It’s Not You, It’s Me


It hasn’t been working for a while now. The things I’ve heard about you do not seem to match reality.

I’ve come to see you differently.

I tried to keep this a secret. But I need to decompress.

As we all know, a lot has happened in the world of theology since the Bible came about. For a long time, we’ve read the Bible as if it fell straight from heaven, written directly to us, in language that we could completely understand. We overemphasized the divinely inspired aspect of scripture, limiting the reality that it was written by real people, in real places, at real times.

Much of this has affected the way that we have understood Judaism. We’ve read into the text that the Jewish religion is a works-based religion, whereby the people of God are trying to follow all the rules so that they can “get to heaven.”

The problem, though, as many have rightly shown in the last fifty years is that this is not at all a good picture of Second Temple Judaism.  Of course, there are those random Rabbi’s who were different than the typical, average Rabbi, but by and large, we’ve come to see that Judaism was more of a religion of grace, not at all worried about “getting to heaven.”

Jews already believed that they were the people of God. They were not primarily bent on asking the question of whether or not they were “right with God.” In fact, they were focused more on wondering when God was going to do what he had promised to do. However, as Jesus shows, God is the God of the entire world, not of Jews only.

This is why Jesus didn’t fit the bill for many of these Second Temple Jews. They were looking for a militaristic leader, who would be for them, one that would put them on top of the world. But this was not who Jesus was. Jesus showed that God is for all peoples, every single person.

Therefore, “Going to heaven” and “being right with God” were ideas read into the Bible. In essence, we asked questions of the Bible that the Bible wasn’t made to answer.  And, truly, many times we’ve come to good conclusions, getting “right answers to wrong questions,” as some have put it.

And because of this misinterpretation of Judaism, due to our interpretation of Scripture, we’ve misunderstood the meta-narrative of Scripture. We believed that the bible was speaking to a desire to be right with God, pinning works-based notions on Judaism, believing that Jesus came to destroy those ideas, responding with grace.

Believing so much that Judaism was wrong and that Christianity was right, we missed the reality that Christianity is simply the fulfillment of Judaism. Jews were looking forward to a Messiah, and Christians ultimately believe that Jesus was the Messiah that the Jews were awaiting.

Yes, the Bible does speak to the reality that we are saved from sin and death because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, but that is only part of the story. And yes, we are “right with God” because of Jesus, but that is not exactly the question the biblical authors were asking.

We’ve “missed the forest for the trees.”

The promise all along was that God would redeem all things. Jesus was God fulfilling this promise.

For all of human existence, human beings have recognized the reality that the earth is not perfect. People kill people. Natural disasters ruin lives. The powerful overpower the powerless. The strong use the weak. Disease. Cancer. Hate.

We all know that the world is not as it should be.

And this is the very core of what Scripture is talking about. Over and over again, we see that God is doing incredible things. Yes, he is speaking to real people, in real places, at real times, meaning that every situation isn’t as easy to grasp as some would make it seem. But underneath it all, we see that God is redeeming all things. As Israel and early Christians came to know God more, the more they saw that God was pulling humanity forward, to a new heavens and new earth.

Jesus, then, is God’s answer. Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah, the true King of the world. God is finally doing what he had been promising. Jesus inaugurates the promise of God, that all will be as it is supposed to be. Jesus has brought about a new reality, one that says God is already doing something, yet there will also be a time when it is complete.

God is redeeming all things.

You and me. But not just you and me.

All things.

That is the God I know, the God who cares about his creation, the God who is pulling the earth toward himself, the God who came to dwell among human beings, giving us the best representation of who God is, a gracious God who sacrificially loves human beings.


Justification by Orthodoxy


“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?” (James 2:14a)

“Did you hear about so-and-so?” “Yeah, he’s gone too far! We might as well say, ‘Farewell.'”

Too often, whether or not we want to admit it, we (Christians) function as though we believe that we are saved by what, in fact, we believe. We live as though our theology is what determines our salvation.

We are quick to say that we are not justified by our works. But the first person to question the doctrine of justification, in our honest opinion, is toeing the line of actually being a Christian. “Oh, it’s a slippery slope from there, friend,” we tell those individuals.

And with those that we agree, we talk about those “back-sliders,” saying, “Yeah, it’s sad; he’s going down that ‘Rob Bell-path.'” Or something similar.

We look at certain individuals as being less Christian, simply because they do not have the same theology as us. For some reason, we believe that our beliefs are the very beliefs that will secure our eschatalogical salvation.

We say, along with everybody else, “God told me that this is true.”

In the grand scheme of things, though, what matters? How we treated the man on the side of the road, or having the right doctrine? How we lived like Jesus, or nailed down our systematic theology? Are we justified by our faith, or by our theology?

Now, I am far from saying that we should not consider our own beliefs! Otherwise, I would not have pursued a Master of Divinity. Rather, I am suggesting that we should not be so quick to question other people’s salvation, simply because they don’t align with us theologically.

And no, neither am I’m saying that we should not discuss theology with those whom we disagree. But there is a time and a place for that. It should come from the heart. It should come through discussion, not through conceited bigotry.

We should be quick to love, not quick to judge. We are known for being judgmental to outsiders, yet we are just as judgmental to insiders.

May we sing along with Hillsong United, “So I won’t waste my breath, if it’s not for love.”