Today's Gospel reading is one of my favorites from Luke (10:25-37) — the story of the Good Samaritan. Indeed, I have paraphrased it many times in my life. It is, for me, an incredibly powerful, yet very simple story of life and how to treat others. And one that is often ignored when talking about groups we don't "agree" with or believe are against what we believe.
In ancient times, the Jewish people and the Samaritans were enemies. They didn't like each other and didn't think the other group knew anything about God. They certainly didn't think of each other as God's children — or even God's distant second or third cousins.
And that's why Jesus chose a Samaritan as the one who showed mercy. It was a multi-faceted message to the people, just as it is a multi-faceted message to us. And we still don't really get it. The message is simply this, whosoever shows mercy is our brother. Whoever shows mercy is our neighbor. No matter the color, religion, sexual orientation, shape, size or species. It's not a debatable thing. WHOEVER SHOWS US MERCY IS OUR NEIGHBOR and must be given/shown love.
Not an easy thing to do in our judgemental, prejudice, scarcastic world, but something we must all strive for. One of God's great commandments and one of the greatest commandments according to our loving, compassionate leader Jesus. [Matthew 22:37-39, Mark 12:27-31]
Jesus stories are a challenge to us. Not to emulate our human leaders, but to emulate our heavenly leader. To give good, mercy and a blessing to all we meet, no matter whether they are Christians, athiests, Muslims or ... It's not a request, it's a commandment.
I've read all the stuff about the earthquake in Haiti. I've read all the vitrol from the alleged "Christians" who have spoken more like the devil they invoke than the Prince of Peace and lover of all people. And I have read about all the people reaching out to Haiti with help, money and real prayers. And once again, I find myself both proud and ashamed of being called a Christian. Proud because of all the help people are so generously sending to Haiti. And ashamed because of the comments being made by supposed Christians like Limbaugh and Robertson.
And I find myself angry at the bullsh(*# coming from the mouths of those who some people consider leaders in the Christian community who are instead voicing words of hate, racism and violence. They are bearing false witness to the people of Haiti and to those of us Christians who really believe what the Prince of Peace said.
IMHO, it's time for real Christians everywhere to stand up and let the world know that people like Robertson, Limbaugh and other whose claim to Christianity is shaky at best, do not speak for real Christians. Whether you are conservative, moderate or liberal, it's time to show the world what real Christians are like and to remove these pretenders from the spotlight.
Let's stop watching, listening to or giving response to these hate-mongers and put the real Jesus in the spotlight. The Son of Man who always supported and protected the poor, hurt, wounded and meek from leaders who were leading people astray.
Let's let Robertson, Limbaugh and others know that for REAL Christians, Jesus comes first and we want Jesus in the spotlight instead of hatred and racism. All those in favor of putting Jesus (and love) back in Christianity, raise your hands and your voices.
“The greatest ignorance is to reject something you know nothing about.”
After reading two beliefnet blogs (Beck, Bath and Bizarre and some of the blogs on Brit Hume I started wondering...when did Christianity become so intolerant and Christians so arrogant? And where is that reflected in the teachings of Jesus? Nowhere that I know of. Yet those who are in the limelight continue to give Christianity a bad name and the rest of us, who claim to be loving Christians, do nothing to stop it. As a matter of fact, many people just love listening to these un-Christ-like "Christians" and supporting their rants. It makes me almost ashamed to call myself a Christian and know that other people are afraid of me because of those intolerant, arrogant, in-your-face, conservative Christians who believe like Beck and Hume.
Well I, for one, would like to stand up and say, loud and proud, that I am a TOLERANT, LOVING CHRISTIAN WHO SUPPORTS ALL RELIGIONS AND THE GOOD THEY DO FOR THE WORLD. Instead of bashing other religions or using the third grade, "my God is better than your God" argument, I choose to learn about other religions and try to understand them.
There is an old saying that goes, "It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt." Those "Christians" or those who call themselves Christians bash other religions without knowing enough about them to really intelligently comment on them. Thus, they continue to show their own stupidity. Unfortunately, their loud comments make other people believe all Christians are as ignorant and foolish as they are. IMHO, if you don't know anything about any other religions, you shouldn't comment on them at all.
Many people follow the tenants of Christianity without following the "religion" and they are turned off by those blatant "Christians" who are in their face and anti everything that doesn't exactly follow their beliefs and dogma.
IMHO, it's time to start following Jesus' teachings rather than religion's rules. Of course, that requires us to spend much time learning exactly what Jesus taught. And while we're busy learning, we will be too busy to bash others. Sounds like a good way to become better Christians and better world citizens.
I must say, this quote from Bhagavad-Gita As It Is best describes my beliefs about God and getting closer to God. "God is the same in every religion. He is called different names in different faiths; just like people from around the world see the sun from different angles and call it by different names. Just as all rivers all eventually reach the ocean by their different courses, so we call all reach God through our different methods."
Or this from Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, "A man can reach the roof of a house by stone stairs or a ladder or a rope-ladder or a rope or even by a bamboo pole. But he cannot reach the roof if he sets foot now on one and now on another. He should firmly follow one path. Likewise, in order to realize God a man must follow one path with all his strength. But you must regard other views as so many paths leading to God. You should not feel that your path is the only right path and that other paths are wrong. You mustn’t bear malice toward others."
Then, of course, there's the good old Golden Rule which appears in almost every religion on this beautiful earth. Check some of them out here. It's time we started following the Golden Rule — and teaching it to our children once again — and demanding it from our "celebrities" and leaders.
I was reading about another "Christian" (this one was the mayor of Birmingham, Alabama) who was found guilty of taking bribes. I find it interesting that so many supposed "Christians" are accused of or found guilty of various crimes while many of those people Christians revile are living good, safe, honest lives around them.
It seems to me that before all these "Christians" who are saying it's wrong to be gay or athiest open their mouths, they need to look in the mirror. If God is going to judge us all, maybe you might want to be careful what you say. Make sure you are living your beliefs -- ALL of your beliefs.
Today All Saint's Day is celebrated in many churches. It's a day to honor all the people who gave their lives for God and the gospel. But more than that, it's a day to honor all who gave their lives. So what's a saint?
When Paul talks about saints in the epistles, he isn't talking about formally recognized, officially sanctioned "saints." He's talking about those who gave their lives to following Jesus' teachings. Since there was no formal church, these people weren't asked to follow any church dogma or organized rules. As a matter of fact, many of the people Paul talks about were not even dead. Paul talks about saints as those who follow Jesus. So in Paul's way of thinking, all those who follow Jesus' teachings are saints, living and dead.
In times past, and in the Catholic church, saints were considered to be "special" people who are designated as such by the pope after much study, reflection, and examination. But prior to the Catholic church (yes, there was a time when the church was just a community of followers of Jesus and not a formal "church"), the community of believers honored those who had been killed for following the gospel. It is thought that "All Saint's Day" as an official church holy day began around the fourth century.
So if you're not Catholic, what do you celebrate? Can we celebrate all those who have given their lives to God no matter their religion? An interesting idea. Can we celebrate any modern saints? What about simple people like my brother, who passed away this summer. Although he is not a saint according to any "church," he was a "saint" to his family and friends. He spent his life helping others and giving what he could. Was he perfect? No. But neither were all of the other saints, formally acknowledged or not.
Even Saint Paul acknowledges that he is flawed. And many others both in the bible and officially sanctioned "saints" didn't start out as those great, noble folks. Most of them started out as roudy, unkind, arrogant, error-prone people. They were all "missing the mark" (the real meaning of the word "sin").
God doesn't call "perfect" people to be his saints. And many of the people he calls never totally become "perfect" in their lifetimes. But then, the word often translated as "perfect" in the bible, as in Jesus' comment, "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." [Matthew 5:48 NAS], is actually the Greek word telios.
Telios doesn't mean "perfect" the way the English language defines perfect. In our dictionaries, "perfect" is defined as " being entirely without fault or defect..." [Merriam-Webster online]. But the ancient Greek word we translate, telios, means "to make complete, whole... to be fully mature." And using the correct word makes an amazing difference in the interpretation of Jesus' words.
Think about it. Instead of Jesus saying you are to be "entirely without fault or defect" like your Father in heaven, he is saying you are to be "... fully mature" like your Father in heaven. Gives a completely different meaning to the saying. And makes it possible for us flawed humans to actually achieve the "perfection" of Jesus and the Father in heaven.
None of us is perfect no matter what we do or say. But those who have given love, helped others, brought hope, and given their lives to do good are all saints — even my brother ... and you if you follow Jesus' teachings. Not the "church's" or "religion'" teachings, follow Jesus' teachings and strive to be complete, whole and fully mature.