When I showed John my last diary entry he said it sounded like I'm a Buddhist!I He didn't even begin to understand why that casual statement upset me and we didn't have any time to sit down and talk about it... I obviously didn't express myself the way I wanted to. But my diary is more for me than for anyone else. You guys get to read it, and I really really appreciate your input and thoughts (and especially encouragement) on everything I write, including stuff about faith. Nobody can live in a vacuum, and the things other people say help you to figure stuff out all the way instead of just partway. But I'm not a theologian. I don't have a direct pipeline to God. God doesn't even speak to me in words. Some people say that He does, but I have never experienced it in 40 years. God speaks to my heart and my gut and my soul - when He wants to. A lot of the times I could pray myself blue in the face and He doesn't speak to me at all. What I think and feel is what 'I' think, I don't expect it to be true for everybody else in the world. You have your own thoughts and feelings about this stuff and I respect them just as much as I respect my own.
It's not that I don't believe in heaven and God and Jesus. I never said that! God is vitally important to me. I haven't gone to a CHRISTIAN church for 25 years just because I enjoy the coffee hour. Coffee hours are about as close as you come to hell on earth for me, because you have to stand around and wait for somebody to talk to you and then struggle to make chit-chat, and if nobody talks to you it's even worse! I was born a Christian... I love God with all my heart. But what happens after you die doesn't matter to me. I don't need the carrot and the stick to persuade me to do what's right, and that's what the whole traditional heaven and hell thing really is. If you're 'good' you'll get to go to heaven. And if you're 'bad' then sorry buddy, it's hell for you. I do good because I was MADE to do good.
God made us to love our neighbours... if you really and truly love someone what do you want for them? You want them to have the very best, and to be happy, and you don't want to do anything to hurt them. I know I'm naive... I know a lot of people don't see the world that way. But when I see somebody else hurting, it hurts ME.
We all have to find our own path to God, to build our own relationship to Him. There are 6000 denominations and sub-denominations for a reason. I don't understand what a lot of them do. I don't have to. It's not my place. I don't have to believe everything they say either... a lot of them make things far more convoluted and complicated than they really need to be. But in the end, it's between them and God. He'll sort them out, and I don't mean in a 'sheep from the goats' type way. In the end God will sort us ALL out. If you are sincere in your devotion to God and your desire to know Him more and to be with Him, and if you do your best to do what's RIGHT... that makes you a sheep. If you honestly don't know God at all, that doesn't make you a goat. It makes you a sheep who hasn't been found yet. The goats are the people who just pretend. Who say one thing on Sundays and do something else entirely during the week. The hypocrites. The ones who turn a blind eye to evil when they see it because it's none of their business... the ones who think that as long as you follow the correct rituals to be forgiven it doesn't matter WHAT you do with the rest of your life. The ones who give their exact 10% to the church - but who won't give a hungry person a dime (or a cereal bar) because they 'chose' to be poor. The ones who hedge God around in so many rules and regulations that nobody could ever possibly follow them all - and then proceed to beat 'the sin' out of their kids or their wives on a regular basis because they fail to meet their standard. And on and on...
I'm reading a book on reconciling traditional Christianity with modern-day life. It's not a book that says 'this side's wrong' or 'that side's wrong', it's about finding the paradigms that work for YOU, and reconnecting a very ancient tradition of God with 21st century life. It's a line we walk every day... in all honesty, it's more like a tightrope strung across Niagara Falls. If you spend too long asking the modern questions of WHY, it's easy to fall off the tightrope altogether and become an atheist! I don't want to fall off... a world without God is no world at all. But that doesn't make the rope any easier to walk. I'm only partway through it so far, because it's not light reading... but it's very interesting. I got another book on Christianity in the post-modern world and started reading it, but from the introduction it seems to be basically taking the stand that the post-modern world is Satan's paradise and the traditional church model is the only way to fight it. :( I hate that kind of closed-mindedness. God gave us a brain for a reason, and that's because he expects us to use it! If He wanted a bunch of obedient puppets he could have left our intellect out of the equation entirely. But He made us with the potential to learn and to grow and to figure things out... humanity is a long long way from whatever destination God has in mind for us. But if you look back through history, you can see how far we've already come. We haven't lost our way - we're in the very long, slow process of finding it. That's what growing up is all about. And that's why I don't believe that God is going to call an end to the party any time soon. God wants us to reach our full potential as His children, and right now we're barely in adolescence. If we don't wipe ourselves out entirely in a fit of childish pique and make God have to start over again someplace else, it's going to take another 2000 years for us to finish growing up.
But even a tiny baby knows love when they see it...
1 Corinthians 13
1 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.