Well, I did think about closing up shop for a bit … but just like the Beatles, I get by with a little help from my friends. I think the line for the song, “What would you do if I sang out of tune? Would you stand up and walk out on me?,” helps describe what I experience here on Toledo Faith & Values. I feel like I am singing out of tune, but instead of leaving, all my friends try to help me out. Give me advice. Hmmm.
As I read through the comments from my last post, I came across a couple of things that caught my attention. I wonder if they caught yours? Let me begin with this thought…we as human beings love labels. If I can label it I know what to do with it. I think when Jesus talked about judging it was along these lines. How you label you will be labeled.
So as I read through the comments by a couple of my friends I got a new label (well I probably got more than one but some we cannot put into print on a family publication).
I discovered … really I did not know this … I am a “literalist.” Who knew? Well, other than Denis and Luke? And trust me when I read how they say this it is not like my approval rating just went up. It is more like, “Oh wow … he is one of those … a literalist! I feel so bad for him. Don’t you?”
Now the humorous things with labels is this: The tribe I run with, the Vineyard Churches of the U.S., would be labeled also. We are a group who license and ordain women for ministry. We think they can hold any position in the church. So now others would no longer say we are literalist … in fact some would now say we are liberal, not literal.
So now I am liberal and surely not a literalist … but here I am … oh how my head hurts. Then…I probably should not even go here but I will: We read the Bible and some of the things that others in the church say have stopped happening — like tongues and prophecy and even healing — we believe are for today. A new label! Charismatic … or maybe even pentecostal … and, for some, heretics!
How can I ever keep all these labels straight?
If I have this right, I am a literalist, but not really because I don’t think slavery is good or that women should be silent. Am I a liberal literalist? I got it: I am a pentecostal, charismatic, liberal, literalist! And I think there are even more labels I can add.
As the literalist label is applied, I am told by a few of my friends that even the rabbis do not view the scripture the way I do. Jonah is a parable. The creation story is just that, a story. No Adam and Eve, just a genre of literature to make point.
Did anyone tell Peter? You know, the disciple, the apostle?2 Peter 3:5 (sorry to those who it offends when I use scripture) Peter is talking about scoffers in the last days and then he writes or dictates this, “But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water.” Poor Peter … a literalist so long ago. Didn’t he know it really was not true?
Let me say this to my friends who insist I really need a rabbi in my life: If they do not know who Jesus is they really won’t be much help to me on my journey. That’s not a put-down, just reality.
Can you see, as my friends like to tell me, I am a literalist and they kind of feel bad for me. Then this quote — I have cut and pasted so I would get it right:
“I often feel sorry for those who are stuck in a time when humankind was in such an ignorant place — as if that was all there was.”
Ahhhh. One of my all-time favorites. You know the old saying, my friend: Ignorance is bliss. In our tolerance-laden society I have noticed one thing: People are tolerant of you if you agree with them. Or if they feel superior to you.
Does this really work? He feels sorry for me and others like me. When I write a column I do want to be tolerant even though I do not really like the word because it has an air of superiority. I can appreciate words delivered with respect and honor … but to feel sorry for me because I am stuck in a time when people were ignorant? Not so kind. By the way, has anyone ever seen the pyramids? The Colosseum in Rome? For ignorant people, they got a lot of cool stuff done. Just saying.
So as I write I am concerned. I am pretty sure when the real literalists see where I am from I will lose that label. Fake! But when the liberals see what I believe … boom. No room there! What is a guy to do? Pentecostal? Charismatic … well I visit there but don’t dress well enough for them, I suppose. And I have no hair! A man without a label. So sad. Well, I am sure my friends will help me out.
What do I have to say to the Church? Let me encourage you with these words from Paul, in Romans 1:16,17: “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the Gospel as righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from the first to last, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.” (New International Version)
Be of good cheer. Don’t be a silent group who cowers in fear when culture tries to kick you out of the room. Jesus said this to all of us, “Blessed are you when people insult you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me” (Matthew 5:11).
Church, let’s just make sure it is because of our love and adoration for Him we are rejected … not because our lives don’t support our message.
One last quote from a new friend …
There are many records showing that Jesus spent many years studying the world’s earliest religion (Hindu). Yes, folks, that means he went to India…. Now, let us look very closely what the New Testament did not say about the prophet Jesus. Don’t you love mystery and intrigue, just as Jesus did?
Jules, I believe Jesus probably did spend time in India … I have also read where he may have spent time in England. So I have a couple comments for you: I think as we watch Jesus among the poor and broken we might just see what He learned in India. That while some say you are cursed and you will always be cursed, or you are blessed and will always be blessed, he said that is not true. That God loves all and he came to restore their dignity, not to keep them oppressed. He came to give new life, not more of the old life. So yep … I believe you are right.
Now the Prophet Jesus … hmmm. Nice title. Of course it’s not Son of God, but it should do, don’t you suppose? I have to defer to C.S.Lewis on this one:
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
— C.S Lewis in “Mere Christianity.”
I have said on numerous occasions, when I write I am writing to encourage the church. Now I see I may be giving some a chance to look at a real fossil or antique … a guy who believes the Bible to be the word of God. Paul writes, “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful in teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Please hear me: I am not trying to be arrogant. I am humbled by the opportunity to write for ToledoFAVs and I am humbled by those who read. I am challenged by those who comment. It has caused me to look at what I believe and if I want to keep tossing it out there to be trampled on. I am just like anybody else in this world … I want to be liked and accepted. In good conscience I cannot compromise what I believe just to be more popular. Peter looked at the religious leaders in Acts as they told him to shut up. He replies, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Yes, Denis as charismatic/pentecostal I do think he still speaks.)
Thanks for reading,
Signed: Your friendly literalist:)