Several years ago I spent some time as a drummer for hire, and found myself serving regularly at a local United church. It was a large congregation, so much so that they needed two services on a Sunday morning. The people were loving and kind, they did a lot for the community, they were welcoming and full of joy.
But one morning we sang a popular worship song, and I was surprised to see that they changed the lyrics to omit the word “sin”. In fact, the Pastor never spoke of sin, nor repentance, in his sermons. Yet the church seemed to be everything modern Christianity should be. They showed love in action, they weren’t judgmental, and they provided a safe place for people to meet.
Isn’t that what all churches are supposed to be like?
I think it’s easy to blame education for the way that Biblical teaching has changed over the years. We’re smarter, we have access to more resource and knowledge, and therefore are able to interpret the Bible better. But understanding the Bible takes more than a fancy degree. It takes wisdom, through the voice of the Spirit. So no, I wouldn’t cite higher education as the reason why we’re now disagreeing on what the Bible actually teaches.
Secular humanism, (a system of values and beliefs that are opposed to that of traditional religion), and hedonism (a philosophy stating that pleasure and happiness are the most important things in life), have taken over our Western society. In other words, truth is relative, and self-satisfaction is the prime goal of existence.
“But religious tradition has got a lot of things wrong over the years”. That’s very true. Christians have done a lot of things wrong. So have other religions, and people groups, and individuals. As they say, we can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Yes, Christianity has made some mistakes over the years. But that doesn’t, and shouldn’t, discredit the entire Bible.
I understand that it’s hard to trust Christians and their beliefs if you base it on history. In fact you could argue that if Christians were wrong about so many things before, why are they right now? Simply put, we have to unpack the values of the Bible carefully, not through the lens of any kind of particular bias, in order to get the truth.
The best place to start is the creation of the world, because it represents God’s perfect, and ideal plan for humanity. It also describes where we went wrong.
Male and female were created equally (Genesis 1:26-27).
The family unit was established (Genesis 1:28).
Gender roles, equal but different, were marked out (Genesis 2:18-25).
Free will was always present (Genesis 3:1-7).
Sin and punishment entered the world (Genesis 3:8-24).
After Adam and Eve had sinned, God gave them animal skins as clothing. There was no bloodshed before that. They were naked up until they ate the fruit, but weren’t aware because there was no shame. There was no violence in God’s plan for the world. There was no inequality.
If you ignore the first three chapters of Genesis, and read a few exerts of the Bible here and there, you’ll start to believe that God created, and justified, things like slavery, racism, and sexism. But all those injustices were man-made. And consider this: God kept allowing people to make their own decisions, and they kept doing everything wrong, which is why He needed to send his son Jesus to save them. Every negative part of our world stems from sin, or from human free-will, not from God.
Jesus brought back equality. He affirmed certain things in God’s law, but others he covered in his sacrifice on the cross, so that we would no longer be bound by them. This is where the confusion lies. What exactly are we still bound to, and what was covered by Jesus.
In Matthew 5, Jesus gives a concise picture of the laws we are to follow. No murder, no lust or adultery, no divorce (with conditions), no violence and no revenge. He also directs us to love our neighbors, and love our enemies.
Jesus re-affirmed the 10 commandments (Matthew 19:16-30).
Jesus makes no amendment, or alternative, or change to marriage and gender roles that were originally instituted by God (Matthew 19:4-6).
People disagree on many parts of the Bible, particularly rules that they believe churches should follow, and that’s likely something that will never change. But sin issues? Those are very clear. The 10 commandments revolve around love for God, and love for humans.
The things that God hates? You can find them all over His word. Lying, greed, pride, bloodshed of the innocent, lust, drunkenness, and sexual immorality. Those found guilty, and left unrepentant, will not inherit eternal life with God in heaven. It appears to be so simple, yet for some reason it’s not.
But it all goes back to secular humanism, and the notion that either we don’t need God, or He’s just mean and violent and we have to come up with a better way to behave. Unfortunately, violence is more prevalent than ever as we move away from Biblical values. As is abuse and bullying. There’s more outrage over gorilla’s and lions being killed than children being murdered or neglected.
Sin isn’t fun to talk about. But the kind, loving, peaceful Jesus? He always talked about it. To everyone. Those inside the church, and outside. We’ve done a lot of things wrong over the years. But taking sin lightly, or worse, deciding that something isn’t sin anymore, is perhaps the most destructive.
The reason why we need Jesus is because he gives us hope, he gives us life, and he gives us freedom. Before we begin to follow Jesus, anything that we believe, or desire, that isn’t of God is not something to feel condemned over. That guilt is from the devil. When we submit our will to God, our desires begin to change, and His will becomes our will.
There’s a reason why those who don’t know the Lord are constantly searching, and looking for something to fulfill them. And they may even find a brand of happiness in the things of the world. But that emptiness will never truly go away. It’s a God shaped hole that only He can fill.