Sunday Morning Musings: As I was perusing the Bible this week, I was struck once again by the number of laws that it contains. Someone once commented that there were over 600 laws (thou shalts and thou shalt nots). Thinking that to be lots and knowing that many were from what is called by many Christians as the “Old Testament”, I felt some relieve when told that many of those “laws” really didn’t apply. Yet, many were still in force and even news added over the centuries. For the life me, I never understood why we always ate fish sticks on Friday. Yet, many households will not eat meat on Fridays, and so fish it is. I don’t recall reading that in my Bible, but then again not all laws are necessarily biblical in their origin.
Not sure of its source, I read somewhere this week: “Have you been baptized to have your sins washed away by the blood of Christ? If you haven’t, then you still have every sin that you have ever committed. With your sins you can’t go to heaven to be with God when you die, but you will have to go to the other place where there will be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth forever and ever”. (Sorry the source is lost to me). When I read it I was hoping that the writer had his/her (their) tongue firmly planted in one’s cheek.
No doubt the Bible can be interpreted to express the above. But then the question of literalness raises its ugly head. There have to be certain parts that one can only say that we don’t understand and therefore let’s call it mystery. I enjoy mystery about God as much as anyone, but claiming literalness on one hand and mystery in the same breath, doesn’t do it for me. We can’t take some things as literal and give less than literal meaning to that which we choose.
For example, we are told in many places throughout the Bible that we should/must obey God. Not to obey God is to choose to turn away from God. Sounds straight forward and leads to the idea of substitutionary atonement, i.e. Jesus died for our sins. So I am left thinking that I really don’t have to obey God just believe in Jesus.
Of course, we can then begin to parse each and every word – and like former president Clinton we can ask what is meant by the word “is” and so on. For me the first question I have to ask has to do with my understanding of God – if I am to obey God, what does this mean?
If I view God as the judge, or any other word that might personify and create a “being”, even a supernatural one, I believe that we still will miss the point. What does it mean to do what God wants us to do? If I say that God is love (as does the Bible, by the way), I obey love, I trust love in that I have to be loving even when I don’t feel like it, to those I don’t feel like loving as well as those I do love.
Obeying God is not a matter of keeping this law or that, of eating bacon or not, as Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians: without love I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.