A Gift

Joseph, the man who raised Jesus, doesn’t get the credit he deserves. He isn’t mentioned much in the Bible, but his understanding of Scripture allowed him to be greatly used by God. He helped bring Jesus into the world which many Christians today are failing to do.

Joseph is seen as a man having visions of angels who prompt him where to go and what to do next concerning his family. These actions were to be a fulfillment of the Prophesies concerning the Messiah. Non-believers, I know how crazy this might sound, but, in all honesty, it’s not hard to believe that Joseph knew what he was supposed to do.

See, like Saul, Joseph knew Scripture. He didn’t need visions or angels because he knew the Word so well that, when it was time for him to be used by God, he was fully equipped to do so! Joseph and Saul couldn’t have been less alike in how they used their knowledge. Saul sought his own agenda and attached God’s Word to it. Joseph sought the will of God for his own life and applied the Word to make it happen.

Joseph’s understanding of Scripture was a gift and every Christian is supposed to have one. And, because God loves variety, not every Christian is going to have the same gift. When someone like Joseph uses their gift to benefit others, people thrive. When we spend more time worrying about other people’s gifts rather than our own, people suffer – much like they did under Saul who was too busy caring about the disciples and what they were teaching rather than what he was supposed to be doing. We can even be guilty of trying to discredit somebody else’s gift. I’ve heard many self-proclaimed Christians call other self-proclaimed Christians ‘false-prophets’ just because they have a different interpretation of Scripture than they do. Those people essentially think that they’re right and if your line of thought is different than theirs then you are wrong.

I find it amazing how much Christians disagree on. For the most part we should be able to agree about most things. But after Jesus being the Son of God Who died for our sins it’s hard for us to agree about much else. What’s worse is we’ve formed so many different denominations to further our own versions of the truth rather than unite together to understand God’s truth.

Isn’t it odd how Christians can treat other Christians? Not only have we been found guilty of treating non-believers like garbage, we’re found guilty of treating each other like garbage too! We even do it publicly, online, for the whole world to see so how is anyone, anywhere, supposed to take us seriously?

I would love for non-believers to see us better united. I would love for everyone to see Christians out there doing something about the world’s problems. I’ve said before that I know there are many Christians who are doing this. But instead of their good being magnified we magnify our anger and hostilities towards each other by posting things online we shouldn’t be posting.

So why are there fewer Josephs? We probably have more and better access to Scripture than he did, but he had a witness and an ability to be used by God and all we have is a bad name and reputation that we deserve by our religious attitude and behavior towards others. What did he do differently than what we’re doing? What qualified Joseph and why aren’t Christians today as qualified to represent Christ?

For us it all goes back to the Bible. So much of what Christianity has become contradicts what the Bible actually tells us to do. We’ve become so much like Saul because we’re too busy arguing with other people – even with other Christians – and we spend our time butting into discussions to give our opinions even if they weren’t asked for. Too many people only care about what they think and not about what God actually says.

Our walk and our talk should better match. I think when Christians are the biggest disappointments are when non-believers know what the Bible says we should be doing and we’re not doing that. We need to show people that what we preach is true. We can’t just tell them; they won’t believe it unless they see it for themselves. We give validity to what we are saying when our walk matches our talk. It’s sad how little we resemble the way Christianity used to be. Christianity is a lifestyle choice. If you call yourself a Christian you should be living a life that matches what the Bible says Christianity is. But too many people have made up their own versions of Christianity to suit their own needs.

Because we’ve stopped agreeing, we’ve created chaos. All Christians should have one thing in common: Jesus. Jesus warned against the dangers of division. But we clearly didn’t listen to Him because we think we know better and we like doing our thing instead. I only want to show the world what He has done for me, and that my encounter with Him has produced a real change in my life. My belief in Him has influenced me to write this blog. My knowledge of Scripture has allowed me to present to you an accurate representation of what Jesus would have me and other Christians do.

I’m very much aware that Atheists and people of other religions are reading this and I respect your beliefs and your ability to think for yourself. What Christians haven’t been deserving of lately is respect. My only hope in you reading this is to see more Pauls and Josephs and recognize they’re the ones who better reflect what our religion stands for. I hope I’ve better equipped you to see the difference between someone being used by God to carry out what the Bible says needs to be done and someone who can’t be used by God because they don’t know enough of the Word to be ready when God calls them to represent.

Christians, can we do better to agree? Can we stop arguing publicly about every tiny, mundane detail? You will never meet anyone who agrees with exactly everything you do, but we can still coexist and get along. At the very least all I’m asking is that we do more agreeing to disagree without butting heads all the time. At most I’m asking that we start apologizing for our bad behavior and do more to make amends.

Saul or Paul?

Saul of Tarsus is a Biblical example of someone who thinks they are right about their religion but they are, in fact, 100% wrong about it. He was a devoted follower of God who read the Scriptures. He was so loyal that, when another prominent religion of its time began to spread and teach that they worshipped the same God, he was quick to let them know that his was the only God worth believing in. He was a real hero for religion. He knew how to play on people’s fears to get them to believe in a righteous cause. I imagine that Saul would be the perfect figurehead to represent what Christianity has become today.

But it isn’t Saul who is admired today, strangely enough. Saul had an encounter with Jesus and converted, even changing his name to Paul. There was a real change in his behavior as he worked to make amends for his previous bad behavior. Christians today read his letters, the majority of which make up the New Testament. They should know enough about his story that they should be quick to recognize if they are behaving more like Saul or if they are behaving more like Paul.

Even though Saul became Paul, Paul was nothing like his former self after he became a Christian. Unfortunately, I see too many Christians acting like meeting Christ had little to no effect on their lives. Many are still Sauls but they imagine they are Pauls. How many Christians quote the Bible like Saul did, telling people they are sick and perverted sinners who are going to hell for this reason or for that reason?

I will stop right here and be quick to point out that not every Christian is like this. Many do Christianity right. There are several Churches and Ministries doing their part. Even non-believers are doing good for this world and they prove that you don’t even need religion or a Bible to get out there and do something. If so many charitable acts are carried out by believers of Christ then how come we are seen as such a negative group? We play the blame-game here: it’s the media’s fault making Christians out to be bad guys; it’s the government’s fault because they favor other religions. Everyone gets blamed but us. Could we perhaps be the very problem we’re supposed to be standing up against?

Remember that Christians ought to behave more like Paul, and he had to own up to his mistakes before he was taken seriously. At first, Jesus’ disciples were wary of him because of his reputation. Paul had to be persistent and consistent but most importantly repentant. He made no excuses for his bad behavior and we shouldn’t either. I’m a Christian who is willing to admit that we have done a lot of bad things to our name and reputation. We scream of our right to an opinion; of being able to judge people’s sins; of the Constitution giving us permission to carry out our religious freedoms. But why use that freedom to treat people like dirt? And then wonder why people want nothing to do with us?

I know in many places of the world Christians are being persecuted. I do not believe we have that problem in the United States. The government hasn’t ever tried to stop us from donating to the poor, or volunteering in a soup kitchen, or visiting sick and elderly people in nursing homes. So how can we claim our rights are being violated? Sauls would have us believe they are. Sauls want to use God’s Word to silence those that have a different belief than they do. Sauls want to say and do anything without consequence as long as they attach their religious beliefs to it. Sauls are hostile and unwelcoming. They separate themselves from others and then wonder why nobody wants to join them. Sauls cannot be taken seriously because their religion is more important than their faith.

Pauls acknowledge that the world is a trying place to live in for all people. They believe they have a lot to do in the name of love because there is a rampant outgrowth of evil. Pauls aren’t ignorant of the problems of the world but they don’t use the word ‘persecution’ as an excuse for inactivity. Pauls search the Scriptures for guidance on how to be better people, not to tell others what they have to do in order to be accepted.

How come we’ve gotten it so wrong? I believe in the same way that Saul was wrong. We read the text but not in the correct way. We have a zeal to serve God but our righteous anger has been misplaced. We lack mercy, compassion, and forgiveness for others and so we receive none in return.

Is there a solution? How do we get back into the world’s good graces? I believe, first and foremost, we should all just be a little nicer. Secondly, why do we constantly give our opinions about everything? We have the right to our opinions but do they even matter? I think it’s safe to say that most non-believers don’t really care what we believe in. But they do care how they are being treated by us. And that’s more important anyway. I don’t think we need to be 100% quiet or 100% submissive but some opinions really don’t need to be voiced. What we say does matter because words reveal character. Our words tell others the kinds of people we are. Words can be used to tell others if we’re Christians or not and our attitude behind those words either give credibility to what we are saying or it contradicts.

I need the Christians who read this to acknowledge that we have work to do. And most of that work requires us to change how we behave towards others. Now, in no way am I suggesting that we should live to please man, but there are most certainly appropriate and inappropriate ways to behave towards others.

I need the non-believers who read this to see at least one Christian who is attempting unity. I’ve heard so many Christians say that they need to see more Muslims condemning ISIS and other terrorists so that maybe we wouldn’t be so fearful and suspicious of Muslims. Well I want to do something similar with Christianity because we have a very terrible reputation in this day and age. Christians need to do more to show the world we aren’t the bullies we are perceived as being.

Christians, do you want to be a Saul or a Paul? We need to make up our minds on who we’re going to present to the world as being. I will choose to be a Paul. My faith is what is important to me and I don’t put much stock into religion. The Bible is important to me so that I may use it for personal growth and never to attack. Non-believers, I hope I’ve given you a good introduction to what a Biblical interpretation of Christianity should look like and not a religious interpretation. You, most of all, deserve better than what you’ve been getting. If you never convert and think the majority of my beliefs are crazy I at least want you to see why they are important to me. And what it looks like when they are properly put into action.