think that I am a bad person because of the bad things I do. That’s not part of salvation though.
So if the church preaches and teaches Salvation….why do they gasp inside and shy away from the people that come in with more obvious sins? Everybody is worried about the condition of everybody else’s soul.
I remember going to countless youth events where I was taught how to evangelize and witness using many different methods to draw people to Jesus. I was told to go out in the world (where the bad people were) and tell them about Jesus. What they didn’t teach us was to learn that for ourselves. They showed us a movie one time where a guy was too embarrassed to tell his friend about Jesus. (bad boy….being ashamed of your God…shame on you) the kid’s friend died, and when he got to his judgement day in front of God and realized He didn’t know Jesus….he pointed his finger at the friend who didn‘t witness to him. He then was condemned to Hell and the Christian kid who lived through the car accident felt responsible because he had not shared Jesus with him. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat in a youth meeting or summer camp where the speaker asked everybody in the room who had led someone to Christ to raise their hand….and then they say….”now isn’t it the most wonderful feeling you’ve ever had….to lead someone to Jesus?” I always raised my hand. But I lied. I’d never really told anyone about Jesus. And I thought I was a bad Christian because of it. I could think of several friends I knew who would be going to hell just because of me. Bad me. And I thought God would be mad at me for being too ashamed of Him to tell my friends.
But here’s how it really is. (I think) One of the methods I was taught to use was the story method. Tell them what you were like and what your life was like before you were saved. Tell them how you got saved. Then tell them what your life is like now after you’ve been saved. Then ask them if they want to change their life and be saved too. There’s some truth to this little method. But it doesn’t come from the method….it comes from actually having the story to share….and feeling compelled by God to share it.
You see, I have to admit that I’m not even comfortable with my own spirituality enough to talk to a non-believer about it. I never have been. I've never admitted that before because in church you are frowned on if you are ashamed of being a Christian. Back when I was trying to find ways to tell other people about Jesus, I had nothing to tell them. I prayed the prayer when I was 5 years old. I didn’t really have any major sins or attitudes that were wrong, I just was taught that I was a sinner and needed to say these words so that I could go to Heaven. I said that I understood it. If I had said I did not understand it….who knows what they would have done to me? I had nothing that I could say God had brought me out of or saved me from or provided for me. And that was okay….for a childhood concept of salvation. But I’m an adult now and it doesn’t work the same way in my mind. Anyway, I think I’ll just paste in a copy of something that a close friend wrote to me a couple days ago….it sums up more of what I’m trying to get across.
ME: Other people’s relationship with God is not my responsibility, and decisions they make concerning God are also not my responsibility.
FRIEND: Of course not.
ME: I'm not saying I never talk about God....just that I'm not going to get all evangelistic on my friends. I know them well enough that they’ll only respond if God does the work...not me, not anyone else.
FRIEND: That's the only thing that works for you, or me, or anyone else. Jesus said no man comes to me unless the Father draws him. Do you know that evangelism comes from an idea of witnessing. Not forcing something on someone but "HONESTLY" sharing with someone and them being attracted by what you shared. I think it is best exemplified by like what an AA speaker does when they share what it was like, what happened, and what it is like now, with all the truth and the dirt. In my opinion you have not had anything to witness about up until this point that would attract anyone. Except experiencing the Holy Spirit and being loved on by a few people which you basically crapped all over with your stuff from the past, dead religion "control" and negativity, guilt, shame, etc. I think if you continue in the direction of knowing the Son "who sets free indeed", then one day you will have a story to witness to many people that are trapped in dead dysfunctional religion. For we comfort others with the same comfort that we have been comforted with. You're getting saved sweetheart and He's using your own sin to do it with. What a trip huh, just like the rest of us Christians. Besides I think if you are honest, you are not comfortable enough with your own spirituality to even attempt any sort of evangelistic efforts with anyone. True evangelism comes from love and security in Christ and in who you are. It comes out of being so close to Him that His heartbeat flows through you in love to connect to another soul. He does the work, you know exactly what to say, it is LOVE. Jesus love for this other soul flows through you. You comfort with the same comfort with which you were comforted. Love you Sis,