Do We Really?
By Jane Tawel
February 3, 2019
All the assumptions we make. And we just take it all for granted that because we call ourselves something, label ourselves something, that these things are true. And we like them to be true because that is what gives us personal meaning and usually a paycheck or two. One of my favorite sayings of the current younger generation is when someone says something, and they sing-song with a bit of Socratic sass: “But is it? Is it really?” “Was he? Was he really?” “But did you? Did you really?” With the emphasis on really, this seemingly silly question has all the power of Pilate’s “What is truth?” I imagine if Pilate and Jesus were talking today, as they did in John 18, their conversation would go something more like this.
Jesus :“I have come into the world to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth, hears my voice.”
Pilate: “But do they? Do they really?”
Here are some assumptions I hear people making, and being the stickler for the needed role of an antagonist in any good story, I will present how one might wonder about the “truth” of things people base their lives, livelihood, and even salvation on. This of course is a partial list of just my own particular meditations today. We can add on to these and ponder them for eternity; or rather until God’s Kingdom comes. Then the fat angel sings and it’s game over.
People say a lot of stuff about what “Christians” believe. Here is some of my personal “Socratic” dialect about some ideas that I have been struggling with lately. As is my bent, I will open my stream-of-conscious rather bent and banged up thinking here. I will use the second person “you” as a more colloquial version of the more proper third person “one”, meaning of course this is at heart, a first person reflection in the final analysis.
- We should lead like Jesus. Jesus was a good leader. But Jesus proclaims himself not a leader at all but a servant and follower. In fact, Jesus flees the leadership role that could make Him a king of nations. Jesus flatly states that he can do nothing in His own power but only what His Father, Jehovah, does through him. To put the final “nail in this coffin”, It is very clear that when we are judged, if we have been a leader, we will have gotten our reward while on earth. Only those who serve as and with the least of the least will be chosen to lead with The Christ. We may all be created as equal, but we do not go through life as equals which brings us to false idea #2.
- All human life is sacred. There is, I am afraid, nothing at all in the Bible that implies this. The metaphor found in Psalm 139 is merely that, a personal poetic reflection on the part of the servant of God and chosen Jewish king, David. This current Western idea that each human life is special and sacred is purely a religion born out of Humanism and wealth and the warping of “Christian” thought. This humanistic, individualistic religion that we erroneously call worship of God is nothing more than worship of self, and is not a Judeo-Christian worldview at all. I could go on and on with proofs from God’s Word about this but read it for yourself from beginning to end and you will wonder how we got to believe that each human is sacred. To give you only one indication, read the story of God and Sodom and Gomorrah and of Abraham’s plea for God to save just ten people worth saving. This idea that a human life is sacred is blasphemy in fact. There is none sacred but God, the Bible says. We can choose covenant with God and be chosen in that way and only in that way to have a life that is more than dust. But it is by our keeping covenant with God and living as The Son of God lived, that we become holy, sacred, eternal soul. I am afraid it is an incredibly important thing to think through in this day and age of the rather (sometimes literally) “Micky Mouse” -Americanized- Christianity-ese. It is critically important because people use this idea of all life as sacred to be “pro-life” about the abortion of unborn fetuses, but not “pro-life” about the born lives of illegal immigrants or not pro-life about people who do not vote or worship as they do. People support this idea of each human as sacred, in the ridiculous worldview that you can “ask Jesus to be your Savior” and then he is because “God loves you no matter what”. There are so many “Christian” songs that flat out say this over and over and it makes me tremble because if you read the actual tome that we call God’s Inspired Word”. You will realize that:
- God does not love you no matter what you do. There is absolutely no indication in God’s Word that this is true. Let me just give you one example: Moses. Yeah, that star among God-followers. God was going to kill Moses and then – well, read the story for yourself of Moses’ wife, that wonderful pagan woman called Zipporah. Which brings me to this.
- God is not my friend. God is not that friend Who comes whenever I call Him to help my team win the game. God is God. Again, read God’s Word. Actually read it; don’t show up to have the experts tell you on Sunday how much they love you because Jesus loves you and died for you. He didn’t. Jesus, a Jew, died for a Holy God, his Father, Adonai. Jesus completed the whole cycle of being human in perfect covenant with a Holy God. Jesus died to show us that we could be reborn through our own deaths (both literal and figurative, as He did) if we lived in covenant with Yahweh, as Jesus did. Jesus is very, very clear that He did not come to throw out the Bible, what we blithely call to our peril, the “Old” Testament, but to fulfill and live it as it was meant. Not as the religious leaders had interpreted it but as The Christ lived it. We are meant to live it too. But it is not this wide road that is easy to stroll down because your own particular life is so sacred. Nope. It is a narrow road that you choose, but as Robert Frost said, that choice will “make all the difference”. I should be different because God loves me enough to make me different enough to be with Him. Which bring us to #5.
- God loves me. Well, yes and no. God loves me but not because I’m me. The Bible tells us that God loves “the World”. God made the world perfect and He made humans perfect. And then we messed ourselves up and messed up the world and continue to do both of those things. Read the bits in the Bible about how God “chastises and disciplines those He loves” and then decide if you want A Holy God to love you. Because frankly most of us live like animals. This is where those who don’t believe in God have it partially right. We are like animals and we can choose to live like animals if we want; “eating, drinking, and being merry” for tomorrow we die. And that’s it. Scripture implies that if we live long enough, we get three choices in this world: 1. To live for self and get as much as I can for me and my family, just like the doggie families, and ape families do. When my days are over enjoying this wonderful life, I will either lay down with gratitude or regrets or a mix of both, and then return to dust and cease to exist. The place of buried animal bodies, or the ground from which no man returns, is what the Bible calls Gehenna. 2. If on the other hand, you lead your life and choose to be cruel, wicked, to abuse God’s name, to abuse power, to abuse others, to enjoy evil in word and deed, and perhaps even if you just commit those things we call the sins of omission, ie not doing the things you were meant to do for Good; then God is pretty clear you will be punished even after you think you escape judgement through death. Those people will go to hell, complete with the demonic gods they have enjoyed while alive on earth. 3. You can spend your life living on the planet as best you can in relationship to a God we can no longer see. We can no longer see God as Adam and Eve could, because we have chosen sin instead. But God provides a way “back to The Garden” so to speak; and that is by following the rules, worshiping only Jehovah, and loving others as we love our own selves. This is the option we have to live in a covenant with The One True God, Yahweh. These people live to glorify the name of Jehovah, live for the least of the least in this world, study Truth, learn how to love and trust and hope again after The Fall, and resist the temptations that The Christ did: those temptations of power, greed, and self-worship. These people will rise from death to a new earth and to even something new and unknown – a “Heaven”, the place where at last we can be in the same space as God is and not die. These people will see God and live.
- Everyone wants to go to heaven. No, they don’t. You may have been taught that you will go to hell if you don’t listen to Christians. Well, ironically the only people Jesus, the founder of the little Christs sect, says will go to hell, are the leaders of the religion he practiced. Matthew 23:15: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.” This is sobering to say the least for any of us who have taught any thing about Jesus. And while, I have always loved the practices and people of today’s churches, the incremental off -course steering that The Church has done for the past centuries, has us so far off course as to frighten me. Which brings us to something we might call semantics in #7, but semantics are crucial to explore when you are thinking about Jesus who is called The Word.
- Jesus loves his church. He doesn’t. He couldn’t because he never used the word and there was no such idea as we now know “the church” in any of Christ’s teachings. In fact, in what we call the “New” Testament, another scary thing we’ve come to believe, there is not a single time the word “church” is used. Church is a misinterpretation of several Greek words. Again, you can read and google this for yourself. There is, of course, much proof that to follow God, we must live in communities, caring for each other and worshiping together. There is much proof that we are to live as followers of Christ with others who want to follow Him, like his disciples did. But the point is, we have turned the religion of Christ (and by extension of His early followers, including the people who wrote the Gospels and Paul) into something they would neither recognize nor I would venture to boldly say, would they approve of. So let’s just say this for now. Jesus was a Jew. Jesus believed that He was the Messiah of The Chosen People who were the Jews, the Hebrews. Jesus believed that it was through the Jewish Scriptures and lives of the Hebrew covenant keepers that God, The Father is best revealed. He also believed though that the Jews had abused their status and that “there would come a day when God will be worshiped neither on the Jewish Mount nor in the chosen confined temples of any other peoples, but by all peoples in “spirit and in truth”. Then He claimed that the day had in fact arrived with His way – The Way – of worship of God. Jesus did not come at all to form a new “organized religion” and we have programmed and capitalized on Jesus’ beliefs out of all recognition and wisdom. The main word that Jesus used that should make all the difference in our understanding of who He was / is was not “church”, congregation or synagogue. The word Jesus used was “Kingdom”. And He did not preach His own earthly kingdom, but The Kingdom of Yahweh. Which brings us back to the “really”, “is it really” of #1, in #8.
- The Gospel / Good News is that Jesus is the only way to heaven. No, He isn’t. Jesus is the only way to The Father. And Jesus came to bring The Kingdom of The Father back to our understanding and to make available the germination in us of how The Father’s Kingdom can be restored to our world / planet/ Eden. What Jesus taught is that: “I am The Way (to God), The Truth (about God), and the Life (with God). No one comes to Jehovah except by means of my way.” In fact, this is why early followers of Jesus who were Jews or converted Jews would never have called their religion “Christianity” because it wasn’t. It was Judaism. They called what they believed what Jesus called what He believed: The Way. If you don’t want to truly know a Holy God and become holy, you won’t go to “hell” (necessarily). You will merely have enjoyed a good or an awful life depending on your status, personality, and circumstances and you will return to the dust of this planet like all animals and plants will. Nothing wrong with that choice. If however, you think that you want to live forever in the presence of God as we were intended to do in Eden when humans were created in the image of Divinity, then it is best to try to figure out how we are really meant to live now.
Because claiming to be something, doesn’t make it so. I would love to claim that I am a gorgeous twenty-three -year -old with a million dollars in the bank and five houses in various parts of the world and a private plane and that every one who meets me loves me and that I could rule the country, maybe even the world in the way it should be run, and that I get do-overs on every minute I’ve messed up and that God loves me no matter what. And you would have to ask me with all the Socratic sass you could muster, “ But–Are you? Are you really?”
If you think Jesus did all the work for you, or that because you were born into some cultural religion or other, or that just because you are alive, that those facts– which the Bible says, fall randomly like rain, on the good and the evil — that those facts make you something you want to be; and that God loves you no matter what; well then, you may want to look around at what we are doing to God’s world, to God’s other children, to our own bodies and souls, to God’s planet, and what we do in blasphemy of God’s Holy Name, and you may want to humble yourself; and ask yourself when you think you have it all figured out:
Do you? Do you really?