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Truth

May 30, 2013

Now I should warn you, as I recently posted, that I am reading Rob Bell’s “Love Wins” at the moment. And it could be having an effect on me. I could start writing in short sentences and paragraphs.

Like this.

Or that.

Short.

Paragraphs.

Worse still I might start thinking like him. My current traditional beliefs could be challenged and undermined.

It’s hard when we THINK about our faith isn’t it. A lot of us are much better at living on auto pilot.

Not sure I will come out the other end agreeing with all Bell’s findings, but there is certainly plenty of food for thought. Occasionally I find myself thinking I am sure there is another verse somewhere which says the opposite of what he’s saying.

But a lot of it resonates.

And I realise I think about a lot of this stuff.

A lot.

Often.

I was brought up in a Christian home, in a somewhat obscure Bible believing grouping. WE believed the Bible and understood it and lived it out better than any other churches did. When I was 7 I asked Jesus into my heart and my life was transformed. Not visibly maybe. I don’t think  was the world’s most wicked 7 year old.

I think heaven is a lot bigger than we think.

When I was in the grammar school, we had a Christian Union. That was interesting because there were several different types of Christians in that group, but while I didn’t understand everything the others thought and said, we were united in our belief in Jesus. Our differences were only very occasionally a problem.

One day we had a speaker, who was a priest from the local Anglican church. I can’t remember much of what he said but most of it none of us agreed with and even the Anglicans amongst us were embarrassed. What I do remember is that as a result of what he was saying, someone asked who would be in heaven. Without hesitation he told us the Catholics and Anglicans would be there. After much soul searching he conceded that just possibly the Methodists might be there too. For a non-conformist like me that was not good news. Surely haven is bigger than that?

When I was at the Polytechnic I attended another church, similar to my home church. One Sunday my housemate and I were stood outside at the end of the service, when an elderly gentleman, walked up to us and said “We have the truth” and then walked off. Now he could have meant several things by that. Christians are right. But I am sure what he meant was this particular expression of the local church is the only right one. The rest are wrong. I am positive heaven is bigger than that.

A few years later I visited an Anglican church with my family and the vicar asked the question “what must I do to get into heaven”. One of the children replied that you need to be christened. I remember being horrified when the vicar said that was the right answer. I mean for goodness sake, how could anyone say such a thing? I had become a Christian at 7. I had never been christened, but I was properly baptised at 16 to show I meant business.

My father regularly visited a Christian family. They had been part of an exclusive Christian group, which took the line that they were the only true Christians. When they left to go to another Christian church, their family disowned them. Surely heaven is bigger than that, or perhaps they’ll have a little building of their own up the corner.

In my town there would be occasional mission events, and sometimes we would get involved. However, I can remember there were some events where we could not join in. The reason for this was that the Catholics were involved too, and that would be a step too far. After all with their veneration of the Virgin Mary and transubstantiation.

Several years ago I discovered a Christian musician who really excited me. His search for God had been a long and hard one. But finally he found Jesus and his life was transformed me. What impressed me was that he was still playing to the same audience, but he was singing all about Jesus. For many fans this was a turn off, but for him Jesus was king. After a few years it emerged that he was part of a church group that had an unconventional view of the trinity. I didn’t agree with their view, but don’t we often say that the trinity is a mystery. And because of that we don’t think about it. When someone does think about it and comes to a different view, then another prominent Christian musician announces that he doubts anyone without a traditional view of the trinity can be a Christian. A well known Christian magazine downgrades the musician from “Christian Artist” to “Spiritual artist”. After such a search, would God be that cruel? Surely heaven is bigger than that.

In my previous church a couple were attending regularly, and after some time one of our leaders announced that he believed they were now believers. Another leader denied this as they did not have a full understanding of the faith. And yet we would say to be a Christian is not about an intellectual understanding. It is about faith. I mean the older I get, the more I find I don’t understand!

It’s about a certain kind of faith, and about saying a certain kind of prayer. Then you’re in.

But there are other cloudy areas. As Bell says, suppose your only  experience of Christianity is to be sexually molested by a Christian minister. Where does it leave you if you reject that version of Jesus?

We instinctively make exceptions to our rules though, for the young child who has died, for the mentally impaired, for those who live in foreign countries and have never heard the gospel. We convince ourselves that God is a just judge.

Some Christian regularly experience doubt. I am one of them. That’s why I need faith. The two are not opposites.

You know I cannot accept that there is any Christian group which has the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I mean they’re all full of humans for a start, so none of them can be totally right.

I know myself well enough to know that I get things wrong, so I certainly don’t believe I have it all sewn up. I align myself with a church fellowship which seems to come close to the true picture, but I don’t pretend they are perfect.

I was brought up in a church which preached regularly (often to the converted) about heaven and hell. Often hell got more coverage. “Jesus is coming back, possibly by 7.30 tonight and if you dies without Christ…” I have come to the conclusion that the whole thing about heaven and hell still fills me with some feelings of dread, even though it should be nothing of the sort for a Christian like me.

If I fear anything, it is often this. What if I am the wrong sort of Christian? What if my denomination was the wrong one? What if my understanding was imperfect? What if I didn’t say the right prayer? What if I’ve lived this way for nothing? What if I only get 39 out of 100 on the truth exam, and the pass is 40?

Not sure I can believe in a God like that. Jesus says “Seek and you will find me”. When we cry out to Jesus, will he not hear? Of course he will. Did the dying thief on the cross next to Jesus have all his theology sorted out before Jesus accepted him? Of course not.

God waits as a father longing for his children to return to him.

Let me just say I do believe in ultimate truth. I do believe that Jesus IS the truth. He said so. None of us will get it all right this side of heaven. And those of us who are rigid as to who will be in heaven may be surprised.

This is all complicated stuff, but I’m trusting Jesus.

 

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