My subconscious mind was narrating something I already understood to be true. Over and over, it was weaving an image of what I needed to come to grips with in myself. The smallness of the System I had known to address the bigness of the world. The smallness of God as I had known God... The dream was an invitation to something bigger. It was a declaration of the position I was learning to take outside the world as I had known it. It was a manifestation of my growing heart to be accounted with outsiders and those on the margins. Mine was a nightmare which helped point me toward greater light and greater truth. And it didn't leave me alone until I was truly ready to wake up.
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I have found that it's kind of impossible to deeply and genuinely comfort the afflicted without (at least somewhat) afflicting many of the comforted. The reality of things is that many of us have been comforted falsely. Many have taken comfort and refuge in things which prove to be ugly and abusive. To share in the Light, then, means exposing the Darkness which has masqueraded or postured itself as light. You can't turn a light on without seeing things you couldn't see before, and the same sun that melts wax can harden clay. The response depends on the material. So it becomes fairly impossible to share true beauty, or to authentically nurture without rattling the cages of those who claim to be free.
n one view, Jesus is perfect theology, and he completely defines God, while the Spirit of God is always reminding us of this - teaching us and leading us down the path of Jesus’ way... But in the other view? Well, Jesus does nothing to change our baseline understanding of God, and the Spirit has gone rogue - crafting escapist experiences for those who’ve joined God's religious team, so that they can experience a “father” more like the one they had already assumed before Jesus even entered the picture.
There are a lot of beautiful similarities and consistencies between Jewish and Christian thought. And it's only natural - Christianity stems from Judaism, both historically and spiritually.
What we don't talk about so often... are the awkward similarities. The similarities that exist which a "plain reading of scripture" (which so many Christians claim to favor) would cast some suspicion on. If you are a Christian who accepts the revelation of God in Jesus, there are a number of ideas and viewpoints rooted in the Old Testament which you might expect to shift, evolve, or at least become highly qualified once confronted with Jesus in the New. Jesus set this precedent himself throughout the gospels, and the early church continued in his ethic under his own instruction to "bind and loose" by the Spirit with "the keys to the kingdom."
So, without further ado, I present:
AWKWARD SIMILARITIES BETWEEN JUDAISM
AND MODERN EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANITY
1) Believes the Old Testament revelation of "God the Father" is better, more extensive, and more ultimately binding than the "The Father and I are one" of Jesus or the unwrapping of that by the rest of the New Testament.
2) Believes victory comes through physical violence, war and conquest to accomplish the purposes of God.
3) Believes itself to be a persecuted minority awaiting rescue, rather than a victorious entity embodying God's mission of rescue to the whole universe.
4) Believes God's kingdom is primarily something to be awaited, and thus remains yet NOT-inaugurated in any dynamic sense here on earth.
5) Believes that God's "blessing" (favor, solidarity, etc) is primarily found with the wealthy, the powerful, the influential and well-regarded...
6) Believes Messiah's next coming (whether 1st or 2nd) will be tribal and nationalistic, and will prominently feature the literal sword of violent retribution.
7) Believes the church is a parentheses in the story, and that Israel as a bloodline / physical nation remains distinct - the ultimate hinge upon which the world still pivots in the timeline of God.
8) Contrary to even the Old Testament prophets and the Mosaic Law of "an eye for an eye," believes the nation of Israel to be above reproach in its provocation and/or escalation of violence.
9) Also contrary to even the Old Testament prophets and the Mosaic Law, believes that Israel maintains its identity as Israel even when many of its people do not desire to follow God or the Law.
I'm sure I could continue to add to this list as more similarities strike me... but the point is what it is. I don't think I need to unwrap it or explain it.
But it is unfortunate how little of Jesus is allowed into the equation by so many Christians. The difference is, the Jews have an excuse, because they are not the ones who claim to follow or worship Jesus.
Christians, are you listening?
A lot of people act like context is a special "bonus" to Bible study.
It's as though, when they learn from the scriptures, they believe it simply provides an added level of understanding... Modern preaching has typically misrepresented the issue, because preachers and teachers often give the impression that they can serve the text just fine without context. And bringing up a bit of it here or there, they suggest, is somehow going above and beyond what is necessary to be faithful to the text from their position.
The reality is that context is the bedrock of understanding, and it is often the most powerful thing we have when it comes to reading clearly and groping towards interpretation. Context can disarm passages that come across as offensive, rooting them in a culture we no longer have a frame of reference for. Context can inform the revolutionary depth of passages that seem otherwise simple and uninteresting. And, above all, context is key to revealing the scandal of Jesus within first century Judaism and Roman Empire... It's context that helps us draw the parallels to our own time when we recognize that scandal.
The point of bringing this up is simple: Bible study is a delicate and complex undertaking far more often than we have been led to believe. For every amazing contextual insight I come to understand, I'm left wondering, "How many more hundreds or thousands of passages would benefit from a similar infusion of context... and yet I will never know it?" It's staggering, really. It should humble us. (Thankfully, the WORD became FLESH in Jesus, and then promised SPIRIT to help us and guide into all truth, and that's the truly essential thing.)
But there's no getting around it. When it comes to scripture...
IT DOESN'T MATTER HOW HIGHLY WE EXALT THE INSPIRATION AND TRUTH OF THE WORDS IF WE STILL FAIL TO EMBRACE THE SPACE BETWEEN THEM.
That space between them is their context, and that context often speaks as loudly as the words themselves.
To put it a final way... and since people love food metaphor when it comes to truth and scripture... maybe it's best to think of it like this:
Context is not the dash of salt sprinkled over the food...
It is the very soil from which the food grows.
Just something to remember.