There is a popular verse (Hebrews 12:2) that says that we should look to Jesus because he is the "author and perfecter" (or finisher) of our faith. When I used to read or hear that verse, I would think that he is writing my faith out for me, thereby procuring images of me having no control over my life, much like a puppet. Obviously I am not a puppet, so now I take that verse to mean that my faith is made perfect because of what Jesus did for me on the cross. How many times have I read verses out of context? Many, many, times. Unfortunately that has meant misrepresenting the word of the Lord to strangers and friends.
Because of these recent revelations, I have come to the conclusion I must immediately take the advice from one of the lecturers I had while on a missions trip: if you don't know what you're talking about: shut up. Ok, I embellished....or rather, I rephrased his wording. But the truth of that statement makes me want to curl into a ball and not tell anyone I'm a "Christian" or more realistically: stick to the simplicity of the gospel and encourage others to read the Bible for themselves and not come to me with questions.
I'm starting to see why the Catholic Church says not to interpret scripture for oneself and let them do it. After all, they have the training to give us the context. The thing is, I still hold to the belief that I need to trust the Holy Spirit to lead me in God's word. I just have a better grasp that I need to "read the bible responsibly," which is to say I need to remember that scripture, while relevant, is also contextual, and forgetting that fact has been damaging to my understanding of God.
A former pastor of mine moved on to another church in the recent past. I don't know why, although many annoying rumors have come my way along with theories and speculations. But from what little I know about the situation it was a bit of an out-of-left-field decision. What concerns me is that the men in leadership (to my knowledge- hence the rumors going around) did not choose to disclose to the congregation what was going on. This makes me think two things. 1. There is something to hide, and if there isn't, the choice to omit the details makes it look like there is something to hide. 2. I believe those in leadership, whether it be a corporation or a church (and sometimes the church feels like a corporation) should be honest with those who attend. I don't think one needs to be a "member" of a church since we're all members of Christ's body: THE Church. But if someone is considered a member of a church by their own acknowledgement as well as the church's, they deserve the truth from those that lead it. It is my understanding that my pastor chose not to disclose details either, at least not in front of the congregation on a Sunday morning.
Because of this situation (and another similar circumstance when I was in middle school), along with my opinions of church in general, I have become quite disillusioned with church and it's members. I was raised to go to church every Sunday, it was something you made a priority and in the process led me to believe it was the cornerstone of my faith- or rather that I had to go every Sunday in order to have a relationship with God. While I still think that church is helpful to ones faith, I no longer believe that it makes my faith or is a requirement to know Jesus.
Too much politics comes into the faith when a church is involved and that takes the focus off what we're there for in the first place. It takes away from the cross.
What I have concluded is that I just want to get together with people I trust to discuss scripture, encourage me, challenge me etc. at a bible study on a weekday night. When Christ believers/followers were first starting out, they met in homes, in small groups. They didn't meet in big elaborate buildings. I don't know if they listened to one teacher or took turns leading or voted on what to discuss or what, but in what I'd like to do: I'd like to just sit around with friends who want to discuss and learn and apply what Jesus said about life once a week at someone's home.
Fellowship and community is a gift Christians share, yet we treat it like a curse. John 13:35 says the world will know someone is a disciple of Jesus by the love his followers share with each other. But where is the evidence of love when a pastor moves on and only rumors remain? Where is the love we have for one another when we are dishonest with our so called brothers and sisters?
I have seen a lot of my brothers and sisters in the faith treat each other without thinking of the others emotional well-being, what's worse is I have done the same. At this point I feel neither worthy nor able to be a Christ follower or call myself one because of how I have behaved. My treatment from others in the past I thought I could trust makes me weary of others. So many questions linger, questions about what I believe that I may never know. But it all ends up back at what separates Christianity from other faiths: Grace. My God's love for me through Jesus' sacrifice is what enables me to move forward, to cling to what I know within me through the Holy Spirit's revelation that my salvation is not something that can be removed once I've accepted it.
It's because of this revelation that I can believe the verses in Deuteronomy that say "It is mine to avenge, I will repay." God knew He would be sending a Savior to avenge all the wrong in the world, all the unfairness, the hatred, the pain, I don't have to be angry at those who wrong me (whether that be a Christian family member or someone who doesn't know the Lord), because every sin I've committed and every sin committed against me has been avenged through Jesus' death on a cross and resurrection from the grave. If I remain angry, that is my choice, I no longer have need for justice when ultimate justice has already been performed. Accountability on earth will still happen, and should still happen, but my heart is safe with Jesus. These beliefs help me to know that ultimate peace with any situation is possible because "with God ALL things are possible." (Matthew 19:26).
I may change the way I do church and I may be disillusioned with church and the body that makes up the Church, but I do not need to be disillusioned with God. He will help me to have grace for others because He has had grace for me and he knows I need grace from those around me. Life suddenly seems a whole lot brighter knowing all of this, and my step seems bouncier knowing true hope lies in my Savior.