I'm going to show you something that might blow your mind.
It concerns a very popular verse in the Bible, and it certainly blew my mind - even after years of knowing (and quoting) the verse, having been raised in Christian culture. It's a simple and yet very pervasive error of interpretation. A wrong understanding which has become the dominant understanding.
"Keep Christ in Christmas!" they say. We hear it all the time. But is Jesus even allowed in our "Christmas?" There was no room in the Bethlehem inn for his birth... Is there even room for this guy in mainstream Christianity?
How can we say we care about keeping the Christ in Christmas when we make it so obvious that that we don't care about keeping Christ in Christianity?
Despite the cliché not making it any easier for many in our society and generation to swallow Christianity, people continue to feel that speaking it covers them somehow, or that it means something substantive simply because they hope it does.
Who are we kidding?
I mean, do "religion" and "relationship" have to be so mutually exclusive? Do you have to pick one over the other? Can you not have both? Can you not be in "relationship" with God and have that inform what "religion" is and looks like for you?
If you are one who knows this saying to be taken from scripture, you might be immediately defensive at the idea of me criticizing it... But let me ask you a question the people who use this phrase in sermon after sermon never ask: Is it really "scriptural" to repeat "Your works are filthy rags" in the way we do? Are you certain? Just because the phrase is in the Bible - does that mean we're using it properly or for the same reason? Is it even a correct perspective to take in holding it over the heads of others?
You may have already guessed (you're fairly clever, after all) that I don't think the answer to any of the above questions should be "yes."
“God is love.”
And God’s people will forever be those truly marked by and saturated with love. There is no way around this. And they are people of every type - every nation, every tribe, and every tongue - but what they have in common is this: God’s people take on God’s nature. And if “God’s people” devise ways to not love, if they scheme in their hearts these evasions and excuses and deceptions over what God is like and expects them to be… If they delude themselves into thinking they can remain unchanged at the core, that they can somehow represent God while fundamentally avoiding God's character… They cannot in any rational sense claim to be "God's people."
If we allow hate to sit alongside love, thinking we can perfectly compartmentalize the two, we will inevitably find that it does not work. Hate trumps love, because love will not share its bed and sell out. Love will not be bullied or compromised or mistaken. Love will not be treated as secondary to its exact opposite. And we should not be surprised at how easy it is for us to relinquish the place of love in our hearts when we’re so hung up on keeping room for hate in there.
Jesus had a way of drawing attention to common religious sayings to both examine and challenge them. He would even do this with popular, quoted scriptures if he felt that the general usage of them robbed them of their true meaning, intent, or context. The device Jesus would use was a simple phrase, “You have heard it said…”
HERE - SOME 2000 YEARS LATER - IT SEEMS TO ME THAT IT HAS BECOME NECESSARY, EVEN ESSENTIAL, FOR US TO REVIVE THIS PHRASE.