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Posts Tagged ‘Word’

The Gospel of John opens with a declaration that in the beginning was the Word, and that all things were created through the Word, and nothing was made without the Word. In verse fourteen, John specifies that the Word took on flesh in the form of Jesus. This hearkens us back to the beginning of the Hebrew Scriptures, where God speaks – and from his Word flows forth all of creation. John not only shows us from where Jesus gets his authority, but he also shows us that the Truth of God has always been made evident through Jesus.

Throughout the New Testament, Jesus sets about trying to teach his disciples a new way of looking at the Hebrew Scriptures. As a Jewish rabbi, it was his duty to teach his students his “midrash” or teaching, which the New Testament refers to as his “yoke” (Matthew 11:30). If Jesus were just a rabbi, then his interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures was up for debate – which happened quite often. Anytime Jesus is recorded as speaking with the elders and Pharisees, what is happening is a debate upon the midrash of Jesus. They are questioning his rabbinical credentials. However it becomes clear early on, that the Pharisees cannot match wits with the son of Joseph.

The reason that the midrash of Jesus was so questionable, was because from the very onset, it seemed as if he was contradicting everything that Moses had said. When Jesus spoke about the Law, he challenged the core beliefs of his Jewish brethren. According to the midrash of Jesus, revenge was no longer an option. His interpretation of the Law, was not based upon the text itself, but upon the spirit. And from our perspective today, who would know the spirit of the Law better than the Word that it was spoken through?

Jesus had funny ways about how he observed the Law. He didn’t find it sinful to gather food on the Sabbath, in spite of overwhelming disdain from other teachers who thought it should be a day of total rest. Neither did he allow for the stoning of sinners; for who was perfect according to the letter of the Law? Jesus even ate with tax collectors and sinners, the enemies of all religious Jews. The tax collectors because they had sided with the Roman Empire over their fellow Jews, and sinners because they did not live in accordance with the letter of the Law.

While in many ways the midrash of Jesus was more strict, in all, it was more free. The midrash of Jesus required discipline, but it was tempered with mercy. If someone offended you, you forgave them. According to Jesus, it didn’t matter how grievous the sin, nor how many times you had been sinned against. “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

It was a completely radical way of re-interpreting the Law of Moses. But ultimately, it was about re-orienting the people of God back to Shalom. It was about bringing man back into full communion with God. This is the meaning of the Scriptures when Christ tells us that he is “the way, the truth, and the life” and that “no man comes unto the Father except through me”. (John 14:6). Paul reiterates this same point later in his Epistle to the Galatians when he says that we are no longer bound under the Law, for we have been set free from the letter of the Law through Christ Jesus. However, if one insists on following the letter of the Law, they must follow it perfectly, for by following the Law they have been severed from Christ. (Galatians 5)

The road we travel isn’t easy. In Matthew chapter seven, Jesus calls the road to reconciliation with God, narrow. It takes a lot of work, and daily prayer. We must re-orientate ourselves back on a consistent basis to the midrash of Jesus. Brushing away cultural normalities, and hearkening back to a voice which cried out long ago, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!”(Matthew 3:2)

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I am a Christian.

I believe that Jesus Christ is the figure upon whom all should base their lives and hope.

I am a fundamentalist.

I believe in the fundamentals of the faith – that God loves the world so much that He gave His only Son to die for it. God became man, so that men might be reconciled back unto God. And that this love is for everyone, regardless of race, creed, national origin, or sexual orientation. This love extends from east to west, and beyond the farthest star. It has no end.

I am a Biblical literalist.

I believe that the Bible should be taken exactly as it was written, for the people to whom it was written. It is not an instruction manual, nor a history textbook. It is a story that unfolds from the mythical proportions of the Genesis story of Creation to the glorious reconciliation of earth and heaven in Revelation. (And there are a few things Jesus instructed us to do between now and then, so I really think he meant it).

These are not definitions that most folks associate with those terms. But I figure it is about time to reclaim them.

I fundamentally believe that the love of God does not stop based upon whether you are divorced or married or single. The love of God extends past petty racial divisions. It extends past modern concepts of sexual orientation and gender roles. It extends past temporal political lines and all geopolitical boundaries. God loves you whether you are rich or poor, saint or sinner. He makes the sun to shine on both the righteous, and the wicked. Because His love for us is endless.

And it is through that love that the literal meanings of the Scriptures need to be read. Through the lens of Jesus Christ, the only Begotten Son. He who is from the Beginning. This never failing love of those who are downtrodden and oppressed. Who was quick to turn on the religious elites for snubbing their noses at the “wicked sinners”. He who was without sin modelled a life of forgiveness and compassion. He partied with whores and drunkards, and on at least one occasion, was the reason the people were drunk to begin with. He who was more prone to make sure that the religious types didn’t think that their piety would save them, and point out that the simple yearning faith of the sinner would guarantee salvation.

See, my teachers as a child taught me that the Bible was the Word of God, and that it was to be taken literally. Not to change a single iota of the text. And they taught me that God loves me no matter what. The problem is, I think I learned the lesson a little too well. I learned that God doesn’t love you only when you do good. And that He isn’t a Republican (or a Democrat!). I learned that He probably isn’t a capitalist (or a communist!). That God exists so outside of our preconceived notions of religion, that when we encounter the true God of Israel – we cannot help but fall upon our knees, beat our chests, and plead our unworthiness.

Yet He picks us up, dries the tears from our cheeks, and says that He is with us always…even unto the ends of the earth.

So, yes I am a Christian fundamentalist who believes in Biblical literalism. But I also am a worthless sinner who beats upon his chest daily. For I am a Pharisee, and I am the chief of sinners.

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