This new journey with Jesus then led me to the apostles Paul, Peter, and James, the men regarded as the cornerstone of this new Way, but who had very different and at times conflicting views on the direction and path that should be taken to fulfill what they believed was Jesus’s mission here on earth. I realized for the first time just how different the Christian world would be today if James and the Jerusalem Church had prevailed rather than Paul and his ministry to the Gentiles (the non-Jews). A fascinating topic worthy of further exploration and discussion.
As I discovered and learned more about the Bible, I realized how important it is to approach it from the proper perspective because it was written to and for a people who lived two thousand years ago. Just as we have changed the language of this manuscript to fit our modern times, I believe we should also fit the doctrine into our modern lives. To fundamentalist Christians, this concept would insinuate change from the truths they regard as unchangeable, and most would consider it heresy to alter this document they consider divine, notwithstanding the fact that it is highly improbable that God dictated passages in Elizabethan English as it is written in the King James Version. But for me, the idea of fitting the Bible into modern contexts means living and growing and to appreciate and understand the time, place, and background of the scripture, and to also recognize and see that like our faith, the scriptures should grow with us, not against us. As Rob Bell, author and founder of the Mars Hill Bible Church writes, “To take statements made in a letter from one person living in a real place at a moment in history writing to another person living in a real place out of their context and apply them to today without first understanding their original context sucks the life out of them.”
I used to believe it was reasonable and acceptable to take one passage out of hundreds of thousands and apply it to the social challenges we are dealing with in society today. I realized that the practice of taking one or two random sentences without regard for their larger meaning or context, or worse, their misinterpretation, has justified or encouraged slavery, war, the abuse of women, racism, and prejudice toward homosexuality, and such misinterpretation has spawned many cult leaders as well.
Anyone can find a verse in the Bible to back up his agenda; the challenge for all of us today is to take Jesus’s two simple directives about loving God and our neighbors and apply those to our everyday lives without adding any addendums or opinions to them. It seems that many of us are reading the same book; it’s just that we are reading it so differently.
I don’t mean to talk down on Christianity as a whole; I know and have seen firsthand that there are wonderful people and organizations that not only profess their beliefs through words, but show their faith through positive actions and good deeds every day. My own church and some of its members are wonderful examples of people who take to heart the power of change with the offer of love and compassion by living in the simple testimony of loving your neighbor as yourself.
My journey continues.