Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Living Biblical vs Living Like Christ

Galatians 3:10-14"10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”[a] 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.”[b] 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.”[c] 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”[d] 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit."

It's been a long while since I posted due to other obligations. However, now that I'm back, the next topic of my post to analyze the difference between living biblical by following biblical rules compared to living godly by following Christ.  I ask this because having read plenty of Christian blogs and articles, the common theme I read, is about what is biblical and what isn't and how we are to be biblical. This goes from biblical womanhood or femininity, biblical manhood or masculinity, biblical dating, biblical marriage, relationships, etc.

 The premise is that as Christians we are to almost everything in a biblical way, behave in a biblical way and live in a biblical way.  I can't count on the many times I read lists from other Christians on what is not biblical based on their personal convictions from getting tattoos, getting a divorce, women working outside the home, men staying at home, women wearing makeup, jewelry, high heels and stylish clothes and the list goes on. Many Christians have their own ideas on what is biblical therefore acceptable within the Christian community. 

The problem with this mindset is that many Christians will turn the bible into a personal rule book of what and what not do based on their own interpretation of the scriptures which will always vary from individuals, a church, or community on what is acceptable. This leads to legalism in which each individual group or persons will cast self-righteous judgement, sometimes close-minded or harsh criticisms, often too demanding expectations on other Christians behavior they view to be unbiblical.

Then the focus is more on how to be biblical in the way Christians act, behave, live in almost every aspect of their lives to the point of keeping score and becomes less about what is godly or what is living like Christ although many equate all being the same thing.  It can also become more about living under law rather than living under grace where Christians start constantly over analyzing and worrying about what they're doing is biblical and therefore pleasing to God based on their interpretation on what the bible verses is clear.  It also becomes competition in a way as I have read many Christians on the internet debate among each other what the scriptures mean each thinking their interpretation is the true meaning while condescendingly judge others for not understanding the context of the verses.

From my own experience on reading these comments, it seems those who arrogantly berate others for misinterpreting bible verses that suits their reasoning on the ones guilty of doing just that.  The fact remains is the bible can be a hard book to understand especially not knowing the entire history of the context of the scriptures sometimes how we interpret them will vary due to own upbringing and church influence.  Also cultural influence will also play a role in how  we sometimes interpret what is biblical.  In such a case, many on the more ultra conservative camp  in the western countries will use phrases such as biblical manhood or biblical womanhood to interpret a very cultural traditional ideal of manhood or womanhood. These same groups under the more patriarchal western influence will also equate biblical family with the more traditional nuclear family  unit or biblical dating with the more traditional courtship from the by gone era and the list goes on. 

The thing that many Christians seem to forget is that the bible is set in Ancient times in the far east in places like Israel where the culture and customs differed from this era in America.  Sometimes these cultural norms and customs play a role in the bible. One example is during Ancient times, slavery was acceptable and mentioned quite often in the bible, as is a man taking more than one wife during ancient Jewish customs.  Also arranged marriages happen, the penalty of adultery was stoning to death, men didn't have a 9-5 job every day wearing a suit to the office and women jobs was the domestic sphere of the household even if she earned extra income with a craft or trade, she did so from the home as often did the man. 

However, over the centuries and throughout the continent cultural norms evolve and vary.  Which is why it isn't good to take the bible verses too literally ignoring the historical culture, custom and societal norms of that era.  My point interpreting the meanings of the bible and how to live more "biblically" influenced by traditonal patriarchal ideals and standards isn't going to make Christians more godly neither trying to live by some of cultural norms of that era.  When Christians take the verses too literally thus establishing a "biblical living" based on those words it causes Christians to overlook the bigger picture behind those words such as the true historical meanings  sometimes creating  false doctrines which in leads to legalism.  It then turns the living as Christ following believer  about rule-keeping or where not living biblical. 

With rule-keeping becomes self-righteousness, arrogance, and close-mindedness especially to anyone who doesn't follow the "rules".  One of the ways we Christians can change this is stop looking at the bible as a rule book with all these biblical to do and do no list. Instead see the bible for what it is which is a list of stories on About God our creator, the creation of mankind, about history of the Israelites during the Old Testament and many figures from Abraham to Noah, to Moses to King David etc. Also about the story of Jesus the son of God, our Lord and Savior in the New Testament along with the many apostles and disciples afterwards etc. 

Of  course, there are some guidelines and standards that should be obeyed that is int he bible like the Ten Commandments but we shouldn't make a habit of turning almost every scripture into a to do list.  Instead we should learn from the historical events in the bible understanding the true context and use some of the scriptures as  examples on how we can live our lives in today's society during our walk with Christ always talking cultural norms and customs of that "biblical times" into consideration.

 For example regarding verses on how masters should treat their slaves or how slaves should respond to their masters, since slavery is no longer in an existence in the western countries, this verses could be used as an example on how  employers and employees relate to one another and the list goes on.  Instead of worrying so much on how to be and act more "biblical" the answer should be how to strengthen our walk with Christ and placing God our Lord foremost in our lives.   Of course, we are not perfect and are all sinners to a degree and will stumble from time to time.

 But now that we are living under grace as Jesus has already died for all our sins, we don't need to beat ourselves over the head every time we slip up and make a mistake of not following all the "rules".  What we do is receive the Lord and his Blessing, and  our sins will be forgiven and we strive to improve ourselves as we continue the long sometimes harrowing path of Christ.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Christians Policing other Christians is Problematic

Matthew 7:1-2 "Do not judge or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

I have mentioned some of this in my a post from my first blog on the topic of legalism. However, I want to go further on this next post regarding how Christians  I have researched many Christian sites on post and articles on several topics and I can't count the times, I stumbled upon an article by posted by a Christian author including a pastor or even a blog where they felt the need to delegate what other Christians should or should not do regarding the choices in their lives in order to to be a "True Christian".

 This goes from what other Christians should watch on TV examples like horror, soap operas, R-rated films, any show or film that contains negative things that we Christians don't condone.  Or reading certain books, like fiction horror, Harry Potter series or Twilight, romance novels that have lovemaking out of wedlock.  Other topics involved are whether Christians should have tattoos, dye their, women cutting their hair, wearing makeup, doing yoga, martial arts, go dancing, clubbing, dating, ever drink alcohol, how far is too far in a relationship and the list goes on.   It seems like these authors view themselves as more of a expert in how to live a godly life and feel it's their need to tell others what to do in which they all need to follow his/her personal standards or else they're not a true believer.

Another problem is that these Christians turn a Christianity into a long list of dos and don't over every aspect in a Christian's life or else God will condemn us. I recently read two positive posts, one from Jeffrey Curtis Poor's blog "Rethink" titled "Christians Stop Being the Moral Police" and John Shore's  "What Non-Christians Want Christians To Hear" from his blog at Patheos "Above All, Love, Unfundamentalist Christians".  He is also the author the book "I'm Okay, You're Not: The Message We're Sending Nonbelievers and Why We Should Stop".  Of course, their arguments are related to Christians attitudes towards non-Christians or non practicing Christians, but the actions are the same regarding passing too much judgment, quick to condemn, narrow-mindedness, condescension etc.

The main motto for these so-called Christians is to wag their fingers and criticize as well as shame others who don't fit into their one-size-fits all philosophy on what a real believer should or shouldn't do often with self-righteous, sanctimonious, holier-than-thou attitudes. This is mostly built out of legalistic rules from their own interpretation of the bible, the need to feel morally superior to others and just the need to feel all knowing, self-important like they're are the true paragon of a true Christ follower and others should just listen to them.  For the most part, plenty of these Christians are well-meaning in their posts of articles and youtube videos as they believe they're helping their fellow believers out a little on how to live righteously and not stray away from Christ and possibly go down the wrong path on the naive belief what they're doing is not harmful.

But fact remains, there isn't one size fit all way to live as true Christian over issues that isn't mentioned or right out condemned in the bible nor anything that is outright against God's will.  Making a long list of man-made legalistic rules of what and what not to do isn't benefiting or building up the Christian community, as many will be confused with different points of views of what a "true Christian" should be and what is acceptable and what isn't.  In fact, these rules are basically built on the need to police and control, installing fear of of sin or looking for sin even when it isn't there.  It also encourages believers to live under law rather than grace where they bear a  heavy guilt when they break the so-called rules or don't live up to them and always looking for ways to score points with God or seek approval from other fellow believers on minor things on how to live a godly life.

As for me, I try to avoid delegating what other Christians should and shouldn't do especially involving matters that isn't biblically-mandated even though I may make a few exceptions but I desire not to live on a long list of rules on what to do and what not in order to live a Christ following life.  Instead playing moral police and policing others, I just focus on continuing to strengthen my relationship with God, grow more spiritually, read the bible whenever I can if not grow everyday, not worry so much if I stumble now and then as none of us are perfect will never be, we are all inclined to sin once and a while but keep embracing Jesus in my life and strive to live under grace rather than law.

 Reading books by Pastor Joseph Prince has helped me a lot and watching his show everyday.  I think the true thing Christians should do is to just receive Christ, keep him the center of your life focus less on on a what-to-do lists and just take it from there.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Christians Relationships With Non-Christians

2 Corinthians 6:14-16" Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?  What harmony is there between Christ and Belial[? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:

“I will live with them
    and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
    and they will be my people

I wanted to discuss in this post about Christians any type of relationships with Non-Christians. I'm not just talking about romantic relationships, I'm talking about any relationship be it friendships even deep-rooted friendships, close relationships with relatives, love relationships even marriages.  

I've been interested in this topic for a while now since this has been questioned and debated among many Christians on the internet in various forums, websites, blogs, articles etc.  It seems many Christians wonder if it's okay to have close relationships with those outside the Christian faith.  What about close friends, or relatives or people who are of another religious faith, is okay to have any association with them  at all? 

I never thought much about this growing up going occasionally going to church or when I was active in my church youth group as I had friends with kids who were Jewish or just secular.  I never thought about it that much as I was brought up not to be prejudice against anyone regardless of their race, religion, ethnic background etc and would never considered excluding someone because of their religion.  Yet now as an adult who has been starting to embrace my Christ in my life in a way I didn't as a kid, these type of questions have become a interest to me.  

It seems Christians themselves have a variety of opinions and views on this subject matter with some believing it's wrong for Christians to have any relationships be it romantic or platonic friendships and even marriages with anyone outside of the Christian faith. Others think it's okay have friends of outside the faith but not date or marry outside the faith so as long as you keep them at bay and not get too close since your best friends should be only be fellow Christians. Some have believed in what is called mission friendships or mission dating in which you date or befriend someone outside your faith for the purpose of persuading or leading them to Christ as they see this as a Christian duty. 

 While others will that having any relationship outside the faith isn't a sin be it friendships, dating or even marriages but still frown upon it and caution Christians not to let themselves be influenced in anything outside of God's will. 

 I myself read numerous views and advise on this subject  by numerous Christians matter and was even perplexed by some of them.  I recall on one blog, a girl asked question if her friendship with a Hindu girl was acceptable since she read in the bible believers are not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers.  The answer she got was from a female youth pastor who told her that as Christians we should be friends with those outside the faith but she implied an agenda to get these non-Christian friends to know Christ and become fellow Christians. This person went on to advise the girl that she shouldn't try to accomplish this alone since she might get tempted and brought up Jesus and his twelve apostles who went around place to place spreading the gospel and suggested that she get some strong Christian friends to go with her and dealing with her Hindu friend. 

 I couldn't help but feel there was some condescension in such a well-meaning but misguided advice.  This is mostly because I just couldn't understand what did this youth pastor assumed this girl will be tempted by her Hindu friend and therefore can't be alone together with her and tempted to do what exactly go against her faith to commit some immoral sin?  And why she felt this girl needed some strong Christian friends to go along with her to help her Hindu friend know Christ or that it was exactly this girl's duty as a Christian to get her friend to go against her own faith as it that was her only purpose of being her friend.  If anything such an action will backfire and drive her Hindu friend away.

This advise left a wake of comments, some from those relating to their own non-Christian friends whom they believe won't join them in heaven after death one even believed her Buddhist friend will go to hell because she's not worshiping God despite claiming that she's a good person and I can't wonder why they would come up with that conclusion if they feel their friends are good people since only God can make such a judgement. The one comment I did agree with was that others from different religious faiths are just as committed to their faith as we Christians are committed to ours.  

We have to picture would if the roles were reversed, how would we feel if the non-Christians we have in our lives tried to persuade us to go against our Christian values, against what be believe is God's ways, that are sinful, or just convert to their religion? Of course in that situation we would want to distance ourselves from that person so as not be tempted. Other articles on the internet share similar mindsets that you should "befriend" non-Christians to get them to know Christ but not be their companions in other words be friendly towards them but don't become their best friends form lasting bonds with them or anything. 

I even read comments from non-Christians some who were of other religious faiths complain about their Christian friends trying to convert them to their faith and not respecting that faith they already embraced.  
Then there was a post from another site from a Christian girl who broke up with her secular boyfriend after her attempts to lead him to Christ failed as he told her he didn't want her to bring up Jesus, God and other parts of her faith again. She decided after that experience she would never date a non-Christian again.  

Although that was probably the right choice for her, I can't help but feel she just gave up when she couldn't change her boyfriend's mindset and beliefs to align with hers and he may have felt pressure from her to convert to her faith rather than excepting him for who he was  which is why he told her to stop bringing up her faith. I also once read an article from a pastor on steps on how Christians can be friends with sinners. I admit I was a bit dismayed at referring to non-Christians as sinners since we are all sinners including us Christians as none of us are perfect in this fallen world and no one is immune to commit a sin no matter how mild.

 It just appears there is great confusion among Christians whether they should have any form of relationships with non-Christians romantic or otherwise.  Many who are against forming any close relationships with non-Christians will use the verse 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 to justify their positions referring to the phrase "unequally yoked".  Other verses referring to non-believers are 1Corinthians 15:33 "Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character."  2 John 1:9-11 "Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.  If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting,for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works."  

It's really crystal clear to many Christians that we shouldn't have close socialization or forming close bonds and romantic relationships and certainly not marrying non-believers out of fear of being tempted or influenced away from God, committing sinful and immoral behavior.  But the question is what is exactly an unbeliever, a person who doesn't in God, in Jesus, an atheist, who doesn't believe in religion or they believe in another religion outside the Christian faith?  

There are plenty of non practicing Christians commonly known as secular people who believe in God and Jesus but they just don't embrace the Christian religion or there are others who are of another religious faith like Judaism who do believe in God. Then there is the mindset that others not part of the Christian faith are sinners, who are out committing sinful, immoral and wicked behavior. I read that too in other comments from Christians on who they're non-Christian friends are out getting drunk, getting high, sleeping around just doing wrong and it's because they're not Christians.  

But the fact remains, they're are plenty of people outside of the Christian faith, be it secular, atheist, agnostic or from another religion who for the most part are good, moral, upstanding people who don't do drugs, get drunk, or even drink alcohol at all nor are they sleeping around or engaging plenty of acts they are considered sinful.  Instead they are just living good and decent lives by trying to do right and live positive and avoid any negative behavior even if they are not always successful all the time. 

As I mentioned before, we live in a fallen world and are imperfect people and we will all stumble no matter how much we strive to live good and wholesome lives and this includes Christian folks. Many of the non-Christian or secular people share many morals and ideals that could be considered Christian virtues. For example, many non-Christians or secular folks can be forgiving, merciful, compassionate, self-sacrificial, non-judgmental, open-minded, tolerable to those who are different than them who care about their fellow human beings, care about the environment, value plenty if not all living creatures, are devoted to charity and other worthy causes to help others and make the world better. 

 I would even go on to say some of these non-Christians or secular folks are better at these virtues and morals than some of the so-called Christians. So what about the verse about not being unequally yoked with unbelievers?  As I mentioned before, many Christians turn to the verse 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 which precisely mentions this but does this meaning really imply not being friends or dating, marrying nonbelievers?  

This is similar to the verse Deuteronomy 22:9-11 "Do not plant two kinds of seed in your vineyard; if you do, not only the crops you plant but also the fruit of the vineyard will be defiled. Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together. Do not wear clothes of wool and linen woven together".  Another similar verse is found in Leviticus 19:19 "Keep my decrees. Do not mate different kinds of animal. Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed. Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material".  

Regarding the first verse apparently, yoking or tying an ox with a donkey together to plow a field wouldn't be good because donkey having weaker strength than the ox wouldn't be able to catch up thus slowing them both down and it would be more burdensome as both animals who have different strengths.  Plus the fact that in the Old Testament, the ox as a clean animal representing godliness and the donkey was an unclean animal representing sinners. 

The point was that God wanted the Israelites to be set apart, to not to intermarry with the Canaanites and wind up taking part in their practices that consisted of the pagan religion worshiping other false gods and idols, child sacrifice etc.  Regarding the 2 Corinthians 6:14-16, this verse isn't referring to marriages, relationships or friendships all all. Instead Apostle Paul was addressing new converts to Christ in the Corinth city who didn't let go of their pagan ways, even trying to blend their Christian values with that of their old pagan practices, still partaking in pagan rituals in the pagan temple including worshiping pagan gods. Paul was warning them that they can't mix their new lives as Christians with that of their old pagan practices, that their have to live completely as new members in the body of Christ.  

So what does this means to people who for Christians to date or form friendships with those outside of their faith?  I don't believe that these verses are forbidden any form of relationships with non-believers be it platonic or romantic but I do believe it makes it clear that Christians shouldn't engage in any behaviors and practices with non-believers that are sinful and against God. In other words, they shouldn't allow their relationships with those outside the Christian faith to lead them to turn away from God since as Christians, we should be devoted to our Lord and Savior foremost above other things.  

It certainly doesn't mean that Christians can't form lasting relationships with non-Christians or whether it's friendships, or even date and marry them either. In fact, some of your closet friends who are either from another religion or no religion at all could have a very positive impact in your life.  For example, despite your beliefs, you could learn to have common ground for some things like sharing the same hobbies, certain beliefs, morals and ideals on certain things outside of religion and complement each other in a good way. 

 Also, if they're are of another religion, you could try to learn more about their religion without embracing it but understanding what they believe and why finding certain similarities in certain principles and giving respecting their beliefs while remaining devoted to your own faith in Christ.  You can even still partake in certain celebrations of with them that don't compromise your faith like attending a Jewish friend's Bar Mitzvah or a Hindu friend's birthday party etc.  As for sharing your religious faith to them, I think that is okay especially if they ask you questions about your faith and you don't shove your views down their throats, constantly criticizing them or judging them too much or act in a way superior to them and that their beliefs are beneath yours. 

 It's important to remember your non-Christian friends are not projects or tasks and it's not your duty to lure them into embracing your Christian faith as their own but to follow Christ example by showing love to others, be humble never condescending, or arrogant.  If non-Christian friends want to learn more about your faith then by all means share the gospel to them, if they show an interest your faith and the possibility wanting to embrace Christ in their lives than by all means as Christians you can encourage them to attend church, speak to the pastor, attend bible classes etc, enable them any way possible.  

The most important thing is to except your non-Christian friends for who they are and if they have another religious faith or no faith respect that without an agenda of trying to change them, convert them as it  should be their own choice and will to find and embrace Christ in their lives if they ever choose to. 

Then their is the question whether it's okay to date form romantic relationships and even marry non-Christians.  Many who support having interfaith friendships or friendships with those who have no faith are against marrying or dating non-Christians fearing it could lead them to stray from God or definitely complicate their devotion to Him.  However, as I mentioned before, the unequally yoked verse wasn't referring to marriage and therefore, the bible doesn't condemn marrying outside the faith.  

In fact, there are a couple of scriptures that mention believers being married to non-believers. 1 Peter 3:1-2 "Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives."  Then there is 1 Corinthians 7:12-14 "To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy". 

Of course, these verses were mainly focusing new Christian converts from the pagan culture whose were already married and their spouses didn't convert to Christ but remained in their pagan religion.  But the point remains, the bible doesn't flat out condemn Christians from marrying or dating anyone outside of their faith as many have been led to believe. 

However, I will admit although it is not forbidden for Christians to date, form romantic relationships or marry non-Christians or non-practicing Christians, there still should be consideration to take before making that step. Will your different belief complicate your relationship by causing a lot of tension?  Will it cause you to stumble and stray away from Christ out of peer pressure, the need to please your romantic partner or spouse rather than honor God?  It is very clear that as Christians, participating with non-Christians in behavior or rituals that goes against God is forbidden and we shouldn't put a date, romantic partner or spouse above God.  

All these facts should be taken into consideration before thinking about dating a non-Christian let alone marry one.  That doesn't mean such a relationship or marriage can't survive and overcome the differences if your spouse or partner is willing to except and respect your Christian faith and that you won't do anything that causes you to stray from Christ but it could make things harder in some cases. On the positive side, Christians may even be able to influence their romantic partner or spouse to find Christ themselves. I'm in no way saying that Christians should date or marry non-Christians for the agenda of converting them in what is known as missionary dating or marriage.

 Just like with friendships, that could backfire if you keep shoving your faith down their throats and treating them like mere projects or a task rather than loving them and accepting them for who the are and risk the possibility they may never follow your faith especially if they are of another religious faith and are devoted to their religious views as much we are devoted ours as followers of Christ. 

I will say if as Christians if our non-Christian friends, boyfriend/girlfriend engages in a lot of immoral, indecent and just sinful behavior and tries to peer pressure you into partaking in their immoral activities and behavior and doesn't show any regards to your faith at all then it would be a good idea to remove yourself from that relationship and that person and have no more to do with them. You could try to help them see the error of their ways first but if that fails and their influences goes you to stumble, then it's west to walk away.  

In a marriage is a slightly different story but if the non-Christian consist of engaging in immoral, destructive and sinful behavior that starts affecting you as a Christian in a negative way, then it would be best to remove yourself from the spouse, I don't mean divorce but remove until they are willing to see the errors of their ways and turn away from such bad behavior.  Also, the Christian spouse can set a an example as a follower of Christ in their actions not but lecturing or forcing their faith on their spouse in the possibility their spouse will someday turn to Lord on their own. 

 The point is there shouldn't be two extremes that some Christians fall into whether it's isolated themselves from the world by living in a bubble where they are shun any possibility of good friendships with others outside of their Christian faith and missing out forming relationships with good people that could impact your life.  Then on the other side not only forming friendships or relationships with non-Christians but engaging with them in sinful and indecent behavior for worldly reasons or proving their open-minded and non-judgmental.  God still should be the center of our lives and while we can make room for a diverse group of people in our lives.  

I do think a bit differently on dating and marriage and which there is nothing wrong with wanting to have relationship or a spouse of with someone that shares your faith as your grow together in Christ which in the long run is likely more ideal. However, if a Christian happens to form a relationship and fall in love with someone who doesn't share your Christian faith that could be a challenge in itself but not necessary a challenge that can't be overcome as long as there is a mutual understanding that Christ comes first in your life. If that becomes to difficult for both parties to handle than it's not a good idea for the relationship to continue which would be quite painful to both parties but nothing should jeopardize your walk with Christ. 

Once again, long and thoughtful consideration should always occur when thinking of a romantic relationship with someone outside the faith.  Regardless of the choices we as Christians choose with non-Christians, I think the we are still are to follow Christ's example and always show kindness, respect, love, patience, humility, compassion and understanding to those outside the faith whether they are of another religious faith or no faith at all.  We are not to show hate, prejudice, condescension, overly judgmentalness, even if we feel in our hearts some of their views are wrong, still treat with honor and respect as Christ.  

It's okay to share the your faith with them especially when they ask but don't force your faith and remember they are not projects to conquer remembering it's their job not yours for them to find Christ in their lives if they choose to.  Remember God loves us all even those who don't embrace them as we are all is children, his creation.  

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Is It Really Wrong For Christians To Please Themselves?

   1 John 2:15-17  "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.  For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever."

I know it's been a long while since I've posted but I wanted to start the new year making more posts and the first topic I wanted to discuss is a about the debate on Christians living for their own pleasure just the secular society does and whether it's wrong or not.  For many among the Christian community, Christians purpose on earth are to please God our Lord and Savior.

Many scholars, pastors and the church teach the mentality that anything Christians do that doesn't involve pleasing God or growing closer to Him, from how they dress, how to style their hair whether to dye it or not get a haircut or not, get a tattoo, wear makeup, jewelry, shopping, fashion, dating the opposite sex or what hobbies and interests to pursue and only about pleasing themselves is sinful. Their reasoning is that we are to serve God only and engaging in our own personally pleasure is selfish and engaging worldly pleasures using the verse 1 John 2:15-17 to confirm their ideas.

 Afterall, this verse does tell us not to love anything in the world and if we don't love God and we are to do the will of God.  By that logic that could include not loving the planet and the environment and wanting to take care of it, or loving normal secular activities, such as reading, sports, dancing, sewing, fishing, camping, going to parties etc. Some churches even go as far make church members sign contracts, that forbid them from drinking any alcohol beverages, smoking  and other churches ban women from wearing pants, makeup or jewelry.

 I myself get annoyed when I read comments on the internet or articles by other Christians that they shouldn't read a fiction novel, dye their hair, go on a date unless it's about going closer to or serving God or else it they are selfish or sinful  as just doing what your like is selfish and sinful period and I don't believe it is a godly model.  The Christian community including churches have a tendency of using the scriptures to justify man-made legalistic rules and regulations on what is allowed or not allowed among fellow Christians.

I wrote about this too in my first blog on the topic of legalism(you can check it out if you like). The problems I have with this philosophy is that it implies that Christians have to choose between their pleasure and pleasing God but there is  no room for both as if pleasure itself is a sinful nature a source of shame that needs to be abandoned in order to give ourselves to the Lord.  This could cause Christians to place extra burdens on themselves in order to hold themselves to a higher standard, to feel shame and guilt in desiring to please themselves which can lead some believers to constantly second guess if they partake anything for their own pleasures, enjoyments and happiness.  I don't believe for one moment that a loving God wouldn't want his children to pursue their own happiness, to find fun and joy in their daily lives be it in their hobbies, pastimes, music or whatever in pleasure that suits us.

Our Lord certainly wouldn't want us to be unhappy, miserable for his sake, therefore I hardly believe he will be disappointed when you go to the beauty salon, nail salon, see a sports game, listen to your favorite music, read your favorite fiction novel by your favorite author, enjoy dressing up and putting on jewelry etc simply for your own pleasures as if you not allowed to have those things in your life.  I have looked more into the scripture 1 John 2:15-17 and understood to be about a letter possibly written by John the Apostle to Christians regarding the influences of some false teachers in order to test our faith in Christ.

 In not loving the world, John was telling us to rebuke the sinful nature of the fallen world like lust not just sexually gratification but lust for power, greed and pride to the point of arrogance, envoy to the point of bitterness.  Being more consumed for with materialistic and superficial things and other things of the secular society to the point of turning away from God.  In these cases, choosing your own personal pleasures for sinful things of this world over God or just prioritizing our pleasures of the things in the secular world above Him is wrong.

 For believers,God has to come first in our lives that is clear. What is also clear is that seeking pleasure in our lives for just ourselves isn't wrong or displeasing to the Lord since he would wants us seek pleasure in whatever we desire as long as it doesn't cause us to stray from Him.  For Christians who truly give their hearts to the Lord, we can still seek in pleasure and joy that makes us happy without worrying about displeasing God since since as long as our hearts our with God, we would never turn away from Him, therefore we would never do anything to cause us to sin for our own self indulgence. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Hardcore Christian Patriarchy a burden to men Too

1 Corinthians 16:13 "Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong"

There is a lot to be said how the hardcore Christian patriarchy is harmful to women with it' sometimes sexist, discriminating and disempowering overtones.  I have read plenty of Christian blogs that have spoken out against such movements like the quiverfull, visionary daughters, biblical womanhood and other huge Christian fundamentalist groups on how they affect women and girls and I mainly agree with them.  Chauvinism is quite prevalent among the ultra patriarchal Christianity.  However, what is often not discussed is how much of does the ultra patriarchy affect men.

 I posted a very while back in my old blog about gender stereotypes of men in Christianity.  Just as Christian patriarchy as posed biblical mandated rules that can be limiting and restrictive to women, they also fostered biblical mandated rules that forces extra responsibilities and unfair burdens on men.  Husbands are not only considered the head of the household but the priest of the family, the primary breadwinner, the prophet, the king of the home and the final decision maker. This means that he has primary responsibility of guiding the family spirituality that includes ensuring the wife and children go to church pray and follow God. He is the priest of the home in which he leads the family in prayer, sanctify them, be a mediator to God for them, and is responsible for their salvation and ensuring his wife becomes what God is calling her to be.  He is the prophet of the home in which he represents God to his family, speaking the word of God to them, teaching and training them spiritually and biblically.  He is the primary financial provider to his family even if his wife also has a career, the protector and he alone is held accountable to God to the spiritual well being of his family.

Many of these ideas are ingrained to many from the patriarchy movement of Christianity as source of biblical and godly manhood and male spiritual leadership inside the home.  There are leaders in this this movement who even hold the men accountable for their marriage is falling apart or if it fails altogether, his wife turning away from God, his children rebelling, it all falls on him as his failure to provide good spiritual leadership. Although plenty of men in this movement embrace and accept these roles and duties placed upon them, there are others who really don't desire all these responsibilities and authority but accept them as biblically and godly mandated.

The reality is there is nothing in the bible that places husbands as neither priests nor prophets in their home. There is a mention of priest in the home in the Book of Judges chapter 17 in which a Levite named Micah uses silver to have a idol made for him which in turn he makes into a shrine, and has one of his sons be the priest of his shrine.  Then when a man from Bethlehem arrives looking for a play to stay planning to become a priest and Micah invites him to live in his home and become his priest. During those times, the priest was a man who was a mediator between God and the people whose duties included worship and sacrifices at the tabernacle.  There also isn't anything in the bible pointing husbands as the prophets in their household.  In fact the bible lists a few amount of women as prophets including Deborah, Huldah, Anna and Miriam.

 I already covered in my previous blog that that the bible doesn't assign men as the sole provider in the home in the post on gender stereotypes of men in the Christianity( feel free to view post in the blog).  Of course just as women have been disadvantaged by this patriarchal ideals, many have also had these some of thee same ideals to their advantage and convenience even at the expense of of men.  I have read some comments coming from women in the hardcore Christian patriarchy admit that they don't want the responsibilities that has been placed on their husbands and are even relieved they don't have to shoulder such duties whether it is financially providing for the family or making major decisions.

These women are even revel in their submissive role in which the final decisions rest on their husbands and he alone is accountable for any wrong decisions that were made making it a dodge for the wives. Of course, sometimes is more convenient and much easier leave the harder stuff like the harder responsibilities, sacrifices and the burdens that come with them on others to carry out freeing them to indulge the less demanding duties and facing any of the accountability that comes with those duties. Many feel like avoiding certain duties that are seem more burdensome and in some cases used restrictive gender roles to just that in the guise of it being "women's work" or "men's work" and this true for both of the sexes.

  However, just like with women, this too can result in overly demanding, strenuous and unrealistic expectations placed on men's shoulders with little help from their wives putting a lot of unnecessary pressure on them as the head of the household and can even cause resentments and tension within the marriage.  Even if the wife want's to help their husbands in any way in their role in spiritual headship that  that may include partaking in the major decisions, some husbands will still feel that the sole responsibility lies with them and relying on their wives too much and not having any leadership abilities or daresay  their wives are better at leadership than he is, he may likely feel like a failure in some way or a weak leader.

What's interesting is for some, the leadership in the home goes beyond what is spiritual but also inolves all matters of functioning within the home be it which house to live, where to go on vocation, what car to buy what programs to watch and being the primary financial provider even if the wife also works outside the home, managing the family budget etc.  Sometimes the husbands are discouraged from having their wives working outside the home even if the home requires two incomes, he is not to rely on her half her income or else he's a failure in his role as provider. Although, I certainly don't have a problem with the husband being a provider and a protector in the home, there is isn't any scripture says husband has to be doing the only providing in the home and the wife can't  bring an income to her family.

 The problem is most of these expectations have little to do with being biblical mandated but more to do with cultural expectations in gender roles. Using these cultural gender expectations and mistaking them of biblical ideas of manhood and on husbands' roles can also be disempowering to men causing them to feel oppressed as much as women feel oppressed by some of the patriarchal ideals of biblical-mandated womanhood especially if the aren't able to succeed in the expectations.

Just like with women, men also need to be free from the restraints ultra-hardcore patriarchal rules that places all these man-made duties than can both hinder and burden them in the name of Christianity.  Instead, today in the 21st century, men can flourish with better understanding what their roles are today and feel free fulfill their god-giving skills and talents and responsibilities that aren't based on rigid and restrictive patriarchal rules but based on them as individuals and followers of Christ. 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Christian Pacifism, violence and Self-Defense

Matthew 5:39 "But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also."

I like to take the time in this post to discuss and analyze topics of Christian pacifism and violence which is plagued in our Christian communities.  I recently stumbled upon both sides of the arguments on these two topics with very contrasting point of views. On the more conservative side, there are those who believe violence is sometimes necessary in the wake of self-defense in which one is protecting themselves or others from serious harm. These folks also support killing to save the life of others and they support wars and guns when necessary and it doesn't contradict Christianity as they see defending lives either yourselves or others as an noble and honorable deed and right within Christ-like teachings.

Then on the other side of the coin are the more progressive camp who see violence contrary to the teachings of Jesus, the bible and Christianity altogether.  Some of these folks are part of what is known as Christian pacifism which sees non-violence as the solution to all circumstances including self defense.  These Christians site Matthew 5:39 as proof to support their  reasoning. Afterall, as Christians we have a moral obligation to turn the other cheek, love our enemies no matter what and never respond to evil with evil and responding to violence with violence just increases more violence are their arguments.

These Christians truly believe in order to overcome evil and defeat our enemies, we have to respond with love and peace no matter what the situations even at the expense of our lives just as Jesus himself, suffered abuse, beatings and was crucified at the cross giving up his life for those who rejected and sneered him dying for their sins and never retaliated against those who hurt him. Jesus has been often used as an example as the first true Christian pacifist who taught fellow believers non-violence and to resist retribution and revenge on those who harm us. 

Known Christian pacifists include Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Greg Boyd, Scot McKnight, Brian McLaren, Tony Campolo, Preston Sprinkle, John Howard Yoder etc. Yoder even raised questions in his book "What Would You Do" in regards to an intruder breaking into your home threatening. Wilson-Hartgrove mentioned in a article referring to a non-violence response to Joseph Kony in which he acknowledges non-violence could get yourself  or loved ones killed but its what Jesus calls for believers.  Others who follow Christian pacifism have also questioned if they would resort to violence to protect their families or even others while have claimed they're willing to "turn the other cheek" if they were attacked themselves but would be willing to use force if to save others who are more defenseless if necessary.  While others have used examples of situations where violence wasn't used when someone's personal safety was being threatened as proof non-violence can work life-threatening situations.

First, I have to say for myself, I don't condone violence and believe society has gotten to hyper-violent where violence is too accepting and tolerating. Everywhere from the media, internet etc I have seen or read of violence situations over sometimes the stupidest and senseless reasons.  Even among higher authorities including he police officers have engaged in excessive violent responses, in fact, there has been many lawsuits over excessive force by law enforcement sometimes these institutions even defend such obvious unnecessary actions. More shocking is many viewers often support, defend and justify these unnecessary violent behaviors. These makes me question the morals and ethnics of our society and how far we fallen as a civilized society. 

However, I still just can't get on board with the absolutely non-violence philosophy that the Christian pacifists askew.  This is due to the fact that I can't just imagine that God wants us never use force to protect ourselves or others who are defenseless and suffering and need protection even the point of allowing others to be harmed or die.  Sure it's great when you don't have to resort to violence to stop an attack on yourselves or others or to defeat an enemy. Sometimes standing together and using words rather than fists is a perfect solution. Yet, I 'm not na├»ve enough to not be aware that they're may be extreme circumstances that this is not possible and that using physical force could be the only solution to stop violence no matter how ugly it may be, and I could even save a life or two.

Also, I'm not at all convinced that using non-violence at all times even resisting using force in self-defense is at all what Jesus was teaching in Matthew 5:39. Jesus was preaching a Sermon on the Mount, when he told his believers to turn the other cheek if someone slaps you on the right cheek, then turn the other cheek to them. In Jesus time, a back-handed slap was considered a real insult to a person.  In fact, to back-hand a person of lower status was a way of asserting their authority and dominance over that person. Rather than retaliate with a slap in return which is a natural knee-jerk reaction, Jesus tells us to offer the other cheek instead. In doing so, the person slapped could be challenging the slappper to slap them again with a open hand thus demanding equality.

It was also demonstrating refraining from retaliating out of revenge or retribution. This was the principal Jesus was actually teaching, not that you let someone literally slap you and offer them the other cheek but to not retaliate against someone who insults, offends or hurts you out of revenge. He even goes further to in Matthew 5:43-45 "You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  that you may be children of your Father in heaven."  There is a similar verse in Luke 6:27-28 "But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you."

This all stems from not responding to hatred with hatred, to evil with evil but pray for those who hate and mistreat you who are evil instead since we are children of God and should act on a higher standard which is to follow Christ. Some have argued in the book of Matthew about Jesus disapproving of  his apostle Peter when he cut off the ear of Malchus, the servant or slave of the high priest Caiaphas who organized a plot to kill Jesus during his arrest to which Jesus then healed the servant/slave's ear as proof that Jesus was against all kinds of violence even in self-defense. However, Jesus didn't rebuke Peter for using violence to protect him rather it was because first Peter used violence against a servant/slave who was not responsible for His arrest and Peter acted out of rage and vengeance since Jesus life wasn't an danger at the time he simple was being arrested plus the fact Jesus knew of his fate and had accepted it so his life didn't need defending.

Another argument is the verse Matthew 26:52 "Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword" to confirm Jesus condemnation of all violence however, Jesus was referring in this verse was that those who live their lives always using violence as a means to conquer or prosper and they may eventually die by violence. Unlawful violence is never okay. Finally, there is one of the ten commandants, Exodus 20:13 "Thou shalt not kill" which many pacifists thinks means killing is always wrong not matter what the situation. However, this verse condemns unlawful and unjustified murder not killing to save a life.

On the other side, who support violence in certain circumstances use the verse Luke 22:36-38 "Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end. And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough" to confirm their point.

They believe Jesus was telling his apostles to arm themselves for protection against those who are persecuting them. However, many others believe that Jesus didn't mean the men arm themselves but was referring to a metaphor of a spiritual sword for spiritual warfare in which they go up against those who oppose them. As for his followers presenting him two swords, their is speculation among some Christians that the apostles not understanding his meaning went out and bought two sword and Jesus said "It is enough" out of disapproval. While many may never agree on what this verse actually means I tend to believe Jesus was referring sword a figurative sense not a literal one.

As for violence as whole,  I don't see it as wrong all together since sometimes it could be necessary in certain situations. Of course, those situations shouldn't involve retaliating out of anger or payback be it a verbal offense or even a physical offense such as a slap, a shove, being spit on or any assault where the attacker retreats and doesn't make anymore attempts to harm oneself or others.  But in situations where you are forced to protect yourself or anyone else from an ongoing assault, using a reasonable amount of force is the only way to stop the attack even if that force is to strike them.

It certainly would be not godly but foolish to allow yourselves or others to be harmed in anyway or possibly killed on the misguided notion of godliness. I also think it would be even cruel to stand by and allow others to be harmed, some whom could be weaker and defenseless against their attacker and may require help from others. In such circumstances, trying to simply talk the attacker down or shame them to stop may simply not work and more may be needed. However, once the threat is stopped, there is no excuse to repeatedly assault them or it isn't self-defense.  Also, if a person is able to subdue an attacker without having to strike them or stop them without using any physical force at all that is the better choice. 

Self-defense should never be used an excuse to engage in excessive force and unfortunately in the past and present this has been the case. All over the media, we hear cases of police brutality where police are heavy-handed using more force than what was needed or other cases of citizens retaliating with mild violence by inflicting heavy violence to the point of causing serious injuries to that person.  Sadly, many people in this society even condone and support such actions even among many believers.  We as a society tend to fear that not retaliating makes you weak and a pushover but it is the opposite. It takes a lot of strength not to resort to payback being physical or non-physical.  Among believers, it is acting in a way that is Christ-like. 

 Of course, if believers want to eliminate all violence no matter the situation, that is also problematic and unrealistic an other way as we live in a fallen world and in society where crime does exist we need police to enforce laws and even sometimes use force for our protection.  Then there is the wars that go on in other countries were innocents are being killed all the time, women and girls are being raped, children brutalized where sometimes killing could be the other way to save an innocent life. These thing are so unfortunate and tragic but are a true reality of our societies. 

So where does this leave us believers in the world?  Just trying to follow Christ's ways, praying for our enemies not giving into hatred but pity them instead for their hardened hearts.  Refrain from taking revenge against any offense no matter how brutal but always strive to "turn the other cheek" remembering that two wrongs don't make a right.  Make sure to resolve conflicts and confrontations non-violently as possible only resorting to physical force as a means to protect yourself or others but don' use more force than what is required. Try to forgive those who have hurt or offended even if they don't apologize for your own peace of mind as true believer of Christ although it won't be easy and make take a long time to truly forgive someone. 

 None of these things will come easy and some believers may even stumble from time to time as we are imperfect human beings but just turn to God for help and guidance to overcome your obstacles praying to him.   The world may not become perfect but it can sure improve as long as we believers follow the ways of the Lord even setting examples for others to follow straying away from evil temptations.