Somebody put a religious booklet in my letterbox recently. It is called “The perfect storm is coming” and seems to be about the end days. I read it out of curiosity and it triggered some soul searching.
I suspect the booklet was left by a Jehovah’s Witness who came to my door the other day. I don’t know much about them but I am wary of most religious institutions and that includes them. I told him I have my own faith and sent him away. I think he popped the booklet into my letterbox on his way out.
The booklet denounced the Catholic church and I have no problem at all with that. I have always felt the claim the Catholic church makes about the power of the clergy to pardon sins is blasphemous. It places them in a position that belongs to Christ as far as I am concerned.
Jesus is the bridge between man and God not a priest, pope, cult leader or any other man. No human being can forgive my sins and reconnect me with God. Jesus is the only man who was able to stay free of sin therefore he is the only one who can connect me with God.
I agreed with what the booklet said about the Catholic church so I kept reading.
After denouncing the Catholic church they focused on the ten commandments and, in particular, the commandment to keep holy the sabbath day. They said Saturday is the real sabbath and predicted laws forcing people to honour Sunday will make even the most devout of believers accept satanic rule.
The booklet, as all good religious writings do, quotes the bible to make it’s points and, as any true believer will find, the word of God always tends to have an effect no matter who speaks it.
Any time I read, or hear, the word of God I find myself questioning myself and my commitment to God. Am I really a Christian? Am I a good one? Will God tell me he never knew me or accuse me of being lukewarm when the time comes? Am I deluding myself? Are the things I believe true or false? How do I measure up to the things written in the bible? Am I, in fact, an agent of the devil?
Whenever those questions arise in my mind a line from the bible always comes with them. “By their fruits ye shall know them”.
What fruit do I produce? Do I obey Gods laws? Do I seek to walk the path Christ walked and be like him or do I seek to bend God to my will and make excuses for my sins?
This booklet made a good case for the ten commandments. They quote scripture that proves Jesus didn’t come to cancel out the laws of God. They said we are still supposed to obey them.
I went looking on the internet for some information about the ten commandments and found this comparison of interpretations. It seems there are subtle differences between the original Jewish ten commandments and subsequent versions.
Both the Catholic and Protestant churches appear to have decided the original first commandment was not a law but an introduction to the laws.
I’m not sure what to make of that. When I compared my behaviour to the ten commandments I found a couple of glaring omissions. I do take the Lords name in vain occasionally and I don’t keep either of the supposed sabbath days holy.
I absolutely cannot believe we are NOT supposed to obey most of the ten commandments. Commands such as don’t kill, steal or bear false witness about others don’t just come from God – they are also part of our man-made laws. They make sense and seem like extremely good laws no matter who made them. I do my best to obey those laws.
If I can believe I am supposed to obey those commands then why not the others?
I started to examine my conduct to see how well I obey all ten of the commandments.
I certainly believe I am forbidden to worship other Gods or bow to images. As far as I know I don’t worship any other God nor do I bow my knee to images of any kind but here is where it gets cloudy.
I’ve heard sermons that investigate these laws and claim addictions and fears are a form of worship. Maybe they are but I do not think I worship anyone or anything but God. I don’t believe worship is something that can be stolen from me – it is something I must do of my own free will. I am enslaved to other things via addictions but I do not glorify them or consider them good and I am working on breaking free of them!
There is only one thing I will bow to freely, with no pressure of any kind, with no thought of escape and that is God. I can’t give up smoking but I don’t worship the habit. I am physically enslaved to it. I know God can free me of it but I’m not strong enough yet to face that battle for freedom.
Even as I write the words I am wondering if I am fooling myself and this is one of the reasons I don’t like going to church! One of the main duties of the clergy is to convince people they are not ok and will go to hell if they don’t change.
I’m ok with being told I’m a sinner. I am and I know it. I’m ok with being told off for breaking the ten commandments, failing to love others as God has commanded and so on. I’m not ok with being told I worship my addictions!
It’s one of the many things the clergy can argue a good case for as addictions really are, to some degree, a choice. A real Christian knows God has the power to set them free of addictions so staying addicted, for a Christian, is even more of a choice they make.
I just really resent being told it is possible to worship something against my will.
According to the Concise Oxford Dictionary the word “Worship” means “worthiness, merit, recognition given or due to these, honour and respect.” It also means to adore and regard as divine. None of these words describe my feelings towards my addictions!
When I go to church the preachers and well-meaning Christians run rings around me. They make me doubt myself and my commitment to God. They set a standard I not only can’t achieve but one I have doubts about whether I am even supposed to achieve.
I’m good with words. I know what they mean and, when a preacher tries to tell me a word means something different to what I think it means AND something different to what the dictionary defines it as meaning, I start to feel I am listening to someone I should not be listening to!
Being a Christian is hard enough without people interpreting words in ways no dictionary would support.
What the churches fail to understand is that those who, like me, have come from a background of abuse and condemnation don’t have a problem with believing they are not worthy of God’s love and forgiveness! We are convinced from birth nobody, not even God, could ever love us.
All the preaching that focuses on convincing people they really are sinners in need of salvation backfires when it comes to people like me. When I go to church I discover I am even worse than I thought I was. What kind of pathetic excuse for a Christian worships nicotine? In church I learn I am so bad I cannot be saved. The heavy focus on sin in all the churches I ever attended buried my hopes of forgiveness and salvation and drove me to despair.
If God had not intervened and spoken to me directly about these things I would have lost my salvation thanks to well-meaning Christians and sermons that gave new meanings to words I thought I understood.
There are two basic steps to salvation. First you have to believe you need it and then you have to believe you can have it. Most people stumble over one or the other. The churches I have been to focus on those who stumble over the first step – believing they need forgiveness. The focus on that leaves those of us who stumble over the second step out in the cold.
After a considerable amount of time wrestling with my conscience on that question I decided to go with the dictionary definition and believe I do NOT worship anyone or anything but God.
I searched my soul for obedience to the other commandments.
I don’t covet other peoples things. I’m not big on possessions at all since I realised how easy it is to lose them so that law doesn’t pose any concerns for me but what about the rest?
Honour my father and mother. I don’t honour my father. I don’t know him so I couldn’t even if I wanted to. I have never met him and I really don’t want to any more. I try to honour my mother these days, however, so I think I can tick that box.
The command about adultery is no problem for me. Even when I was not celibate I had a strong distaste for cheating. It was a bit of the old “do unto others” thing for me. I wouldn’t want my partner to cheat on me so I wouldn’t cheat on him. I would hate to have someone come between me and my man so I wouldn’t do that to another woman.
That left two commands – taking the Lords name in vain and keeping the sabbath day holy.
I try not to take the Lords name in vain but I don’t think I try hard enough to be honest. Time to try harder and I will from now on.
As for the sabbath – that one confuses me. I gather, from the booklet, sabbath means seventh. We are supposed to dedicate the seventh day of the week to resting as God rested after creating the world and all that is in it.
Sermons I have heard tend to insist the sabbath is to be dedicated to worshiping God hence the view we should go to church on that day. I have never felt a single day set aside to worship was a good thing. I think worship and thinking about God should be done every day but I can see it being valuable in terms of socializing with other worshipers.
I’ve always viewed Sunday as the seventh day of the week. Monday is day one because that is when the working week begins as far as I can see. This booklet claims Sunday is day one and I have seen that claim in other places too. They say the sabbath used to be on Saturday and that is the real sabbath we are commanded to keep.
Does God really care what day we set aside? When it is Saturday here in Australia it is Friday in America and, if I feel the seventh day of my week is Sunday, doesn’t that make it the sabbath for me?
It’s probably a moot point anyway because, regardless of which day the sabbath really is, I work during it so I am not keeping that particular commandment.
The one thing I am sure of is that if some of the commandments are important then all of them must be and I need to give some serious thought to obeying them all.
If God thought keeping the sabbath is as important as not killing then I need to rethink my attitude towards that commandment.
Now I have found this new version of the ten commandments I am even more confused.
What obedience does the Jewish first commandment demand from me?
Hmmm. Perhaps it is asking me simply to accept the authority of God over me and acknowledge he has a right to make laws for me to obey?
The first step towards obeying any law is to accept the law-makers have authority over you and, with it, the right to make laws and demand you comply with them.
I accept God has the right to do with me as he pleases and I want to bear the fruit of obedience to his will. I am confused about the whole sabbath thing so I will take it to him and leave it in his hands to clarify it for me.
While I wait for clarification I will work on obeying the command not to take his name in vain. I don’t do it very often but I need to change that to never and I will.