So, apparently I can’t talk about religion with anyone. I just made yet another really good friendship kind of awkward because I was honest about what I believe. Usually it just takes a long time for people to process and we are okay after that but their message is clear…
“No matter what, don’t talk to me about religion any more.”
But this friend, kind of accused me of just enjoying talking about religion and entering into the discussion just to break her faith down (and kind of implied it was “fun”). While I do enjoy discussing philosophy (which any good discussion of religion immediately enters the area of metaphysics), and I do have a highly analytic mind that tends to find flaws and analyze wording and semantics, and I train it to do that…but it’s far from “fun”. I have legitimate honest questions, and when someone gives me proof that doesn’t hold up or that I interpret in a different way…I don’t know what to think of that other than I need more or different proof.
So just in case TL;DR the point is this: Since I can’t find anyone to discuss religion with I’ve decided to “talk” to random people on the Internet about it, at least once a week.
So why not Sunday? While everyone else is in church I will write about my own thoughts on God. This week I have some specific thoughts on my mind directly related to my conversation with this friend, but next week I’ll kind of back up and explain the root of my beliefs and why I feel the way I do.
Okay, so my friend and I were talking and she said that there were three requirements for being a Christian. These were belief in Christ, being baptized, and for the life of me I can’t remember the third one. But I had heard this before, so I asked where in the Bible it talked about these things. She couldn’t remember exactly where so she said she’d get back to me later.
But first, let me talk about the first one. Often times John 14:6 is quoted in response to belief in Jesus as a requirement for worshiping the “right” God.
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
This seems nicely tied into a bow. He is making an absolute ultimatum. A completely exclusive statement saying anyone who doesn’t believe in me is wrong.
First, ask yourself this: Does this sound like the same man who says “Love your enemies”? Does it sound like the same guy who preaches love and tolerance of everyone every time he turns around? Taken as an ultimatum this statement is very exclusive.
So, to make it fit with the rest of Christ’s message (one of love and tolerance) doesn’t it make more sense if he means “My Father and I are one, if you know me then you know Him as well”. Now by that logic, if you know the Father then you also know Jesus.
Well look at John 14 as a whole:
Verse 7: “If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
Verse 10: “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.”
Verse 20: “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.”
So my next question: Is it possible to come to know God without knowing Jesus?
Verse 23-24: Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.”
Now, Jesus was an excellent teacher and role model. But I say again…is it possible to come to understand the teaching of Jesus (love for your fellow man, tolerance, and a relationship with God) without knowing about Jesus himself?
I say yes. I learn things all the time without a teacher. Now, it’s a LOT more difficult, but if you are from another religion that also believes in these things (read: most other religions) than it should be a lot easier. The textbook is different but the curriculum is the same.
So I ask again: Why is a belief in Jesus necessary for life? It is necessary to be a Christian, but I don’t think it’s necessary for God’s love or acceptance. I’ll just leave it at that.
So for baptism, she told me about John 3:3-5 where Jesus says
“Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.”
Baptism. Right. Fair enough. Except he goes on to say (in John 3:6-8):
“Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
So flesh cannot give birth to flesh. The Spirit gives birth to spirit, and we cannot tell where it comes or where it is going. We cannot tell when someone has been reborn in the Spirit…so this baptism is not physical but spiritual. There is another place also where it talks about baptism that was mentioned (I’m sure it is mentioned other times in the Bible, but these were the two called to my attention).
1 Peter 3:18-23 :
“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water,
and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God.“
So the baptism is a physical ritual that symbolizes a true spiritual awakening and baptism in the Spirit. The two are supposed to correlate (ideally) but the truth is that we can’t tell the movement of the Spirit so how can we know? We just go through the motions and kind of hope that we didn’t do it wrong.
So in conclusion, for today, don’t forget to err on the side of tolerance, all who are baptized through the Spirit know God, and it doesn’t require knowledge or belief in Christ because if you know God then by extension you know the entire Trinity.
We all worship the same God. We should love and accept everyone equally. We are all brothers and sisters in God.
Have a wonderful and spiritual Sunday,
Most people know the rhyme “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Well I respect all beliefs but as I don’t consider myself a Christian I certainly have other reasons I honor the holidays.
In a sentence: It’s not about religion, as much as it is about what they holiday represents.
The major holidays to me (and I will miss a few as I provide examples) all have a good solid reason for existing. Easter is about renewal and clearing the way for new things in your life. July 4th is about patriotism, and pride in our country. Halloween is about putting on a mask and being someone different for a night. Thanksgiving is about reflection on the blessings you have been given in your life. And I will elaborate on Christmas in a minute. Now arguably, there are other reasons these holidays exist…religious, historical, etc, but to me the most important reason is it’s something we do as a culture, and it brings us together both in small groups as friends and family, and in a much larger sense as an entire nation or species (in the case of the non US specific holidays). How amazing is it that across the globe, nearly every small child is rapt with anticipation of Santa Claus leaving them gifts.
But now to Christmas, and why I feel it’s so much more than the birthday of Jesus. That is what Christians celebrate, but all the religious holidays around this time of year have a similar purpose. They bring people together. All the holidays do that, sure, but Christmas time in particular it is the singular reason for the season. The “point” is to spend it around people you love.
I had a friend tell me the other day that “Christmas is just another day” (okay paraphrased…still) and I was shocked. It’s never been “just another day” to me. It has always been something special, even after I found out Santa Claus was a lie (although I played along for a few more years until I got my Mom and Aunt to admit it). Christmas is the one day a year you show people how much you love them. You may do this by giving them presents, or just sending out mass text messages (Sorry guys, poor college kid…guess what you are all getting this year?), but you do it because on this day more than any other it should be done.
That is the purpose of Christmas.
At least, in my opinion.
I hope, dear reader, you aren’t alone for Christmas, but if you are I love you and Merry Christmas! If you aren’t alone, then…well I guess my message is the same.
Merry Christmas everyone!!