What I Learned in Church Today: Knowledge vs. Wisdom

Even a fool will be considered wise if he is silent; when he seals his lips [he will be considered] understanding.

Proverbs 17:28 (Stone Edition Tanakh)

There are instances when it takes courage to remain silent. It would be easier to speak up, but the right thing to do is to be silent.

Someone insults you. You can easily say something in return that would be the equivalent of a devastating knockout punch. You don’t say a word. Your silence is an expression of courage.

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
Daily Lift #463 “Courageous Silence”

After a short absence, Pastor Randy picked up his sermons on the Book of Acts today and Sunday School resumed its usual schedule. The sermon and topic in Sunday School was on Acts 19:23-41. You wouldn’t think a riot in Ephesus (the featured image above is supposed to be a riot) over the teachings of Paul and his associates on “the Way” and how the result of those teachings were cutting into the prophets of the idol-making silversmiths would provide me with much theological or doctrinal angst. Really, it should all be pretty straightforward stuff.

But there’s always something.

I provided the quotes above to illustrate how often I choose being silent rather than actually speaking my mind in Sunday School, because I might end up starting a small riot of my own. Not that I really want to, but because my opinions are so at odds sometimes with the people around me in church.

There was actually quite a lot I agreed with in how Pastor Randy framed his sermon. I think people of faith are at their best when the society around them/us challenges us, and we are often at our worst in a culture or nation that completely accepts us (we tend to get lazy and assimilate into the politically correct realm). Christians aren’t really persecuted in the United States. Try being a Christian in an African nation dominated by Muslims and then you’ll see what persecution is really like. Just because someone disagrees with you and calls you names doesn’t mean you’re being persecuted. That’s the limit of “persecution” most Christians in America experience today.

But then as Pastor was speaking and later on in Sunday School, I got to thinking about who I am in the midst of the local church. Pastor Randy and I had lunch about a week and a half ago, and in the course of discussing my recent blog posts, he asked me how I can call him “my Pastor” when I disagree with just about everything he says.

Actually, I’d been thinking about that, too. I don’t really disagree with 100% of what he says and I really do learn a lot, especially about Christian history, in what he says and teaches. But it is true that even my understanding of the core of the gospel message isn’t exactly the same as how it is taught by most Pastors, including Randy (To learn more, see my review of FFOZ TV’s episode The Gospel Message, as well as what I have to say about Scot McKnight’s book The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited).

ChurchOf course, during a sermon, one keeps quiet by definition but in Sunday School, I have to work on it. I know I’m risking being seen as a fool (and who knows, maybe I am) by even writing this when I should just keep my hands off the keyboard, but I don’t know if anyone else like me is recording their own Tent of David experience, and I figure someone should. So here I am.

There were a lot of good things that came out of both the sermon and the Sunday School teaching. But I did catch the Sunday School teacher engaging in what I might call “Christian Midrash” by his applying the phrase “the way” as recorded in Genesis 3:24 and Psalm 1:6 to how it’s used to formally describe the community of disciples of the Master in Acts 19:23. After all, the term “the Way” used to describe followers of Christ didn’t appear in the Bible until Acts 9:2. I spoke to the teacher before class to ask about his method of constructing his lessons and he gave me permission to bring the matter up during class. Not really sure it was worthwhile, but if we are to be critical of people in Messianic Judaism inserting meaning on one part of scripture based on earlier texts where it might not really fit, shouldn’t we extend the same “courtesy” inside the local church?

But the really big deal was the discussion on idolatry. Of course there would be tension between the ever-growing body of believers in and around Ephesus and the community that was supported by the worship of the goddess Artemus (Diana), and of course it makes sense to apply this topic to modern times and discuss the idols (anything we have in our lives that is more important than God) that we let rule our lives, but having just finished reading and reviewing Dr. Roy Blizzard’s book Mishnah and the Words of Jesus, I naturally thought of the following quote which I’ve previously cited:

Jesus has become an idol, if you will, our focus of attention, our focus of worship, and it seems that very few think of God anymore. Seldom do we hear anyone speak of the glory of God, his grandeur and mercy, the holiness of God, and the other many attributes and characteristics of God.

But remember, Blizzard also said this:

Please understand that I am not trying to lessen the importance of Jesus. What I am trying to do is emphasize that, in all the teachings of Jesus recorded for us in the gospels, his focus is not upon himself, what he is, what he is doing, or what he is to become. Additionally, Jesus has very little to say about God and, in particular, the Worship of God.

My point is that, in the teachings of Jesus, there is not all that much emphasis upward.

It seems in the process of promoting devotion to God through the Messiah, we’ve focused our entire attention on the Messiah, the doorway (“no one comes to the Father but through Me,” from John 14:6) and forgotten that the object was to “come to the Father.”

However, can we really say there are any other “idols” in the church? That seems like an odd question to ask. I suppose you might think of the Catholic Church or the Greek Orthodox Church, both of which use iconic symbols in their worship, but as Pastor Randy pointed out, anything that we put ahead of God in our lives can be considered an idol. Can Jesus be considered an idol if we focus exclusively on him and ignore God the Father? I don’t know. Some Christian songs that focus only on Jesus kind of bother me. The exclusive focus of some churches on the gospel as a plan of personal salvation without any thought to what else the gospel message says about what you are supposed to do with a “saved” life (the focus on Dr. Blizzard’s book relative to tzedakah) or the roles of Jewish and Gentile believers in preparing the world for the coming Messianic Age (often taught by the ministry First Fruits of Zion)…can any of that be considered an “idol?” Could “getting saved” and “getting other people saved” as our sole purpose in life actually result in our missing out of serving God in the other ways He actually intends?

The church I’m at right now is very study and very service oriented, but a lot of other churches aren’t. Am I supposed to bring stuff like that up in Sunday School? If I chose to introduce Blizzard’s or McKnight’s or Boaz Michael’s perspectives (as I understand them) to the discussion at hand, what would actually happen? Probably nothing good. And so, I keep silent, except in the one place I can claim any sort of ownership over which is this blog.

One of the questions in today’s Sunday School study notes asked:

How can God’s Word have a similar irritating effect on you or me, when the Holy Spirit uses it to affect us materially, or in our religious beliefs, or our pride?

The intended answer is “when the Holy Spirit uses the scriptures to convict us of our sins,” but my immediate response (which I never uttered) was, “when we find out the Bible says something different about God and people that church doctrine never teaches.”

No, I won’t be giving that answer. I only write about it here.

SilenceBut doesn’t that defeat the entire purpose of having a Tent of David experience? Probably, but offending people isn’t going to be very helpful in convincing people of an alternative point of view, so I suppose keeping quiet is the better part of valor. Pastor Randy reads my blogs so he’s quite familiar with my beliefs. I don’t doubt that I frustrate him terribly. I’m not trying to go out of my way to do so, but am I supposed to surrender my personal convictions on what I believe the Bible is saying or at least never write about them in a public forum such as the blogosphere?

I admit not knowing what to do. This form of communication helps me process the stuff that’s going through my head. I did allow myself to make one minor comment on exegesis and eisegesis in Sunday School (not calling it that, of course) and otherwise kept my mouth shut for the majority of class.

My opinion is that Pastor Randy is frustrated with me, in part, because he believes I’m an intelligent person but that I still don’t agree with how he teaches what the Bible is saying on a number of important subjects.

I’m sorry, I really am. I’m not trying to be a troublemaker. That’s why I have to remind myself of what the Proverbs say about silence and wisdom and how that’s reinforced in the comments of Rabbi Pliskin. I also have to remind myself that being considered intelligent by someone is a far cry from being considered wise. It might be better to practice silence in order to learn wisdom (a lesson I desperately need to apprehend). It would be ironic if that were my sole purpose in the local church, but then who knows what really goes on in the mind of God when He directs His attention to your life or mine?

31 thoughts on “What I Learned in Church Today: Knowledge vs. Wisdom”

  1. Pastor Randy’s question is well worth considering. In what way can he offer to you any sort of pastoral guidance? He cannot be your guru or primary teacher or discipler, because he does not represent or respect the discipline with which the Master Shepherd of heaven has already discipled you. He can only challenge and test you, and perhaps he can evaluate your degree of patience and tolerance, among other middot. This is probably the most pastoral service he can offer to you; and perhaps his contacts with the rest of the congregation could alert you to any problematic impact your questions might be having elsewhere, so that you might soothe any unintentionally-ruffled feathers. He does not have the answers to the questions you seek to study and answer, for the exploration of which you use your blog. Because of his own educational qualifications, he can perhaps offer additional relevant information that can stimulate your thought process on various topics. Otherwise, the primary meaning of your reference to him as “your” pastor is merely that he is the chief pastor of the community church at which you fellowship, which is more of a titular role than a practical one in terms of its limited application to you personally. Does this constitute a sufficient “pastoral” relationship?

    A related question is about what role is really appropriate for a so-called “shepherd” when he is in reality merely just one of the flock himself, and surrounded by other mature sheep? This perspective shifts the nature of the relationship away from anything like “nicos huper laios” or “episcopos” to something more like “primus inter pares” at best.

  2. I had a conversation with an elder at BI last night and he put things in perspective for me, though I have no idea of how to apply it: Everything should be done for the sake of Heaven (God.)

  3. I think what I said in a comment regarding another issue is also relevant here:

    “What we have come to understand through our own study, what we believe we have been taught with the Spirit’s help, can be either confirmed or corrected as we discuss them with other believers. That kind of learning and testing rarely happens in the traditional church setting where denominational theology is used as a confining framework and any difference to that framework isn’t tolerated.”

    Your sunday school class is organised to promote predetermined beliefs and is not condusive to discussing and assessing ideas outside of that predetermined context. Presenting ideas that may challenge the accepted doctrinal framework will rarely (if ever) be fruitful.

  4. If all we do in our SS classes is create an atmosphere where everyone is in agreement, then we (teachers) have failed miserably. I tell my class that if they leave with more questions than answers, then I have succeeded.

    I have been exceedingly surprised at how my class of 30 somethings (most of whom are lifelong Southern Baptists) have taken to re-looking at the text in its cultural context. (Really, the first Pentecost was not in Acts 2?)

    Methinks you need to be more vocal in class.

    “As iron sharpens iron …” – that sharpening is caused by … friction!

    To paraphrase the ending of a midrashic tale, “if no one will disagree with me, how will anyone learn?”

    Soli Deo Gloria

  5. “If I chose to introduce… to the discussion at hand, what would actually happen? Probably nothing good. And so, I keep silent…” Why? Isn’t the whole purpose to discuss, to flesh things out? And so what if there ends up a disagreement? Sometimes we just have to accept the differences, but if such differences are never brought up, how will one know? How will one progress?

    I’m sure you’re not the type to purposely try to upset things. But, even in the Tent of David experience you are on, how do they know which peg of the tent you are? Who knows, you may bring something to the table worthwhile, or enlightening, or just food for thought.

    I’m very diplomatic and appeal to both sides. My wife, can be seen as very curt, blunt, no-nonsense-and-to-the-point. Sometimes, I need to learn from her to get results, and sometimes she needs to learn from me to gain favour. Guess what I’m saying is, sometimes you need to rock the boat, but not to try to toss people out, just wake them up!

  6. @PL: I’ve considered much of that and agree that in many ways, Randy and I are on different wavelengths. In some ways, he has no idea where I’m coming from, but I believe that it’s important to hang in there. I’m not even sure why except that I can’t relinquish what I know to be true.

    @Steve: For the sake of Heaven. Yes, thaT’S why I believe I’m doing what I’m doing. How can I be doing this for me?

    @Onesimus: I had a very long conversation today with a good friend about the Holy Spirit and how sensitivity to the Spirit is highly variable among human beings, thus knowledge of the Bible is highly variable among human beings.

    @Jim K: Beyond a certain point, I could end up presenting my opinion in a way that would seem only offensive to my SS class. Why would they want to even consider listening to what I have to say if they can only perceive it as the words of a troublemaker? If they trusted me and that trust led to them seriously considering exploring my perspective, that would be different.

    @Marko: My philosophy in terms of this blog is to rock the boat and to shake up the establishment in order to promote thinking and hopefully change. In church, I’m in the minority position and they have no reason to listen to me rocking their boat unless they believe anything I have to say is valid. Few if any are in that position right now. My friend thinks they may never be, but I’ll have to consider his words.

  7. “I had a very long conversation today with a good friend about the Holy Spirit and how sensitivity to the Spirit is highly variable among human beings, thus knowledge of the Bible is highly variable among human beings.”

    But the Holy Spirit isn’t variable and it is HIS ability that is required. Our sensitivity shouldn’t be the issue; it comes down to our desire and willingness to learn and follow His ways – the rest is up to Him. In other words, to what extent are we willing to be sensitive to Him? How willing are we to trust Him to make Himself known?

  8. Without having Yeshua in the midst of my Biblical teachings about God they become bland to me for some reason. My new Bible is helping because it shows where you can find hints of Yeshua in the Torah and other places in the Bible before he made his appearance …he is in every book of the Bible.

    So, I have the thinking that God, Yeshua, and the Holy Spirit are one. If I focus too much on one more than the other then I think it is okay because they are one. They have different characteristics, but to me they are still one. Yeshua helps me to understand God better.

    Forgive me if that’s not the right the way to look at it, it’s just the way I look at it.

  9. The posing of your dilemma is also my dilemma. Everyone in this area knows my faith perspective is “different,” “Jewish,” etc. As such, I am a bit of an enigma. I write a column for the religion page of the local paper called “A Well-Rooted Perspective.” I’ve published a book and speak on the subject of the Holocaust. I’ve done workshops on the Holocaust here in town, at the Catholic high school and have hosted Holocaust survivor speaking events at local churches. I teach “Night” and “Anne Frank” at a Christian school. I light the menorah in my window at Chanukah and make no secret of the fact that my family and I “light the candles” on Friday nights.

    I see no one “converting” to my view, per se, and yet, there is impact, there is ground gained. I know it, can feel it. If nothing else, I feel my impression on people is acceptable enough [not overly arrogant] that I am in some way “inoculating” them with a kind of “anti-anti-Semitic serum” whereas they would not be inoculated against antisemitism were it not for my transparency with regard to “Jewishness” (for lack of a better manner of expression) of my Messianic orientation. To have discussion and dialogue, especially with your pastor and others, is to make “things Jewish” familiar to them, and it is unfamiliarity, ignorance, that leads to prejudice and intolerance. I think we have impact whether we know it or not simply by stating where we stand on things, especially when done calmly and knowledgeably. Whether with “preparatory” or “preventative” significance, I think there is more going on than meets the eye in this matter when we dialogue, speak up, remind, encourage. As long as its done in non-alarmist, edifying ways. In the spiritual realm, who knows but that our work is not having long-term impact notwithstanding the absence of short term evidence of impact.

    Keep up the good work, James. You are, perhaps, preparing the site for David’s tent, prior to actually setting it up.

  10. Onesimus said: Our sensitivity shouldn’t be the issue; it comes down to our desire and willingness to learn and follow His ways – the rest is up to Him. In other words, to what extent are we willing to be sensitive to Him? How willing are we to trust Him to make Himself known?

    That’s pretty much the same thing. Even below the level of awareness, if we aren’t willing to be open, then the Holy Spirit isn’t going to “override” us.

    @Jill H: No worries. Sometimes even trying to figure out a way to express some of these concepts is pretty difficult. We’re here to talk, share, and learn.

  11. Dan, Pastor Randy lived in Israel for fifteen years, so he is already familiar with many things Jewish. He has a heart and compassion for the Jewish people, so I could hardly teach them what he already knows so well. The “gap,” if you will, is in understanding that the Judaism of the first century was not eliminated and replaced with “the Church”. He has “issues” with modern Judaism that I can understand but which inhibit him from seeing that the faith that Paul, Peter, and James had in Yeshua was both Jewish and a Judaism and that such a faith extends without diminishment into the future.

  12. ““…if we aren’t willing to be open, then the Holy Spirit isn’t going to “override” us.”

    And that brings up other questions about the condition of our relationship with God and whether there is a genuine relationship in place.

    God has done everything He can do to bring man into relationship with Him the rest is up to us, whether we are willing to allow Him into our lives. If we aren’t willing He doesn’t force His way.

    Relationship remains on His terms and if we aren’t willing to let Him into our lives to bring us into line with those terms, there can be no relationship, because we are incapable of fulfilling those terms without Him.

  13. James said “But it is true that even my understanding of the core of the gospel message isn’t exactly the same as how it is taught by most Pastors, including Randy ”

    In my opinion this is the main key. It’s the difference between living as if the Messianic Age has arrived versus believe in Jesus and your sins will be forgiven. There’s really nothing wrong with your sins being forgiven but forgiven unto what is the difference too between a Messianic view of the Gospel.

    Maybe we should challenge more the Gospel message because I think this is the core. Yes believing that Jesus died for our sins is important and a starting point but to me that’s immature to stay within that realm because your sins be forgiven is tied into the Kingdom of God which isn’t taught much; what is the Kingdom of God, or we or are we not suppose to live as if the Kingdom has arrived, how do Jews and non Jews relate to the Kingdom of God etc.

  14. @James — Just out of idle curiosity, have you any idea about when Pastor Randy thinks the replacement occurred or became effective? What does he think about the validity of the Torah-zealous Acts 21 believers? Were they all deluded and just hadn’t yet “got with the program”?

    I’m not sure I even want to ask if you could briefly characterize his “issues” with modern Judaism (or which forms of it), though I do have an almost morbid curiosity to know what his views would mean when push comes to shove and he must decide whether to defend the Jewish right to live as Jews and our right to live as a sovereign people in the land of Israel, or to dismiss these rights, or to remain silent and inactive while other destroyers attack. This question of “Who is on HaShem’s side?” is not merely an academic one. One does not need to live in pre-WW2 Nazi Germany to consider such issues. But the views of German Christians predisposed most of them to make the wrong choices then; and the views of many modern Christians already are having similar impact now.

    The Purim season is close upon us; and the spirit of Amalek still ranges across the earth. How falls the lottery; and how shall we acquit ourselves?

  15. Dan said “As long as its done in non-alarmist, edifying ways. In the spiritual realm, who knows but that our work is not having long-term impact notwithstanding the absence of short term evidence of impact.”

    That’s an issue too how much truth to provide? Truth is truth and nothing but the truth at once can cause offense. But holding back on the truth isn’t truth.

    I remember last year I would have weekly meetings with a Pastor at work. When we were discussing my views he would get very up tight and angry. I would express things such as Isaiah 2 where Gentiles will be keeping Sabbath in the Messianic Age. And he would comment arrogantly ‘are you saying if I don’t keep sabbath now, I am not saved?’ That wasn’t my point though, my point was truth. I never implied that he should be keeping the Sabbath now, but implied if the Messianic Age was here right now as we speak he would be.

  16. Perhaps the stirring you feel on when to question and when to keep silent is God stirring your spirit to seek more understanding. I pray that God would give you the wisdom to discern clearly publicly questioning your spiritual authority from a place of true curiosity and understanding versus the place of contention and distrust that creates division. I too, at times, struggle with this. Personally, I know that God has used this situation within me to teach me how to trust the guidance He has placed me under. It’s more important that I submit to the authority over me and trust that God will take care of inconsistencies than it is to be the lone ranger. After all, I’m just a small part of Christ’s church. Hope my words help. I have always felt that your writings are coming from a place of seeking to know more of God and honestly, have also sensed your frustration that the answers aren’t always clearly found from those you would expect to find them. As I said, I can relate to that. I trust that your persistence and diligence in responding to the hunger God placed within you to know more will take you exactly to the place God is directing you to. Thank you for your willingness to be transparent. God bless! 🙂

  17. @Onesimus: I think it’s possible to have an authentic relationship with God but at varying degrees of quality or closeness vs. distance. Yes, it depends on the state of our heart and our desire to draw nearer but ultimately, we’re not the ones to judge who is “in” and who is “out.”

    @Macher: Challenging the definition of the gospel message is one of the more difficult things to get Christians to accept because it’s been drilled into them that it means exactly one thing and has no broader scope. The idea that the gospel must mean only a plan for personal salvation is desperately valued to the point of being almost overly self-focused, at least by some Christians.

    @PL: Pastor Randy doesn’t characterize himself as a replacement theorist and his eschatology as a supporter of progressive revelation/dispensationalism fully allows for a future Israel or at least a future Jewish people to exist and be literally the 144,000 form the twelve tribes we see in Revelation 7 and 14.

    However, he believes with the “birthday” of “the Church” in Acts 2, there was a fundamental shift in the plan of God going forward to where all of the requirements of the Torah began to fade away with that generation. He believes the Book of Acts records a “transitional period” in the history of “the Church” where that generation of Jewish believers still adhered to the practices of the Torah, but that the Torah (or much of it) was never intended to go forward in time with the Jewish believers.

    The first time I mentioned the thousands of Jewish believers, all zealous for the Torah in Acts 21, he actually paused to consider that thought, but ultimately, he still maintains that Torah observance and particularly Rabbinic Judaism has no place in the life of the modern Jewish believer. He deeply respects the Jewish people he knows and has friendships with but he sees Jewish observance as a burden that can’t possibly be a part of the saving grace of Christ.

    He’s no anti-Semite. I’ve seen him come to tears when relating his conversations with Holocaust survivors and there is a part of him that wishes he could have stayed in Israel, but his fundamental theology is still Evangelical Christianity.

    @Dionne: Thanks for the encouragement. Actually, I had a good conversation yesterday afternoon with a friend and we discussed all of this. Community is never easy, especially when you don’t quite fit in, and maybe I’ll never see any progress in my making a contribution in church, but who’s to say what God has in mind in the next days, weeks, months, and even years?

  18. Hi James. In the last 3 or 4 weeks, I have been talking to some friends from different “churches”, such as a Catholic guy, a Baptist guy, a non-active-Catholic guy and an non-active-non-Catholic-neither-Evangelic guy. With all of them, I have been “successful” in starting a well behaved conversation about the Jewishness of Jesus. All of them have gained some understanding of how Jesus is actually Yeshua. All of them are showing eagerness to learn more about Yeshua as a Jewish Rabbi, living in the 1st century.

    How did it happen? How could all these men are interested in this “new” (old actually) way of looking at Christ? Well, I think that I’m trying to build a bridge between this “new” (old actually) understanding and what they have been taught all their lives.

    Slowly, I have been showing them that Jesus never was called “Jesus”, since English, Spanish, Portuguese, etc… did not exist as languages at that time. I have begun showing how Jewish Yeshua really was. How Yeshua spoke and taught as a Jewish Rabbi does. How Hebrew as the language chosen and designed by HaShem is the “real deal” when trying to understand the Bible, which in turn is actually a “Jewish book”…

    In other words, without going initially in “deep” theological beliefs, I have been placing all sorts of “Jewish” rocks in order to place the foundations of this “bridge” that I intend to build with each one of them. Slowly, but surely, all kind of questions about the weightier matters have arisen, and of course, the truth has been told to them about such things…

    None of our conversations have been confrontative at all. Now, I have 4 friends with whom I can teach more and more about Yeshua. Two of them have started to join me at my congregation on Wednesdays night when our Pastor is teaching about Yeshua using FFOZ Chronicles of the Messiah.

    I think that people is in need to hear the truth. But, we have to be wise in how to approach them and how to feed their needs little by little.

    Of course, my personal situation is not the same as yours, but I’m sure you’ll find the way…

  19. Thanks, Alfredo. I’ve had many “well-behaved conversations” on this topic with Pastor Randy and a smattering with a few other folks. Randy is a highly knowledgable and well educated person, so he’s operating at a level of sophistication that surpasses the average individual in church by quite a bit.

    Sunday school doesn’t offer much of an opportunity for feedback since the teaching model used requires a minimum of response from the class. I’ve managed to have a few private conversations with folks about the “Jewishness of Jesus” (which isn’t really revolutionary to most Christians) but it only goes so far. Considering I’m on their home ground and that resistance to my primary perspective has been pretty steady over the past nearly year and a half I’ve been in attendance, it doesn’t seem reasonable for me to push harder than I am already.

    Trust is required just to get someone to listen to you and take the message seriously. Trust is built on relationship which, beyond polite casual conversation with most of the people in church, I don’t have. It’s possible there are people in this church who would be interested in at least some of my viewpoint, but I don’t think I’ve met them yet.

  20. “…ultimately, we’re not the ones to judge who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out.’”

    But we should be the ones to judge whether we individually are “in” or “out”.

    “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.”

  21. “In or out” with God. Are we in relationship with Him on His terms or not? Without that relationship there will be no salvation.

    As for “religious” community – the only community that counts with regard to eternity is being in Him, being in Christ/Messiah, which comes back to relationship with Him on His terms.

  22. I’m not sure how we got on the topic of salvation when I’ve been writing on the struggle to share some of what I’ve learned in a Messianic context in a Baptist church. The discussion I created is focused on relationships with other human beings. Whether I choose to adopt their theology or they chose to adopt mine or if we even are willing to listen to one another, I don’t think endangers or beings into question anyone’s salvation.

  23. James, I think that your comment about how listening to another doesn’t endanger anyone’s salvation may be part of the issue after all. We live in a very religious community, a tradition that is very anti-Semitic and closed to “outsiders”. The friends we have that are willing to discuss the different ways we view things compared to the way they view things will admit that at times they feel like they’re “playing with fire” and that they’re risking losing their standing before Heaven. Why? Somehow the idea of being willing to even hear someone else out could be considered as “evil” or “sinful”, as if they’ve been sneaking off to the necromancer’s house to learn her secrets or something. When we create communities that surround themselves only with others who think and believe just like we do, we begin to be both arrogant and afraid of other viewpoints. I’ve had friends say to me that they’re afraid that if I’m right in my perspective that it would mean that my friend is wrong and they’re “going to hell”.
    Personally I don’t quite understand how one equals the other, but I see in some of my friends and neighbors that this must be the case in their perspective. I don’t have to understand it in order to accept it.

    You are correct in that the relationship is critical. I have had a few friends become quite upset with me over my views, but because we’ve established a strong friendship and love for one another, I know that when she’s mad that I pointed out that “Peter and John went to pray – where did they go to pray? To the Temple. It says so right here. See?” To which she responds “Why would they do that? Didn’t they KNOW?” and my reply, which angered her to no end, “Didn’t they know what?” This conversation can only take place in an atmosphere of love and respect – relationship. Sure she didn’t speak to me for 3 months or more. That’s okay. It took another 2 years before we addressed that topic again. But I love her dearly and she loves me, and we have more to our friendship than our faith. Maybe that’s part of the ticket in your Sunday School class. Establishing relationships with others based on who you are and who they are, and acknowledging that you have a faith in common even though there are differences in perspectives. Like to garden or do landscaping work, for example? Maybe someone else does too and you can talk about these things. Maybe go out to lunch after church one day, or meet on another day just to discuss the things you have in common, other than your faith.

    Just a thought or two…

  24. Wow! You must stick out like a sore thumb in your neighborhood, Lisa. 😀

    Seriously, that’s really incredible. Sounds like folks believe that the “gospel of salvation” includes all of their theology and not just a fundamental core. If you deviate on one little detail (such as John and Peter praying at the Temple), then you might go to hell. It’s all or nothing, which leaves very little room for discussion.

    I don’t think the people I’ve been associating with at church are quite that inflexible, at least in the manner you describe, but when you’re used to thinking certain things have long been established as “the truth,” hearing someone throw a bit of doubt into the mix usually elicits an immediate response of rejection. The trick is to get folks to open up enough to at least consider the possibility while opening up their Bibles.

    Of course, they would probably also go to Pastor Randy and ask his opinion, and they’re more likely to consider him an authoritative source. After all, he’s the Pastor. I’m just a guy.

  25. I just had a talk with the Senior Pastor of the church which sponsors the high school I teach at. He read my column in the paper about Passover, etc. When I asked him why he thought Christians were so indifferent to the things that Jesus did, he said something along the lines of: “We don’t have time to teach about what Jesus did because he may come back any minute.” I’ve heard this often. It’s as if we’re all in such a hurry trying to “Beat the Clock” that knowing Yeshua intimately should not be prioritized. Anyone else observe the same?

  26. I’ve never heard that one before, Dan. Usually the Church really believes its teaching what Jesus taught, but filtered heavily through Christian interpretive tradition.

    1. Dan wrote about pastors and other christians who say “We don’t have time to teach about what Jesus did because he may come back any minute.”

      What I have perceived is that Yeshua’s teachings are not really discussed much in sermons, since I think that pastors feel “somehow” awkward when they read these kind of words from Yeshua’s lips: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and PUTS THEM INTO PRACTICE is like a wise man who built his house on the rock” Mat 7:24

      I think that pastors somehow prefer the Pauline teachings, where they (wrongly) find “theological” base for the “creation” and the “dynamics” of the “church” as it is now known. Since Paul’s real teachings are difficult to understand without a good understanding of Judaism, pastors can surely find “open fields” to make interpretations that fit into their theological structures.

  27. Yes, we do “stick out” and to be fair, not the whole community is as I described. There are several different denominations represented in our town, but there is one very strong majority and they don’t even associate among themselves over certain topics. Of the one primary denomination, there are at least 8 different churches and each have something different than the others that make them “right” and the others “wrong”. My children used to ask me with great confusion why there is the original church then “first” and “second” and “third” and so on. But after being here 17 years, people are kinder to us than they once were. In fact, one local Dr stopped me last week and said that because I’ve worn “that thing on your head all this time” (a head covering) that he thinks people might have more respect for us because we’re consistent and maybe, maybe some might even consider us a little more holy. LOL Oh wow.

    You said that people are at their best when they are challenged and tend to fall to their worst when they’re comfortable and unchallenged. I couldn’t agree with you more. While we have a lot in common with our neighbors, we have some significant differences too. They challenge us and we challenge our friends. It’s what makes us stronger in the long run. But it can be an awfully lonely place to be for very long, and a harder place to grow up if you’re a young one. Not being allowed to go to your friends’ house or them intentionally serving you food that they know you don’t eat and you’re not sure what to do because you’re 8 years old – that stinks. BUT as much as it stinks it’s part of the challenge that either makes us or breaks us. It’s not persecution. How else do you develop certain middot if you’re not challenged in those areas? A tree doesn’t become strong because it’s never experienced a windy day. The tree is strong because it’s weathered many storms. May we all grow strong for sake of the Kingdom.

  28. I like what you said, Lisa.I wish you lived in my community.

    James, I keep wondering – how does a Pastor have all that time to meet with individual people for an hour or two each week? You could only do that with one or two. Maybe. My dad was always pretty busy doing Pastor stuff.

    My Pastor nows – I’m lucky to get a cuppa coffee with every month or so. They are busy people.

  29. Oh, he’s busy alright. He used to block off about 90 minutes every Wednesday night for me, his last appointment of the day, but he ended up having to put someone else in their who needed more “Pastoral support.” Over the past several weeks, we’ve met for lunch once, but that’s about it.

    In addition to his normal duties, he’s studying for his doctorate degree through a distance program with Master’s College. He also does a lot of research for his Sunday morning and evening sermons, so I don’t know where he finds the time, either.

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