This morning I saw a photo come up on my news feed – in the picture was a punk-looking guy holding a sign that said, You don’t have to be a Christian to be a good person.
The first thought that came to mind was simple: Christianity isn’t about being good, and I said that.
Then I started thinking about it even more.
Two verses came to mind.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. ~ Romans 3:23
There is none righteous, no, not one. ~ Romans 3:10
There’s a really incorrect perception around the world – both in and out of the Church – that Christianity is defined by the actions of Christians. It’s thanks to this perception that we see God and the Church being blamed for the sinful, wrong and mistaken actions and beliefs that are perpetuated by a handful of people labelling themselves as Christians.
I’d like to step away from Christianity a moment for a timely example: This weekend the world has been shocked by a number of violent protests from Muslims after the launch of an anti-Islamic video. The fact is that these extremists who got violent are not a wide representation of the Islamic community any more than Osama bin Laden spoke for the whole of Islam when he engaged in terrorist activities.
It’s hypocritical, judgmental and (dare I use this word) discriminatory to tar all Muslims with the same brush, and it’s the same story for Christians.
You can’t define a religion by the actions of a few extreme-minded individuals.
Christianity is not defined by the actions of Christians. Even if a line could be drawn through the actions of every single Christian to have ever lived, the definition of Christianity is not what we do, but what Christ has done.
See, around 2000 years ago, God sent his son Jesus Christ to earth. The reason he did this is because we, as humans, are impure and sinful. We are not good, and therefore we cannot enter into the presence of God who is good; who is love; who is pure. Sin is like a shadow – a shadow can never be found in light, simply because, by its definition it is an absence of light. In the same way, we cannot enter God’s presence of holiness because we are not holy. We are impure. Sinful. Not good.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 6:23
With sin comes death. If God is life, then death is the absence of God – or what is defined in scripture and mythology as Hell. What Hell ‘is’ is not a question that I ever want to know the answer to – nor do I want anyone to ever find out, because even if Hell is the party that so many people think that it’s going to be, I guarantee you something: the party’s still going to be better in heaven.
Jesus was the Son of God, he was God’s spirit in a human body. He experienced life as we experience it: Temptation, pain, suffering, joy, laughter, loss, friendship and so on. He lived a human life, but in that life he did not sin, his spirit – the spirit of God was stronger than the human temptations that we go through day after day after day. He remained pure, even in the physical existence that we deal with and because of his purity, he did not earn the wages of sin – death. In spite of this, Jesus went willingly into death.
“Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” ~ Luke 23:42
Jesus’ choice to lay his life down was not an easy one, in fact he pleaded with God not to send him through the experience that was death. Yet ultimately his love was greater than his fear.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear. ~ 1 John 4:18
This is the definition of Christianity, that Jesus, the Son of God gave his own life as a repayment for the death that we as impure and sinful humans earned. I am no better than any person who does not believe, and nor is anyone else.
You say that you don’t have to be a Christian to be a good person? I say that you can’t be a good person. We can redefine what good is all we want, but ultimately, as I said above, there’s no one good, no one righteous, no one pure – none except God.
Christianity has nothing to do with being good, it has nothing to do with being right and it has nothing to do with being superior to anyone else. Christianity has everything to do with love – that God loved us, and that he wants to keep loving us.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. ~ John 3:16-17
Before I get into the details of this post, I wanted to take the opportunity to celebrate all fathers on this Fathers day. I think it’s a really sad thing in our society these days that fathers have become very undervalued – and that’s not a reflection on anyone in particular: everyone has their part to play in society, but we have so many children growing up with absentee fathers, it saddens me.
So to all of those dads out there – take an opportunity to let others celebrate you. Be proud of the fact that you’re there for your children, that they have someone who they can look up to and respect, honour and love as a father and male role model.
And to those men out there who aren’t Dads, or in some cases, have been Dads and aren’t any more – know that you are just as valuable and important in our society as well. You don’t have to be a biological father to be fatherly and dad-like to the kids in your life.
It’s that group of people, though, that I feel an urge to reflect on tonight.
I’ve been trying for about 24 hours, now, to work out in my head exactly what I want to say here, so if I ramble or don’t make sense, then I apologize in advance. However; I’m going to start with a bit of a testimony.
The reason that I have an urge to speak about the “Dads who were,” is because I fall into that category.
It’s a long time ago, but the short of it is that in a relationship that I had, quite a few years ago, my girlfriend fell pregnant. We actually separated before I even found out that she was pregnant, though, and it wasn’t until sometime later that she actually told me everything that had happened. Sadly, our daughter didn’t survive, and I never got the blessing to meet her.
It weighed on me for a very long time, but it was something that I managed to keep suppressed mostly. I would still think of her occasionally, and wonder what life would have been like if things had gone differently. I wrote the poem Lost Love for her.
Last year, though, I had a pretty serious time of things with all of the pain being dug back up. I sat there on Father’s Day weekend last year and realized that this was the tenth ‘non-father’s day’ that I had been through. It really came to a front, and I had a huge struggle with everything that weekend. On Sunday afternoon I went to visit a Church I don’t normally go to, pastured by a man I have known and respected for a long time. We talked when I came in ahead of the service and I explained why I was so down and depressed.
Then he basically said to me that it still counted. When it came time to give out the Father’s Day gifts (a handkerchief and a couple of chocolates), he made a special effort to ensure that I was given one as well. It touched my heart so deeply; because for all of the years before, I had felt ashamed about my past, I had felt hurt that my child had been taken away from me, and I’d felt like I couldn’t actually talk to anyone about it. In fact, more than that, I had to lie about it all – I couldn’t show that I was suffering on a day so important to so many others.
That moment, though, when someone actually acknowledged my position was a breakthrough. When someone actually said to me, “Hey, happy Father’s day,” it was a moment where I realized that I didn’t have to suffer in silence. I didn’t even have to suffer. That pastor gave me a title that I’d been ashamed and frightened to wear, and in doing so, helped to set me free from the bonds that had been strangling me for ten years.
I’m not totally over it, and I probably never will be. With every year that passes, I wonder what she might have been like if she was here with us today. What I can do, though, is accept the circumstances, and look forward to seeing her when I finally get to heaven.
So to anyone who might fall into that category: To the dads who’ve lost a child; to those who maybe, through circumstances, are unable to see their children but wish they could, whatever the situation; claim the title.
I believe that God has more to come in my life, but that little girl – we called her Paige – will always be a part of my heart and soul, and I will continue to be her father. All the while, she’s in the care of my Father – God.
Happy Fathers Day.
Someone else’s thoughts on this perspective of Fathers Day at Mamamia.
Well, with each day that goes by things seem to get easier.
On the tiredness front, that is. I’m still feeling very emotional about no longer being on the other side of the country. I’m managing, and doing my best to keep my eyes and heart on God, but it’s not always easy. Going over there and coming back again wasn’t meant to be this difficult; at least it wasn’t going to be in my head.
It’s a weird combination of peace and pain, really. Like, I do know that everything’s under control, that God’s got everything in his plan and in his timing, and all I have to do is keep my eyes on him; keep following his ways, and things will work out. Still, though, there’s an emotional pain at having said goodbye. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, as long as – like with most emotions – it doesn’t actually take over. It’s okay to miss people, it’s okay to love them, it’s okay to feel that you’re a little lost without them. What isn’t okay is to let those emotions take over your life and dictate you. If you’re being dicated by your emotions, following them, then you’re not following God.
So I can acknowledge the pain, the feelings of loss, the love – but I will continue to walk in his path, and in his guidance. When I follow his plan, and am walking in his light, then everything works out for good.
This is a whole heap of not good.
First of all, God talks about being a people set apart.
He’s not silly. He knows that when the Israelites walk into the land of Canaan, there are going to be things that are attractive to them. I can definitely vouch from personal experience that the road away from God sometimes seems so bright and welcoming. The Israelites had shown themselves throughout the journey so far, just how easily and quickly led astray they could be. Moses was up Mt Sinai for a few weeks, and they decided to make a golden calf to worship instead. It’s not that far-fetched to think that as soon as they entered Canaan, they’d look around all wide-eyed and vulnerable, and very quickly fall prey to the temptations that were the gods of the land of Canaan.
But that wasn’t God’s purpose for them. God’s purpose was for them to walk apart, to be noticeably different.
God wanted them to be pure, and so he goes into a list of behaviours from a sexual perspective that are forbidden. As we go through all of these things – which all seem to be pretty much common sense – God finishes the list by saying that any of these behaviours mean that people defile themselves in committing them. That’s a pretty intense choice of word.
There are a couple of different definitions according to Merriam Webster, but the one that I really notice is number 4:
To violate the sanctity of: DESECRATE
Pretty heavy if you ask me. There’s no light meaning for defile; It’s about breaching purity, violating chastity. To defile is to take away the purity of something. The punishment is just as bad.
“Everyone who does any of these detestable things – such persons must be cut off from their people.” ~ Leviticus 18:29
Not every law in Leviticus, not every rite and custom that has been looked at so far has been specifically pointed out as being for aliens as well as the Israelites. Non-Israelites were also forbidden from eating blood, and now they’re also forbidden from defiling themselves as per God’s instructions on sexual behaviour. These actions are things that God takes extremely seriously.
God wants his people to be pure and distinct from the rest of the world. He doesn’t want his people to be just like the Canaanites, who were defiled and driven from their lands. He wants people who will reflect him; not only back in the Old Testament, but now. God’s desire is to be reflected in the actions of his people. His desire is that the world would see him, and recognise him through his people.
Sometimes I wonder why we have emotions.
Over the past few years until this one, I found that one tactic I could use to keep myself from feeling too bad about things, was simply to close myself off to everything. Not completely, I could still function, I just didn’t let many people get too close. It was easier to deal with being let down, particularly by people, if I didn’t care about them. If they weren’t important enough to me to actually care what they did, then when they did something that hurt or left me feeling let down, well, I was expecting it wasn’t I?
I knew the reality of the world – we can’t rely on each other completely. We’re not actually going to be able to survive that way because somewhere, somehow, some day everyone we know will let us down in some manner.
I read a page on Facebook today – entitled something like: “You said you’d never hurt me, well you lied.”
I’m sorry, but yes, that’s a ridiculous promise to make – but it’s also a ridiculous promise to believe. Everyone is going to let you down at some point in your life.
Except for one: God; Jesus – He won’t let you down no matter what. I can think of several people I know right now who would disagree with me on that, but the truth is, he doesn’t. He never left me, even in the darkest points of my life. I didn’t see him there, but when I look back on my life now and think of where I could have ended up? Well, I can’t deny that even though I wasn’t listening, wasn’t following, was completely ignoring and turning my back on God – he was still doing what he could in the background to make sure I stayed safe.
Anyway though, on to Exodus:
This is – wow – an exceptionally intense chapter; with a whole lot to draw out of it.
First of all, how impatient were these Israelites? Moses is gone what – a few days? Maybe a month? Was there food up on the mountain? Water? I’m sure God would have fed him if it was needed, though. Listen to the Israelites, though, they’ve lost sight of Moses, and straight away they’re looking for something new to focus on.
I’ve heard our generation being called “the ADD generation” in the sense that we don’t focus on things for very long. We’re always looking for the next big thing, something new and exciting to entertain us. We get bored so quickly and so easily – and the opening to this chapter makes me think the Israelites were a bit the same way. Apart from the fact that we’ve already seen the way they start whining as soon as things don’t go their way, now they’re just going: “We’re bored with God! He’s not doing anything exciting! Give us a new god!”
Wow, sound familiar? Why do our TV shows need to be so quick and consistently exciting? Because otherwise we’ll change the channel. This was the Israelites looking at Channel Sinai and going, “There’s nothing on… Let’s go check out that new Golden Calf show on Channel Idol!”
Perhaps there’s not really an ADD generation – perhaps it’s more that we just are able to notice it more these days because we have so many things to turn our attention to. Perhaps we’re not all that different from the Israelites in all their whining and complaining. Perhaps we’re looking for the new idol too.
Look at verses 7 to 10; though.
The first thing that struck me as I read this, was God’s pronoun usage. He says to Moses “your people”; he calls them “They” over and over. God separates himself from the Israelites in this passage, he actually implies that he’s done with them. They aren’t his people any more, they’re Moses’ people. God’s been patient with them all this time, he’s fed them and cared for them and rescued them and so many things, and yet now, once again, they’ve decided they’d rather do things their way.
So God – for a moment at least – turns his back on them and says that he’s had enough.
Thankfully they had Moses there – once again – to actually plead their case with God.
Parallels again. Moses is pleading the case of the Israelites with God; not only that, but he actually says to God in verse 32:
“But now, please forgive their sin – but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.” ~ Exodus 32:32
Moses actually went to the point of offering his own life on the altar, if it would mean saving the Israelites. Sound familiar?
Moses wasn’t able to carry the sin of any others; his death would have meant nothing, and God knew that. Jesus’ death, however, was different. He was God incarnate, human, holy, pure, and the sacrifice that was able to carry the sins of all others.