Are you a literalist when it comes to the Christian Bible? Does a friend challenge you that the King James Version is the only “true” translation of Holy scripture when you are reading from the NIV or perhaps the Living Bible? Do you bristle when someone says to you that the Bible is just a book of stories? Or maybe when a friend tells you that Jesus was just one of several good teachers at that time?
It can be a struggle, but the chances are that speaking the truth in love will work a whole lot better than berating or lecturing that person until they agree with you. Just smile and agree that different translations speak more clearly to different believers. And, yes, the Bible contains lots of stories, stories that teach and instruct. Parables and stories that convey ancient truth.
In Chuck Smith’s sermon notes for John 21, he points out the difficulties we sometimes encounter in reading and understanding various scripture passages. We get caught up in the Greek translations where the “tone” of a word carries different meanings. Smith uses as an example the passage where Jesus says to Peter: “do you love me more than these?” The word “these” is not specific. Is he referring to the other disciples, or to his fishing business? The “tone” does not tell us. Or what about the word “love” as used by both Jesus and Peter? Do you love me?” Jesus uses the Greek meaning “Do you love Me supremely” or “agape“. To which Peter answers with the Greek word “philia‘” that means “I am fond of you”.
In our secular (modern) mind-set the word “fond” has a lesser meaning than the word “love”. It is not until after Peter is asked a third time that the tone and meaning of the word love changes.
Are there other words that we tend to define too narrowly that can influence how we view our “faith”? For example, the word “church” often refers to a building, or a denomination, while the “true” meaning of the word simply means a gathering of believers.
Take the word “worship” — We too often read formality into that word, often injecting liturgical influences, as in Order of Worship. I believe that worship is not limited to the formal, but is lived out in our daily lives reflecting our belief and faith.
I am a bit uncertain with respect to “Sacrament”. I am aware there are five, six or seven Sacraments (depending on your denomination) in the Christian faith. Each very specific and well defined. I agree that a sacrament is an “active and public sign of God’s grace towards His believers.” I take that to mean that living out your Christian faith is an “overarching” sacrament, and all the others follow – Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, etc. each a way of worshiping and confirming our belief.
Okay, what is my point? In my regular Bible study group I have often remarked that we seem to be making God too small, and I can only imagine that He is smiling. but encouraging our feeble efforts. We sometimes discuss the “requirements” of the Christian walk which causes me to wonder if we have become latter day Pharisees…working on our own 611 laws!
We can define the “requirements” or definitions to the point where we have squeezed FAITH and BELIEF into a far lesser role in our faith equation. The “requirements”, my friend, are very simple, thank you, and are clearly stated in Micah 6:8 – What does the Lord require of me? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with my God.
Now those “requirements” I can rest on and in my own human way follow in my relationship with Christ in peace.