What Are You Trying to Tell Me?

I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I write.

jewish paul

Image credit: Drake Dunaway – the Jewish Paul

He closed his Bible at the end of 2 Thessalonians 3:17 and pondered. Did Paul know that his letters, those that survived to be canonized anyway, would become binding instructions for all Christianity nearly two-thousand years into the future? Could his letters really be compared to the writing of the Prophets in the Old Testament, and especially the words of Jesus in the Gospels?

“It’s in the Bible and Pastor says that’s good enough, but is it really? It’s not like Jesus was dictating the letters to Paul. There are some parts of the epistles he said were his own judgment and not of the Spirit.”

He knew both the Jews and the Church believed Paul invented a new religion called Christianity that totally broke from everything that had been written in the first two-thirds of the Bible. If God wanted to write a “love letter” to humanity, why was it a letter that’s so hard to understand, and with so many contradictions?

If God wrote a “love letter” like so many mushy, feely people at his church keep telling him, why were there so many different interpretations?

“I know. Pastor said it was because of sin, but all of the questions I ask him, he has pat, one word or one sentence answers to. Isn’t God more complicated than that?”

“Wait. That’s the answer. That’s why the Bible seems so difficult. God is complicated, infinitely complicated. How can you compress that into any sort of book, especially if you want people to understand?”

“God used people to communicate with the rest of us. Every author of the Bible was a human being, and almost all of them were Jewish. The Bible has to be a combination of God’s inspiration, and human understanding of a relationship between man and the Divine. I’ll never figure it out. I’m not a theologian or Bible scholar, and I could take all the Bible classes in the world and still get just the teacher’s or the denomination’s interpretation and bias. There’s no way to cut through two-thousand years of crap to get at what God was really trying to say, especially in an English translation.”

Mark put his Bible back on his desk, went into the kitchen, and set his chair by the window. It was late and everything was dark and quiet. He looked up over the other apartment buildings and at the few stars he could see in the night sky over the city. “What are you trying to tell me, or is that too arrogant a question? If you really had the Bible written to talk to all people, what does it mean to a single, tiny person like me?

He waited for an answer and it didn’t come. Mark didn’t really expect God to say anything to him. He never had before, not like all those other people who always said that “Jesus said this,” or “God revealed such and thus to me.” Maybe they were making it up. Who could tell?

“I guess I’ll try tomorrow. I’ve got to get some rest or I’ll be a mess in class.”

He stripped down to his t-shirt and shorts, and then crawled into bed. Sleep was a long time coming, but he needed the rest.

He had “Bible Study Methods and Hermeneutics,” “The Church in the Modern Era,” and “Elements of Greek” starting in a few hours. It was his first semester in his Master’s program. Mark wondered if all of the other would be ministers and pastors had the same doubts?

I wrote this for Sunday Writing Prompt “Letters to Humanity” hosted at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie. Today, the idea is to write a letter to humanity in some fashion, presenting it as a poem, short story, or other creative work.

I’m not as “schmaltzy” as some believers, and I don’t think of the Bible as “God’s love letter to the human race.” So I thought I’d start with the end of one of the Apostle Paul’s letters and work my way outward. It bothers me that in considering God, so many Christians seem to require a bunch of pat answers, and allow no doubts or questions.

What if you were in a theology program with an eye on becoming a Pastor, and those questions kept plaguing your mind? Does it mean doubt and a crisis of faith, or is becoming an explorer of the Bible on a life-long quest what God had in mind all along?

Advertisements

12 thoughts on “What Are You Trying to Tell Me?

  1. I think for some people its important they tell you God is complicated, that way they can impose on you their thoughts about God and his purpose. Man loves to complicate things when all you have to do is get along with your neighbour and accept them for who they are.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Actually, Michael, I didn’t mean for this to be an anti-Christian story. I’ve been a believer for decades, and I can say that it is an absolute must to question everything, study everything. Christianity is a religion of answers but Judaism is a religious of questions, which is why I approach my faith from a more “Hebraic” perspective. If God is infinite, then He is beyond the comprehension of human beings, and yet if God wants a relationship with humanity, He must make Himself understood. At the end of the Book of Exodus, then the Tabernacle is finally complete, what most Bibles translate into English as the “Glory of God” descended upon the Tabernacle with a weight and force that drove all of the human Priests outside. God intended to literally have some portion of His manifestation in our universe live among His people. Imagining witnessing such an event is one of most exciting moments of the Bible for me.

      I’m not trying to convince you or anyone else to believe what I believe. I just ask that you accept that those like me aren’t idiots or bigots, and that we have a conceptualization of a much larger existence. Social and news media reduces us to a minor set of talking points. The contemplation of infinity is so much more than that.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Whether or not G-d is complicated, if you want to see complications look around at the humans He created. Getting along with one’s neighbors can be influenced strongly by their own behavior. For example, if their idea of fun is to sit on their porch with a gun, plinking potshots randomly into your house, because they believe you have no right to live there and they want your property, you might have some difficulty accepting them for what they are. Sometimes what they are is destructively evil. You might analyze the cause as misguided delusion, but that doesn’t change the fact of the result.

      Like

  2. Sorry James i never intended any disrespect, coming from a Catholic background where the Church attempted to dominate its flock by telling it what and what not to believe I think I’ve become cynical over the years.
    Your friend PL is right too in saying humans are basically greedy and flawed and so as he says intrinsically evil.
    But we live in hope that good will win out in the end.

    Like

    • In this case, Michael, I wasn’t trying to tar with a broad brush all of humanity, regardless of our general flaws. I was addressing more specifically the Islamic Arab attitude and actions against the Jewish state of Israel, since you raised the notion of Israeli treatment of “Palestinians” as a “scary thought” when James described the future rulership of the Israeli King Messiah vis-à-vis “vassel nations”. I’d like to put your mind at ease about the benign, though firm, nature of that administration.

      It will, no doubt, be better than the present Israeli regime; though cooperative Arab citizens of Israel are guaranteed equal rights by law, and even non-citizen residents of the disputed territories can manage quite well. A case in point is my favorite produce supplier, a Muslim Arab who lives in a neighboring Arab town just the other side of the internationally-defined “Seam Line”, who regularly buys bulk produce from the Shuk in Jerusalem (and other places) to offer in his shop where my wife enjoys shopping. He would undoubtedly have less difficulty if the Seam Line weren’t there, and all the Israeli territory west of the Jordan river were internationally accepted as the Israeli territory allotted in the San Remo agreements of 1920 that led to the British Mandate of 1922, with no further disputes over it. Undisputed Israeli administration would facilitate the enforcement of the legally-guaranteed universal civil rights in a secure environment. As for the three-times larger Arab portion of what was defined as the British Mandate for Palestine, east of the Jordan river and now known as the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (i.e., the real “Arab Palestine”), the present Israeli administration is not responsible except to maintain peaceful international relations.

      Nonetheless, setting aside discussions about the present Israeli regime, though it, too, is firmly benign to those not engaged in militant violence against it, my point was that the future messianic administration ought to be even better and not scary to anyone who is not an evil-doer. Of course, most of the evil-doers will already have been killed-off in the angelic and human warfare of the “tribulation” which will precede the establishment of that messianic kingdom. Now *that’s* scary!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That was an interesting set of comments, and perhaps we were speaking at cross-purposes. I suppose I should expect passionate comments sometimes when I write a piece of fiction that is based on the Bible and/or people of faith. Of course, just mentioning Israel these days tends to stir up strong emotions. Hopefully, we can at least all understand where the other is coming from and maintain our equilibrium, even if we don’t always agree.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.