Does Religion Make People Hate?

Probably.

Many Christians have found it popular to say, “Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship.” This is inane because most of our relationships are religious. “Religion” just means the stuff you do regularly. Any relationship of any worth is going to have regularity in it.

Jonathan Swift said, “We have enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.”

I don’t know the larger context of why Swift said this, I just saw the one line quote. I imagine it’s something like this:

Most people are half-hearted with their religion/spirituality/faith/Christianity. People are double-minded. We want the easy parts of Christianity, but not the hard parts. Just the blessings please.

When you play around with religion, never take it seriously or devote your whole heart, soul, and mind to God, you will be defensive and guilt-ridden.

Defensiveness and guilt results in attacking others. One of the most effective ways to justify yourself and feel spiritual is to attack others.

Half-hearted religion turns people into monsters.

If you were to take Christianity seriously you would grow in love. Every time it’s tried love is what happens. So if love isn’t happening, then you’re not doing Christianity right.

Don’t be half-hearted in your faith. Hot or cold, God spits out the lukewarm. The double minded man is unstable in all his ways. How long will you halt between two opinions? Choose you this day who you will serve.

Stop playing around with faith. Either do it or don’t. Half-heartedly fence sitting will just make you an angry, lonely, judgmental, abusive jerk. No one needs that.

The Good Samaritan and Your Journey

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is familiar. Two religious guys avoid the beat up guy in the ditch, while the lowly, despised Samaritan stops and helps him out.

Obviously the point of the parable is love your neighbor. It was given in answer to the question, “And who is my neighbor?” Everyone, especially those in need. Brings to mind the “when I was hungry, you fed me; when I was thirsty, you gave me drink.”

There’s a little phrase in there about the Samaritan that was brought to my attention, I don’t know if it’s significant or not. Notice the way it describes how the three men were traveling:

–there came down a certain priest that way

–a Levite, when he was at the place

–a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed

The two religious guys are just described as having gone that way; the Samaritan is described as being on a journey. Probably this just has to do with the fact that a Samaritan didn’t live there, he was on a journey, not near home, just passing through. Whereas the two religious guys lived there, it’s the way they went to work perhaps.

Maybe there’s no significance there at all. Maybe it’s a condemnation that this actually is the physical neighbor of the two religious guys, whereas the Samaritan being a foreigner had less obligation to help but did anyway.

I imagine that’s the point. But the book I was reading said we are all on a journey. We’re all growing and changing as we go through life. It’s very easy for us to get caught up in our growth and journey, too busy being awesomer, to notice and take time to help someone else.

The religious guys didn’t want to get their hands dirty. The body was left half dead, perhaps it looked dead. This would risk being unclean according to the law. The letter of the law forbade them in their minds.

The Samaritan, who is already unclean, isn’t troubled by being unclean more.

So, several points. If your sense of righteousness prevents you from getting your hands dirty in loving people; you’re not very righteous.

The point of being righteous is to do right things. If you can’t fellowship with sinners for fear of risking your reputation, your outward appearance of religiosity, then you’re doing it wrong.

(There are biblical reasons to not fellowship with certain people, but make sure you get them right. If you’re going to be tempted into sinning then avoid them. If they are so-called brothers who are ruining the reputation of the church then back away. Get those reasons right. Paul clarified that if he said never to hang out with sinners you’d have to leave the world! This isn’t as black and white as people make it—never sit with sinners or always sit with sinners. I’ve heard people stress both points. Neither is right. There is a time and season for such things.)

If your journey, physical or spiritual, makes you superior to everyone around you, you’re journeying in the wrong direction! Being like Christ should not make you more isolated. If other people and their opinions make you want to stay home in your righteous bubble, you’re not growing spiritually.

Love is the whole point. Christ came into the world to save sinners. He didn’t float above us for all time; He came among us. Love. Love is a big deal in the Bible.

Spiritual growth always leads to being more loving. Always, no exceptions.

The Fruit of the Spirit begins with “love.” Love has to be there. It is THE PROOF that you are growing in Christ.

Unfortunately, human pride makes us think spiritual growth puts us above others. That’s self-righteousness, not Christlikeness.

Love people even if they aren’t your responsibility. Love people even if it means getting your hands dirty. Love people. If that is getting harder for you to actually do, then you’re not growing spiritually; you’re growing self-righteously.

Angels are not Fat Flying Babies

Satan is a deceiver. His main goal is to diminish the glory of what God has made glorious.

You can see that with Satan himself. He was an angel of immense gory, yet he chose to rebel and diminish his glory. His existence ceases to give God glory.

Beyond that, Satan wants to diminish your understanding of his glory even more so you won’t take him seriously. That’s why there are so many cartoon images of Satan as a red beast with horns and a pitchfork ruling hell. He’s a cartoon character. You might dismiss him like Santa Claus.

Satan wants you to think of God as a senile old man floating in the clouds, or to view God as an impersonal, uncaring force.

Look what he does to humanity, creations made in the image of God! All his lies and sin destroy people. Our sin kills us. It distorts the image of God. Satan’s point in attacking you is so God’s glory would be covered up with your grossness.

Then there are angels. Angels always make me think of old ladies with Precious Moments fat baby angels, or fat, flying baby Cupid shooting arrows through people’s hearts.

Yet when you see angels described in the Bible, or when people in the Bible see angels, they are blown away. Isaiah 6 has impressive angels that look nothing like fat flying babies. Joshua sees an angel with a sword and immediately falls to the ground. John is corrected by an angel when John falls in worship before him.

People don’t worship fat, flying babies.

Angels have been stereotyped in imagery but also in function. Angels do not guard you from tripping. Angels are on missions from God to accomplish things on this earth. Much of what they do is unseen and will remain so.

The Bible gives us fleeting glimpses of angelic activity. I don’t know what all they are doing currently, but if we saw their activity we would be blown away.

Even demons have been trivialized, again because Satan either wants you to not take them seriously so they can get away with stuff, or completely freak you out so you don’t do stuff.

Stick with Scripture and what it says about Satan, God, humanity, and angels and demons. Most of what you know about them is based more on popular media and goofy traditions. Don’t defend your take on angels with your feelings or what your grandma said. Use Scripture. Get to know these impressive creatures correctly.

One day we will behold them and it is going to be awesome. They will not look like fat flying babies! I’m totally looking forward to this!

Why Did Jesus Say There Will Always Be Poor People?

Jesus could say offensive things. When Judas criticized the woman who poured ointment on Him because the ointment could have been sold and given to the poor, Jesus said:

“For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always” (Matthew 26:11).

Jesus is not saying we shouldn’t help the poor; He’s specifically telling this group that this expensive act of worship was well done. She’s taking advantage of her opportunity while Jesus is still alive to show Him worship. She, Judas, and the rest of them can spend the rest of their lives helping the poor! They won’t run out of opportunities.

This is like people who can’t make it to church on Sunday for an hour because they have to clean the house. You can spare an hour for church; you can only go to it when it’s time for it. You have many other hours in the week to clean the house; the dirt aint going anywhere.

People aren’t as offended by the serve me while I’m here part as much as His assumption that there will always be poor people.

Everyone and their mother knows how to solve poverty. Republicans and Democrats both have their ideas. Commies and Socialists and all other political groups think if they were in charge the world would be bliss.

It’s not true.

This isn’t some cynical statement by Jesus, nor an off the cuff remark. Jesus is actually quoting the Old Testament.

“For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land” (Deuteronomy 15:11).

Now think about what is said here. He’s talking about the Promised Land; the land flowing with milk and honey. The land where God’s law would reign as people followed the Lord’s guidance.

This is the best land in the world with the best governor over it—God Himself! And even here, in this blessed land under God’s authority, there will always be poor people.

If God Himself can’t eliminate poverty in the best land in this world, you think your political party can do it?

(Notice that the verse still says to help the poor. Saying that there will always be poor people doesn’t mean helping them is pointless.)

The Bible is very consistent on this issue. The Bible was written over thousands of years and throughout all those years there are commands to help the poor.

For thousands of years of writing the Bible, the poor are still there. There will always be poor people.

This isn’t a spiritual statement or prophecy; it’s a simple statement of truth. It’s an observation of how life works.

In statistics there’s a thing called a bell curve. A bell curve is the way things get distributed. The Middle Class will always be huge. There will always be a smaller group of poor and rich. It’s just the way stuff gets distributed in this world.

People are poor for many reasons. Some choose to be so—vows of poverty, disinterest in work or wanting more stuff, being a pastor with three kids, etc. Some are forced into it—physical or mental issues, poor family environment, lack of escape, corrupt governments, and so on.

There will always be poor people as long as there are people on this earth.

There is a new earth coming, which will be free from the Curse and from sin, where God’s righteousness will reign supreme. At that point, and not until then, will poverty be eliminated.

Living in a fallen world has consequences. I appreciate the desire people have to end poverty, but frequently the well-meaning intentions make the problem worse. It also gives people the idea that they don’t have to actually help the poor because, “I pay taxes and I vote for the people who will help them.”

Our job as believers is to give to those who ask of us, to be a Good Samaritan, looking for opportunities to share the love of God, not in kind thoughts and promises of prayer, but in actual prayer and giving.

Stop worrying about political wrangles over the issue and waiting for Your Guys to get in there and solve it all. You personally go help someone. That is what you’ll be held accountable for.

“But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him” (1 John 3:17).

Other People Determine Your Doctrine More Than Scripture Does

Protestants are people who protested against the Catholic Church. But specifically they are people who used to be Catholic, who then became not quite as much Catholic.

There were other churches around during the height of Catholicism. Baptists have been around forever and various other churches were around as well. Catholics get the most publicity; many think the entire church was Catholic at one point.

That’s mostly because Catholics have always been expert at getting people’s money and also killing opponents and destroying their work. When you have the power and money, you dominate the narrative.

Luther was Catholic and wanted to stay in the Catholic Church, and he would have if they hadn’t booted him. Calvin copied Augustine on 90% of doctrine and Augustine is considered the Father of Catholicism.

Most of the doctrinal differences between denominations today is how much not-Catholic they are. Most denominations and churches will tell you that their sole authority is the Bible, but reading the doctrinal statements of all these churches lets you know someone aint giving authority to the Bible.

If all churches who said the Scripture was their authority actually had Scripture as their authority, there would be lots more unity. There isn’t. Why not? Because a lot of doctrine is formed not on Scripture but on Let’s Not Be Like Those People.

People are great at throwing babies out with bath water. In fact, sometimes we just throw out babies and keep bath water.

Churches throw out the baby (the Scripture) and keep the bath water (whatever drivel they decide to believe instead). Each assumes they are spiritual because spiritual maturity is mostly measured by comparison with other people. Since we’re Not Like Those People, we assume our not-likeness is where we are better, more mature, more right. Simply being better than others is good enough.

This is not growing into Christ though; this is just growing into being Not Like Those People.

We’ve reached a point where true uniqueness is a church that actually has Scripture as their authority. Does this church exist? I think it’s about impossible.

2,000 years of church arguing and factions has created an environment where it is very difficult to agree with any Christian anymore. Human philosophy, church and family tradition, and many other things have clouded our vision.

Is it possible for a church to have biblical doctrine? Maybe, but it’s highly doubtful. Is it possible for a person to? It’s more likely, but also very difficult.

How do you know if your doctrine is based on Scripture? Well, read the Bible a lot. Anytime a verse annoys you, pay attention, that’s probably where your doctrine is based on something else. If you read the Bible over and over, every time you should learn more, and it should slightly inform and change your doctrine.

If that’s not happening, then you aren’t paying attention. You’re simply reading the Bible and your brain is doing confirmation bias—it only notices verses that agree with your doctrine.

If you claim you’ve attentively read the Bible and didn’t change/modify any views, then you have to conclude you have 100% perfect doctrine. That’s quite the claim. I know people who get pretty close to claiming this and well, they don’t agree with each other on doctrine!

Read the Bible. Change your beliefs where necessary. Be part of a body of believers. Don’t isolate yourself. Hopefully you can at least find a church that has a couple humble people in it who truly want to grow and don’t think they’ve already arrived. You can help each other detect bias.

Please read your Bible. Over and over. Pay attention to context. Do the work.

But also know that knowledge puffs up. If you have all knowledge and have not love it profits you nothing. Doctrine is not simply for picking fights. It’s for informing your life and changing you into the person of Jesus Christ. And please try your hardest not to fall into the trap of “Not Being Like Those People.” Just follow Christ. Let Him change you.

What Does “Eye for an Eye” Really Mean?

“An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.”

So goes the saying. It appears as though this saying came from Gandhi, or at least one of his biographers as a summation of Gandhi’s thoughts. It’s popular for many Christians to celebrate Gandhi. I am not one of those Christians who does so.

Gandhi was a fine political leader and accomplished a perfectly noble political end. I’d celebrate his political accomplishments. As far as his religious views, and more precisely his biblical views, I’ll take a pass.

Exactly how would the whole world be blind if we enacted an eye for an eye? I’ve lived for 47 years and never poked out anyone’s eye. I don’t know anyone who has poked out anyone’s eye.

The context of the edict is from Exodus 21:23-25, “But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”

Physical harm is what is in mind. If you hurt someone, the punishment for so doing should be equal. This is the reverse of, “And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.”

The context is also the political setup of the nation of Israel. The Old Covenant law was not a means of salvation. It was, in part, the legal code to direct the nation of Israel. This is what a Messiah-creating nation’s laws would look like if God were its King. People get punished for their sin.

The Book of Proverbs tells people to use just weights and measures, not to favor the rich and disfavor the poor, nor should you nail the rich and let the poor off the hook. They should judge with equity and fairness.

Today there are stories where people get millions of dollars for burning themselves on hot McDonald’s coffee. They do that because McDonalds has a lot of money. Let’s stick it to The Man! Make em pay! Israel’s law was written to prevent such extreme court results.

Jesus brings up an eye for an eye in The Sermon of the Mount. “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”

Ah, so Gandhi was right! Down with eye for an eye!

Nope: context. Remember, in Exodus God is giving a nation their legal code, how to enforce the law of a nation consisting of believers, non-believers, Jews and non-Jews. Jesus is correcting the notion of individuals seeking revenge on those who wrong them.

When it comes to individuals, let wrongs against you go. It’s not your job to smite those who smite you. If you are a nation, then yes, your legal code should have a fair and consistent form of punishment for evildoers.

Jesus was correcting the personal desire for revenge that many took that verse to mean. That’s not what it’s talking about. It was specifically a command for the nation of Israel and their legal code.

So, in summation: Context is king. Gandhi is not a good interpreter of the Bible. Don’t poke people’s eyes out first or second.

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