I’d like to take some time and share what I believe the Gospel of Peace & Grace is. What did Jesus really do at the cross? Did He accomplish what He said He was going to do? If “It is Finished”, as in done, over, is God still angry at us? If God isn’t angry at us, does that mean there is no law anymore? If there is no law, then there shouldn’t be any sin, right?
When I was about 14 I shook my fist at God one afternoon and told Him He could take this Christianity and shove it. I didn’t like the “love” Christians showed to people and each other when someone disagreed or lived life differently. I was taught come to Jesus just as you are, all you have to do is believe and He will accept you. Then after you accept this gift of eternal life in heaven you’re then told to follow rules or you’ll lose the gift. Rules such as, you must read the Bible every day (it tells you how to live life, especially the 10 Commandments), pray every day (better yet, pray before every decision, even ones as simple as what to wear or who to talk to that day), have a dress code (don’t want to cause anyone to have lustful thoughts), listen only to certain types of music (anything with a beat is of the devil), obey your parents (without explanations and don’t question authority), think and do as you’re told (so you will be blessed), you must repent and confess every time you commit a sin (which is different depending on which religious sect you’re in), and on and on and on. I admit that some of these rules aren’t bad in and of themselves, like being modest or respect and obey your parents. What I had a hard time with was how it taught me that God is two faced. One face says I love and accept you no matter what. The other face says if you don’t do what I tell you to My love and acceptance aren’t yours. When one has to DO something to be right with God (even believe, which Adam couldn’t even do), what was Jesus’ sacrifice for then?
So I asked God these questions and a few more. Yes, I was angry, hurt, fighting depression, oppression and beginning to hear voices in my head. The year before I had come close to committing suicide three times over a six month period of time. There were two things that stopped me: I didn’t want to feel pain and what my sixth grade teacher had said to me – suicide is the easy way out. I was very disillusioned with Christianity and my parents especially.
Six months after quitting Christianity I felt this overwhelming urge to open the Bible to Song of Solomon. (I had not stopped reading the Bible as I was required to read it everyday around 6am.) I started reading. As I was reading I began to hear Him saying the words to me. This beautiful love letter was to me! I felt my heart crack and soften, and I saw that I had not rejected God, but what man taught that God was. Over the next few months Song of Solomon became my lifeline to God. He showed me that He’s my best friend, confidant, lover, savior, comforter, everything I ever needed past, present, future, forever.
I started digging to find answers to my questions through different Bible versions, concordances, Greek and Hebrew dictionaries, etc. While I studied, my daily life was bombarded with more legalism, by churches and my parents, as well as personal relationship issues between my dad and me. When I read my old journal pages, the memories make me sad, and mad, because one can see the constant ups and downs that I struggled with: up when I was studying God’s peace and grace, down when I was weighted down with more legalism. By the time I reached 15 I knew exactly what my parents wanted me to do and say, which I did to keep the boat from rocking. I learned quickly to keep my real thoughts, desires, dreams and ideas to myself, otherwise I was put down, humiliated and told I was wrong.
I learned wonderful things like the 10% tithe was fulfilled by Jesus, so under His new covenant it wasn’t required (my parents really liked this one). The tithe was always about Him anyway, and was just one more thing to show that we needed Jesus. Hell wasn’t talked of in the Old Testament, just judgement to come, and in the New Testament the word was translated as Sheol – the grave, literally the ground where your body is put “to rest” – and Gehenna, which was a city that had a horrible foul smelling trash heap where dead bodies were sometimes thrown. Gospel means the good news, which started me really questioning Christianity’s doctrines, since they don’t really have good news.
So have you ever felt like I did? Like you have no approval from God? That you are less than or not enough to make things right? No assurance that you’re okay, that everything’s going to be okay? Were you taught, like me, that God is angry at you? That you must try hard so God will approve? Confess your sins to make things right? Do right so God will do good things for you? Do bad things and God will bring bad things to you?
Does the Gospel, the Good News, resolve these things? Can it bring peace and offer anything to anyone?
I’m going to answer these questions to the best of my ability next time, since it’s very late here and I have to get up early to start my homeschooling week. Thanks for your time and patience!