So… Jesus was homeless (and other fun things I learned while reading the bible)

MATTHEW 4:5-7 (NCV)

Then the devil led Jesus to the holy city of Jerusalem and put him on a high place of the Temple. The devil said, “If you are the Son of God, jump down, because it is written in the Scriptures:

‘He has put his angels in charge of you.
    They will catch you in their hands
so that you will not hit your foot on a rock.’” (Psalm 91:11–12)

Jesus answered him, “It also says in the Scriptures, ‘Do not test the Lord your God.’” (Deuteronomy 6:16)


When Satan tempted Jesus with a scripture, Jesus combated him with another scripture. This is the basic idea of dissonance: we do not believe in a God that contradicts Himself. We believe in a God of order and harmony.

Definition
Dissonancedisagreement or incongruity; inconsistency.

I feel like a lot of our journey as Christians has to do with farming for dissonance in our thinking and then weeding it out. Let me explain:

I was exposed to many kinds of Christian doctrines growing up. One of them was the prosperity gospel. The prosperity gospel purports that with enough faith, you can get a lot of material prosperity (wealth, jobs…the whole gamut) and that it is God’s will for us to be extremely successful materially. However, as I read more and more scripture, the prosperity gospel was swiftly disproved by many things Jesus said:

  1. Matthew 19: 21-24, NCV
    Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, then go and sell your possessions and give the money to the poor. If you do this, you will have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow me.” But when the young man heard this, he left sorrowfully, because he was rich. Then Jesus said to his followers, “I tell you the truth, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Yes, I tell you that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.
    (Note briefly: I think this was a specific calling to the rich young man to sell his possessions, not a blanket doctrine. Remember the point of what Jesus was talking about: if you’re too busy serving wealth, you won’t have room in your heart to serve God)
  2. Luke 12:15, NCV
    Then Jesus said to them, “Be careful and guard against all kinds of greed. Life is not measured by how much one owns.”
  3. Matthew 8:20, CEV
    Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens, and birds have nests. But the Son of Man doesn’t have a place to call his own.”
    (So…Jesus was homeless)
  4. Luke 12:16-21, NCV
    Then Jesus told this story: “There was a rich man who had some land, which grew a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What will I do? I have no place to keep all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and other goods. Then I can say to myself, “I have enough good things stored to last for many years. Rest, eat, drink, and enjoy life!”’ “But God said to him, ‘Foolish man! Tonight your life will be taken from you. So who will get those things you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be for those who store up things for themselves and are not rich toward God.”
  5. Matthew 6:19-21, NCV
    “Don’t store treasures for yourselves here on earth where moths and rust will destroy them and thieves can break in and steal them. But store your treasures in heaven where they cannot be destroyed by moths or rust and where thieves cannot break in and steal them. Your heart will be where your treasure is.

And so on and so fourth. So, now, when I hear, “Jesus wants you to be rich!” it just sounds dissonant to me.

To me, there is something dissonant about a man who constantly heralds the phrase, “wives should submit” but never gets to to the point in the chapter where the husband is encouraged to love his wife in a sacrificial and respectful way (See Ephesians 5:25-30 and 1 Peter 3:7). It is the same way that there is something dissonant about people who are “pro-life” but do not care for LIVING orphans (James 1:27). Honestly, we lose a lot of our credibility as Christians by not being holistic thinkers. We have to take ALL of scripture and pick it apart intelligently, not just pick and choose whatever suits us. This means that sometimes, the bible will hurt our feelings and challenge us and we will be better people for it.

Farming for dissonance is important because we are not supposed to be chopped up people with a bunch of views that don’t match up. Through and through, we should be consistent.

I think a lot of our spiritual dissonance is sustained by bandwagon fandom. I want to be careful when I say what I am about to say because I am not about to attack new Christians for not knowing scripture (that is to be expected so don’t take it like that). That said, I like approximately 2 songs by the Brazilian artist, Seu Jorge but I wouldn’t call myself a Seu Jorge fan because I don’t know that much about his greatest hits or about him in general. Therefore, I hesitate to click that “like” button on facebook.

Too often, in a hyped up Christian culture, people are content to know very little about Jesus/Christianity and consider that a valid enough reason to change their religious view on facebook to “Christian.” When I see Christians who for YEARS have remained at the same level of knowledge about the faith, I get a little sad. Jesus’ followers were constantly asking Him questions, sitting at His feet, listening to His stories/teachings and even listening closely enough to write it down and talk about it years later (hence the gospel books: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). A FOLLOWER is at the very least curious about who they’re following and what they’re subscribing to. I think new Christians that ask questions and check out what’s in the bible are better off than old Christians who don’t care to know more.

Dissonance is not just unfortunate but I would argue that it is dangerous to the Christian. Lies and false doctrines can slap you around so much and have you on top of a building, ready to jump off simply because you don’t know any better. That terrifies me (as it should) and I think it should terrify ALL Of US.

We’ve got to let go of this idea that living by the spirit means chaos or disorderliness or that it means just feeling good. We’ve got to learn to start studying God and seeking the truth about Him. PEOPLE WILL GIVE YOU FALSE DOCTRINE even from the pulpit. Don’t trust this post. Don’t trust the next post you read. Go figure it out for yourself and trust in GOD (of course we can’t get away from people; we just have to be better at sifting through the myriad of ideas that come at us and deciding what to follow).

If Jesus was not Jesus, Satan would have quoted Psalm 91, and Jesus would have JUMPED OFF A BUILDING but because Jesus had endeavored to be a good student of the word, he was able to cite Deuteronomy 6:16 right back.

My aim is to continue to break down my beliefs. Where there is a hole in my philosophy, I should be happy when it is exposed because that only makes me a better believer.

I’ve heard this quote is by C.S. Lewis but I haven’t been able to confirm it. Whoever said it, I think it is a good note to end on:

I want to know God, not my idea of God; I want to know my neighbor, not my idea of my neighbor; I want to know myself, not my idea of myself.

To glorious dissonance (which is then swiftly followed by harmony)!

Why I wish the word “feminist” didn’t exist

I was having a casual night in with some friends when one of my male friends said something. I can’t remember what it is now but I responded by saying, “Sexist!” He responded by saying, “Feminist!” to which I said, “Proudly.” That was the end of that but our short exchange was oddly similar to two small children hurling insults at each other on the playground.

I think the word “feminist” is about as dirty as the word, “christian.” Of course it’s not the words that I want to wish away; rather, it is the negative connotations that have infected the original simple ideas. Take a poll asking what the word “christian” means and you will find the most beautiful and the most bizarre responses to a word that simply means “follower of Christ.”[1]  We’re basically just a group of people that live like Jesus did and He was a good, giving, smart person.

There are many people who call themselves Christians that I would never invite over for dinner and am embarrassed to even be associated with. There are many other people that call themselves Christians that I instantly fall in love with because I see traces of Jesus’ character in them.

The word “feminist” has become a sad reminder that the belief in equal respect for all sexes has become so abnormal, that those who subscribe to it should be called something. Why don’t more of us find it confounding that any man or woman who believes in equality is so striking, so bold, and so unorthodox that (s)he essentially becomes a new creature that should be named and studied in a lab? I think, like what has happened with the Christian movement, there are some feminists who take feminism to odd extremes and it taints the beauty of an originally simple message: women are people with value and men are people with value.

I cannot recall a particular time I “became” a feminist but here I am and, actually, Jesus is to blame. At the beginning of John 4, Jesus sat down at a well and had a conversation with a woman. By verse 39, she was evangelizing her entire town and bringing them to Jesus. Many people came to believe Jesus was the messiah because of the things she said. I don’t recall a point in John 4 where Jesus turned to her and said, “You know, as a woman, you really shouldn’t be preaching.” The Jesus I read about growing up looked a lot like a feminist.

The scriptures many men and (sadly) women use to devalue femininity in the Church are shoddy at best and oh so badly beaten out of context. It amazes me that so many people proudly hold them up as their main support for Christian-based sexism while ignoring the time, culture and surrounding verses that birthed those scriptures. As a result, a big portion of the Church of Jesus Christ has become a machine that drives the subjugation of my sex. I suspect that is not something Jesus would have wanted.

A Christian Feminism blog helped me a lot through their biblical series on women in leadership. It is perfect for people that want a more in-depth study of feminism as it relates to Christianity, specifically. I really enjoyed the article, “Forbidding women teaches or false teachers?

Back to the story I started with: that the word, “feminist” should be thrown back at me as though its negative connotation was on par with that of the word, “sexist” was sad to me. Sexism has destroyed many young girls.

When I think about the problem of modern day slavery (75% of reported human trafficking victims are female; 98% of sexual trafficking victims are female[2]), I cannot help but trace it back to the problem of sexism and patriarchy. What can we expect from a social structure that preaches that women are intrinsically worth less than men and were placed here for their pleasure?

As a young girl, I wanted to be so many things but I can distinctly remember being about 8 or 9 years old and wanting to be a “pastress” because, “actor/actress, pastor/pastress, right?” Then I left my bubble and found that there were sects of Christians (remember that word?) who didn’t even believe women should preach. I am still waiting for a scientific argument on the correlation between one’s genitalia and one’s ability to understand and convey a message.

I am thankful for people who actually do their research. I am thankful for a wonderful male pastor who encouraged me as I wrestled against a giant mountain of bad church tradition. We must be cognizant of the fact that we are spitting out commentary on a book that wasn’t written in our century, in our town or even in our language. I think we should approach forming conclusions a bit more reverently.


 

References

[1] Wikipedia – “Christian” (basic definition)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian#Etymology

[2] A21Campaign – “The Problem of Trafficking”

https://neutrinodata.s3.amazonaws.com/a21/userimages/TheProblem.pdf