I am a Catholic. I was raised Catholic and I’ve strayed at times but always returned home, so to speak. By association I am assumed to be or assumed to believe certain things, as a Catholic. The Catholic Church makes statements and provides guidelines, and inadvertently speaks for all Catholics. Going broader, as a Christian I have even more folks speaking for me. I get associated with extreme factions that do crazy things. That is not me. I do not find those people to be correct in their preachings.
Often we have individuals claiming to know something because the bible told them so. We have seen this with cults and even this last Saturday we saw the faction that was predicting the end of days. Many times these self-proclaimed prophets miss very important teachings in the Bible as they preach their fallacy. For instance, those folks that were saying the Bible guaranteed that May 21st was the day of the rapture. They neglected several instances of the Bible saying that we cannot predict or know when the end is going to come.
"But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone." Mark 13:32
It is not just self-proclaimed prophets that get it wrong. For a long time the Bible has been misused by the ignorant, close minded and devious. The Bible has been used to justify war, massacres, suppression of women’s civil rights, white supremacy and even a condemnation of same sex relationships and transgender lifestyles. We see it all the time, a one or two line quote that is used to justify these things by saying, “the Bible says so.”
We all see them, read them and many of us post them. I’d like to pose a series of questions to you, for your consideration; the first of which I would like to pose now.
Do you ever check to see if the quote is accurate when you see it or use it?
It has been said, and I firmly believe, that the Bible has quotes within it that can be used to justify almost anything. Therein lies the problem, the Bible was never intended to be read and obeyed as a series of quotes. Jesus had the Disciples following him around all over. They listened intently. Jesus did not just walk up to them and give them two sentences and then walk off again. He taught in full stories and lectures, not brief quotes.
One such user of these one-liners, so to speak, is Billy Graham. So it is fitting that I demonstrate this with one of his quotes. Did you know that Billy Graham celebrates the Devil as being alive? Sure, right here is the quote; “I believe Satan is alive.” See, he said it. He’s actually a Devil worshiper in hiding. So post this on your Facebook and tell everyone that Billy Graham is a Devil worshiper and that we should all hate him. That’s how it works, right? Well, wait one minute before we go that far. It seems that the full quote says, “There are two great forces, God's force of good and the devil's force of evil, and I believe Satan is alive and he is working, and he is working harder than ever.” Wow! That really changes everything, doesn’t it?
What messages or teachings from the Bible do you hear the most?
Another interesting fact is that so many people can tell you the Bible verses, allegedly, condemning homosexuality, and there are like six or seven that are used. Using the Bible to condemn, as I mentioned before, is not new. How many people have you seen quote the Bible for things like generosity, love, acceptance and piety. Not so many, right? There are many more verses that support these teachings, but, alas, they are not as self-satisfying as condemning someone or something that we don’t understand or are afraid of.
There are so many “Christian Leaders”, and I use that term loosely, that like to use individual passages and base entire sermons on them. I wonder, though, do they practice what they preach? Do they know the Bible? Do they follow the Bible? They certainly seem like it. They will tell you how to be a good Christian and how to be saved. Just listen to them and they will tell you who to hate and how to vote and you will be saved.
They are after all the perfect examples, or are they? These “Christian Leaders” are interesting. Some find them exceptionally inspiring. We’ll come back to them later.
Do you ever read the paragraphs that surround a Bible verse, to get the full context?
Whether you hear them as much, or not, there is a great deal of Bible verses that cover some other aspects. These aspects, I believe are the true lessons we are intended to take away from the Bible. If I describe the Bible, and Christianity, to someone who is unfamiliar with it, I explain it like this.
We (Christians) believe that God is the source of everything we know. God created the world and everything and everyone within it. God gave us Jesus Christ, his son, as a teacher to teach us the way we should live and about God. Jesus Christ taught many people and these people have spread the teachings to help everyone to know what God and Jesus Christ has taught us. These teachings are in the Bible. We read the Bible and use what it teaches us to live better. Some of the teachings in the Bible are very clear and specifically tell us whether doing a particular thing is good or bad. Other things are taught through stories and we read those stories and gain the lesson, kind of like when a teacher in school teaches you something through an example. The most important things a person needs to know about Christianity is that we are to honor and obey God and love God above everything and everyone else. The rest of the teachings pretty much tell us to love each other like close family and to treat each other like family. If someone is suffering we should do what we can to help them.I propose to you that these are the most basic, most repeated and most important lessons in the Bible. Can you prove me wrong? As I said before, there are about six or seven verses that, allegedly, condemn homosexuality. Let’s compare that to the real lessons of the Bible.
In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:35
Give and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38
And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” Matthew 10:42
One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered. Proverbs 11:24-25
But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? 1 John 3:17
And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. Acts 2:45
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:1-4
So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction. The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:5-7
Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. Luke 12:33
Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered. Proverbs 21:13
“If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. Deuteronomy 15:7-8
Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21:1-4
Love for our neighbors
Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. 2 Timothy 2:14
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. Leviticus 19:18
Do not go about spreading slander among your people. Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:16
He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends. Proverbs 17:9
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves… Proverbs 31:8
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. Ephesians 4:25
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers... Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Ephesians 4:29-31
He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:10-12
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:23-25
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. Hebrews 3:13
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever." And this is the word that was preached to you. Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 1 Peter 1:22-2:1
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, Luke 6:27
The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Matthew 18:15-17
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. Matthew 7:1-5
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; Luke 6:37
Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Romans 2:1-3
Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? James 4:11-12
There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? James 4:12
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. ... Romans 14:1-13
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:1-2
And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:14-15
Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Romans 2:3
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Galatians 6:1
Piety in our lives
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. 1 Timothy 6:17-19
The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 2 Corinthians 9:6
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21
But he who is noble plans noble things, and on noble things he stands. Isaiah 32:8
So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6
And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Phillipians 4:8
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:7-10
I wanted to share these verses with you for a few reasons. I wanted you to see the much more prominent messages in the Bible, the messages that get overlooked in the rush to find a Biblical condemnation for others.
Have you ever read the Bible for yourself?
With those verses fresh in your mind, I want you to now consider these “Christian Leaders”. Also, consider these “good Christians” that preach and quote what the Bible says. Consider them and what they teach. Consider them and what their actions are. Are they showing love for their neighbor as taught by the Bible? Are they living a pious life? Are they showing generosity? Are they following the Bible when they pass harsh judgment on their neighbors? I’d like to share some further information with you. I want to share with you the estimated incomes of some of the most outspoken and self-proclaimed Christian leaders, if you research this you will be able to find these estimates as well.
Jerry Falwell $8.9 Million
James Dobson $138 Million
Pat Robertson $459 Million
Now, think back, or look again, to the Bible verses I provided above. Do these seem like pious, generous men? So why are so many listening to what they say? Why rely on what they say? These guys, and those like them, are plain and simple hate mongers’. They are no different than that lunatic Fred Phelps who protests at military funerals.
If anything, Fred Phelps is, in a way, more honest because he is open about his hatred. These other hate mongers’ are more deceitful because they are also con artists, so they have to appear better. They are spewing hate in God’s name and manipulating people to push their financial and political agendas.
You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. Matthew 7:5
This is why many of the founding fathers spoke out against the mix of church and state. This is really no different than the European Kings showering Bishops with wealth and power to have the Bishops profess that the Kings were divine and appointed by God. It is an old melody with new lyrics. Instead of worshiping a king, we are now told to blindly vote for individuals based on their stance on a couple issues. If they agree with the church on abortion, then any other evil they do is irrelevant and we should keep them in office for that soul purpose. I don't believe that. I view politics much like the medical standard for a mass casualty; the greatest good for the greatest number of people.
So what am I trying to say? I’m trying to say that the Bible wants us to give our love and worship to God, first and foremost above all. The Bible also wants us to love one another and treat each other with love, respect and acceptance, which also means not harshly judging each other. The Bible has all the passages I listed above, and many more, supporting these teachings.
So what am I doing? Am I not judging? Am I asserting that I am a better person, a better Christian than these other people? No, I am not better than they are, nor would I believe I am better than anyone else in the eyes of God. I suppose I am judging, and I am a sinner and I pray that I may be forgiven for the sins I commit. I make goals and objectives for myself with righteous intentions, but I am only human and I am subject to the same short comings as anyone else. I mainly wanted to write this article to encourage a change in attitude among people. We do terrible things in the name of God and in doing that we miss the most basic and important of the teachings.
So what do I suggest you do to remedy this? First and foremost, don’t take what you are told and act on it without thought. There is common sense that needs to be exercised. Second, when you see a bible quote look it up for yourself and see if it is correct. Next, when you are looking up those quotes, read from one page prior to the quote to one page after the quote. This will give you context to see the message in. That can alter the message immensely. I encourage you to even do this with the verses I provided. Also, make an effort to read the whole Bible; you can start out by following my last suggestion. Finally, I would suggest separating religion and politics. I believe in keeping my judgments separate, as much as possible, when judging government and morality. I think of it this way, if we mandate with laws the guidelines of the Bible we are often going against the Constitution and ignoring the concept of free will that was given to us by God. Forcing people to follow Christian law or be imprisoned is not saving their soul or any other person's. We have to CHOOSE God for ourselves.