We call the story of Jesus, told so differently, yet to my mind so consistently, by four narrators, the gospel. What makes this tale the good news? Is it good news that the one only good man was served by his fellow-men as Jesus was served—cast out of the world in torture and shame? What makes it fit to call the tale good news? If we asked a theologian, we should, in so far as he was a true man, and answered from his own heart and not merely from tradition, understand what he saw in it that made it good news to him, though it might be anything but good news to some of us. The deliverance it might seem to bring might be founded on such notions of God as to not a few of us contain as little of good as of news. To share in the deliverance which some men find in what they call the gospel—for all do not apply the word to the tale itself, but to certain deductions made from the epistles and their own consciousness of evil—we should have to believe such things of God as would be the opposite of an evangel to us—yea, a message from hell itself; we should have to imagine that whose possibility would be worse than any ill from which their “good news” might offer us deliverance: we must first believe in an unjust God, from whom we have to seek refuge. True, they call him just, but say he does that which seems to the best in me the essence of injustice. They will tell me I judge after the flesh: I answer, is it then to the flesh the Lord appeals when he says, “Why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?”
So Many Roads
by Diane Adams
When I first became a Christian, I thought of the whole experience as walking out of the dark, into the light. Church was a wonderful part of all it, a whole building filled with people doing the same thing, searching for truth. So when I went to find a church, I liked the name Bible Church, and decided to go there. After all, what could be more simple than the Bible? I smile to think of such naivete.
Last time I checked, and it’s been a while, there were something like 40,000 different versions of the Christian faith floating around out there, most of them claiming to be the one that has the right take on the Bible. There are groups that believe they are the only group going to heaven, groups that believe everyone is going, groups that think every word in the Bible is literal truth, while others that think it’s all allegory. Nearly every group condemns those who do not subscribe to its tenants either as heretics, unbelievers or straight out Satanists. The question in my mind was how could I ever be sure that I happened to have the right group? I’d listen to the presentations, attend different churches, read more books, but never could seem to get to the bottom of the whole mystery--who has the truth?
The first thing I learned at the ‘Bible’ church was that whoever it was that had the truth, it was not me. I was to be taught by others what the truth was. If I thought that the version of God given out was somehow a bit inconsistent, or that their ideas might not be exactly what I expected, that was a form of rebellion--unbelief, punishable through eternal suffering. It wasn’t until that church was rocked by internal scandal that I began to find the courage to look outside of what I’d been taught and to examine for myself the ideas behind it.
Years of searching brought me to one fundamental understanding. We all bring ourselves to the table when interpreting the Bible. Some of us delight in the idea of our enemies, or even people who simply disagree with us, being tortured forever by a God only we can know. Others want a free pass, a sort of grandfather in the sky who indulges every form of human wrongdoing with a gentle smile as he rocks us on his knee. 40,000 interpretations for 40,000 different appetites. I realized since we all bring something of ourselves into our understanding of God, why not bring the best? Why not start with not simply a God who loves, but a God who is love, who embodies the ideal?
Everyone has a starting point for their faith, a fundamental bedrock that every other idea bends to fit. When we start with love, which is how God defines himself, we see through a lens that is very different from the ones invoking justice or the defeat of enemies. We see God as he meant us to see him, something far beyond our ability to grasp, yet as simple as the next words we say. We see a vision of how we ourselves must become, and hope for not only ourselves, but every soul that has ever lived and will live. To see God as love is to see him out beyond theology, beyond ideas about him, and into an actual relationship between our own souls and their creator.