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Archive for July, 2017

God, Must We Forgive Those Who Admit No Wrongdoing?

It can be helpful to encourage forgiveness when the guilty confess wrongdoing and desire to make amends when possible. Bitterness and revenge seeking can worsen a victim’s circumstances. How though should we react when the guilty refuse to acknowledge wrongdoing and show no remorse or regrets of their actions?

People can be confused by a God who demands forgiveness according to the Bible no matter what? What is there to forgive if one doesn’t admit wrongdoing? Easy forgiveness can allow a husband’s abusive behavior to continue. When a sexual abuser doesn’t acknowledge their actions, secret behaviors continue. Are we helping one by forgiving when they have no regrets?

To one’s surprise the Bible can be interpreted more often to suggest forgiveness requires regret. God is said to forgive if we forgive others (Mt. 6:14-15). Forgive if they repent (Lk. 17:3). God in the OT is often said to not forgive the rebellious (i.e. Josh. 24:19). Why would God ask us to do something God doesn’t – forgive the unrepentant? Then, there are circumstances when Jesus forgives while on the Cross for “they don’t know what they do” (Lk. 23:34).

My point is not to insist one should or shouldn’t forgive in their circumstances. Besides, ancient literature such as the Bible is always subject to interpretation. Usually, there are different opinions on meaning and application of the same passage. The Bible was never meant to be a rules book; the Bible was meant for reflection in one circumstances. The Bible is valuable because it suggests not always handling our circumstances naturally, humanly-speaking.

Friends can make a victim’s situation worse by pretending the know the mind of God in one’s individual circumstances. God is capable of guiding individuals. For some forgiving can cause feelings of further victimization and bitterness; for others forgiveness can control bitterness and possible acts of revenge. Many may be haunted with thoughts whether they must forgive their violator at the urging of others.

Not forgiving doesn’t mean you are full of bitterness or you wouldn’t forgive if one acknowledges what they have done and seem to truly regret their action. Whether a future relationship is possible depends. Seek the mind of God what actions in relationship difficulties lead to your best interest in the long-run in a world full of disappointments. God may not be as irrational or non-empathetic as thought.

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How Can We Understand The Bible When God Is Portrayed As Immoral?

The truth is we cannot know when a biblical writer is recording their own beliefs about God or somehow God has communicated what exactly to write down from God. How would that work anyway? Did God really direct “Now go, attack the Amalekites…put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle, sheep, camels, and donkeys” (I Sam. 15:3), or was that the writer’s understanding of God at that time?

Sometimes there may be plausible explanations to OT passages that contradict the view of God in the NT, but the solution may not be to always rationalize confusing passages. We know God didn’t verbally dictate the entire Bible. We simply cannot be certain when God did or didn’t allow the writers the freedom to misunderstand and grow in their understandings of God. God has proven to not be controlling by accepting decisions made contrary to God’s wishes.

Insisting the Bible is somehow magically infallible often leads to not acknowledging that an author’s meaning in ancient literature is always subject to interpretation thus error. Clearly, different opinions of the same biblical passage exist. God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16), which could only mean the OT since the NT had not been formed when Timothy was written, can mean God intended the Bible for reflection upon what God is really like with the help of the Spirit (Jn. 14:16).

Oh, so everyone’s opinion is right!

Some interpretations are clearly wrong. God, unlike religious extremists, would never violate one’s freedom to force belief in God. Certainty often leads to dogmatism and unloving behaviors. The presence of universal moral sensitivities, suggesting the existence of a personal Creator, provide enough certainty. We may be better off without the Bible when used as a rules book rather than consideration for wisdom depending on individual circumstances.

How can we interpret difficult OT passages if we don’t think a moral explanation exist?

We can interpret all of Scriptures through the voice of Jesus and the lens of the Cross. Most biblical scholars accept the Gospels were written within at least 40-60 years when Jesus lived, so eyewitnesses could dispute claims made. I would consider Jesus’ view when your understanding of an OT passage contradicts what you believe Jesus taught and lived out. What kind of person who claims to be God sacrifices their life, when they have the power to prevent it, to convince others that God loves and desires to help us be the kind of person we want to be deep down.

If Jesus Didn’t Die To Save Us From A Non-Existent Hell, What Did Jesus Save Us From?

The Bible doesn’t really say Jesus came to die for our sins to keep us from going to Hell. The only place one would get such an irrational idea is from a Book. Who cares to get close to, much less try to explain, a God who is a sadistic torturer who has to be appeased by killing their child?

The reason the Bible doesn’t say Jesus saved us from Hell is because the traditional understanding of Hell simply doesn’t exist in the Bible.

Gehenna is the Greek word translated as Hell in the NT. Gehenna was the name of a real valley nearby Jerusalem with a history of terrible slaughter. Jesus used Gehenna to illustrate that spiritual death can be as tragic as horrendous physical death. The Apostle Paul who wrote most of the New Testament never refers to Hell. Noah, or any prophet in the OT, never warned of Hell as a consequence for behaviors here on earth.

Hell seems an invention over the centuries to scare people into submission and obedience. A loving God isn’t going to sadistically torture people forever for their beliefs influenced by many factors such as poor role models or misinformation while here on earth a short time.

The word “heaven” appears the most in the Gospel of Matthew. The Kingdom of Heaven isn’t talking about going to a place after death. Jesus speaks of bringing heavenly love to earth – “on earth as in heaven.” Jesus said nothing about dropping to your knees and repenting of sins to avoid Hell and go to Heaven after death when asked about having eternal life (Mt. 19; Lk. 10).

But, didn’t Paul who wrote most of the New Testaments letters says “the wages of sin is death (Rm. 6:23)? Paul is speaking of spiritual death because Paul is still alive after sin has killed him (Rm. 7:11). Romans is Paul’s longest and most theological letter and when Paul mentions Heaven twice, he says nothing about Jesus dying so we can go to Heaven (Rm. 1:18, 10:6).

God know what we know. Fear only leads to concealing or doing what should be expected. Fear may deter evil for our own good, but encouragement from God, parents, and friends is what leads to life transformations. The focus on obedience and not a relationship with God often just leads to doing what is required by law rather than going the extra mile which is so necessary in a world of people who lapse into selfishness from time to time.

So, what was Jesus trying to save us from if not Hell? God only cares about saving us from ourselves.

Jesus didn’t die in our place to appease God’s wrath and help God save face. Is earthly parental love more holy than God’s love? When our children disobey our guidance we aren’t most concern how their actions make us look but that our child is heading down a path of destruction. God isn’t offended because we simply disobey. God hurts because we are hurting ourselves and those around us. All God’s actions are about trying to convince us that God’s unselfish ways are in our best interest in the long-run.

Jesus came to earth to convey God seeks to empower us, by knowing God is merciful and forgiving, so we can be constantly encouraged to shun evil and do good.

It was this message Jesus was willing to die, rather than save Himself, in hopes to inspire following in His footsteps through expressions of radical love. As God loves us, Jesus encouraged mercy, forgiveness, and going the extra mile in our relationships. Jesus sought changes of the heart for the good of the world.

I don’t know what to say to those who believe a life of not loving others like you want to be loved isn’t worth living. I am convinced when we know God the way Jesus knew God, we will sense God’s love and support and pursue God’s desires for us that lead to less regrets while here on earth. Striving to love family and friends in such a way can inspire them to live lives worth living. A perfect God knows loving God is loving others to the fullest.

 

How Do We Handle Opposing Views of God With Others?

Most friends listen respectfully to one another’s point of view and accept their differences or agree to disagree. At least we know we should act that way. Many who sincerely desire to model God’s goodness often converse as if they know with certainty what God thinks about issues that impact others deeply.

Caring for people is far more important than arguing about God.

We cannot always know for certain what the Bible claims about God. Scholars versed in Hebrew and Greek differ in interpretations of the Bible. Jesus only fought with religious folks who proclaimed to others wrongly what God is like. Jesus was guided by the law of love where when one’s freedom is not being violated, relationships are far more important than certain beliefs.

The law of love guides in deeply personal issues such as homosexuality or women in the pastorate or priesthood. Love is the higher calling than being right or wrong about God. I do not think it is enough to agree to disagree with those personally involved. Love demands we cannot claim to always know God’s views, thus judging or condemning others.

We must not suggest God condemns women for using gifts they feel endowed by their Creator. There are many negative consequences denying women serving in the same roles as men if having the same gifts. Not all who hold this view of women’s roles are controlling, but we must recognize how we handle our personal beliefs damages souls if not living by the spirit of love.

Supposed truth is not more important than love.  

Don’t turn people away from God. We must not let our certainty lead to possibly misrepresenting God. Common or loving sense tells us certain actions are immoral such as murder or stealing; otherwise, we must love others if we were in their skins and felt absolutely no control over feelings toward those of the same sex or feeling born to represent God publically.

 

 

What Hinders You From Being More Spiritually Focused?

Who doesn’t desire to be more spiritual by treating others well, being more the person they desire to be deep down! It is if we were born to pursue spiritual health. Don’t be deterred by others’ beliefs about God. God is capable of speaking for themselves to you.

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First, what does it means to be spiritual? Christianity’s over 40,000 denominations prove many cannot agree. Religions seek to encourage but end up confusing. True religion or spirituality is simply loving others like you want to be love in good and difficult times, allowing all to form their own personal beliefs that don’t violate the rights of others.

Don’t let supposed required beliefs keep you from being more the person you desire to be deep down. You can but aren’t required to join a church, synagogue, or mosque. Simply find ways to be encouraged in your spiritual quests.

Do continually pursue a loving lifestyle, even making sacrifices, for your own good. A life not full of regrets is worth it. Just ask your conscience. God doesn’t require perfection. Failure is inevitable. God doesn’t ask for your respect because of ego. Loving God to the fullest is loving others to the fullest. The same is true of loving parents.

Do you have to believe in God to be spiritual? There are so many opinions of what God is really like. Don’t accept others’ beliefs about God if they don’t make moral or relational sense. If God exists, surely such a Deity can reveal their true self to you.

You may not believe in God for very personal reasons. Are you telling me a loving God would not accept you because you have experienced life or intellectual challenges that just make belief in God difficult at this time!

I do experience advantages of my belief in a Creator. Striving for perfection is a challenge. I need encouragement. I need relief from guilt to not loss hope. I need a perfect moral voice outside imperfect human beings. A personal journey with God gets me closer who I desire to be deep down.

So, since I don’t have to believe in God or accept any religious teachings, I can do whatever the hell I want? There is wisdom in numbers. We seem to be made for relationships. Extremists often rely on their interpretation of a Book. Any interpretations opposed to universal moral intuitions that clearly violate the Law of Love surely are false.

Do you wish to be a better person? Become more spiritually-focused. Finds relationships that encourage you in your journey. Talk about your desires to others. Such discussions often are taboo if others have a hidden agenda to convert. God surely can speak for themselves.

“So God, I didn’t always know exactly what to believe. I tried to do the best I could. Sometimes, I even doubted you. I did want to make the world a better place by how I treated others. But geez, I failed a lot. And God said – “I love you” or “Get out of sight.”

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